The recent ‘Aman ki Asha’ initiative drew a lot of attention around the country. While the campaign did receive a lot of praise, it also, as expected, had a fair number of skeptics. Leaving aside cynics who believe almost any initiative has to be criticized, there were those who genuinely felt it was a mistake for India to do such a public peace effort.
After all, wouldn’t wishing for peace be a sign of weakness? Or even worse, a pardoning of the sins done by the other side? It is clear that the Pakistani regimes have done little to stem Indian terror attacks that originate from Pakistan. Neither has Pakistan come out with any practical suggestions to the Kashmir problem. And still, in a naïve and almost spineless manner, we go asking for peace, while they almost never initiate any such effort.
The points may be valid. A case can be made to remain hostile towards Pakistan. However, while it is a tough call, the case for peace is still stronger. And sometimes in life, it is about taking the better option, even if it doesn’t appear to be macho. If making peace with Pakistan will give Indians a better life than hostility, then we have to keep trying for the former option.
Hence, we need peace not because it is morally the right thing to do, but also because it is practical. We need peace because people with limited resources should not spend those resources fighting with each other. And yes, we need peace more because we have a good thing going in India and we have more to lose. There is nothing weak about it.
And while defence expenses have to be made, one should also realize that both sides are nuclear. In such a scenario, no matter how much anyone spends on defence, no one side can claim to truly overpower the other. Both of us have that deterrent we’d never want used. Shouldn’t rationality prevail at some point?
I must add that many peace-opposers also misunderstand peace. Partly due to the Woodstock-era associations of peace with love, people confuse that having peace with Pakistan means having affection for them. No, most of us who want peace want it because we love India, and not because we love Pakistan. Being a peace-lover doesn’t make me a lover. Peace is not a free-hugs campaign or a touchy-feely warm and fuzzy feeling. Sometimes, peace is just boring indifference — or simply a desire to live and let live. And that’s ok.
Once the case for peace is made, the next argument is, how can we do it without any intent from our neighbours? Again, the point is valid. However, to even hope for any intent on the other side, there needs to be democracy in Pakistan. Pakistan’s democracy has come in fits and starts, and often with leaders that are hardly reliable. However, under military rule, peace initiatives from their side are almost impossible. Peace challenges the raison-d’etre of the Pakistani army, and hence they’d never dream of anything but pointing guns on their favorite enemy — that is us.
Therefore, India can campaign for democracy in Pakistan in a more aggressive manner than before. This can help tap into public sentiment there, which also would prefer self-governance. Such overt support to a democratic movement will weaken their military, and improve India’s image amongst the Pakistani people. Of course, this is not an overnight process. But efforts must begin soon if we want Pakistan to be stable enough, so that it doesn’t interfere with India’s progress in the coming years. Immediately though, we can, as a democratic nation, refuse to engage with military governments and lobby against such regimes elsewhere. We have in the past expected to hammer a peace solution with Pakistani leaders who came to power by pointing a gun at someone. That, retrospectively, was a bit naïve.
Meanwhile, let’s not give up hope for a peace of indifference at least, and cut down hate, because hate never led to anything good. Peace has clear benefits, particularly for India’s younger generation who’d rather see more opportunities for themselves than more wars.
Finally, just because peace efforts are difficult, don’t be skeptical about them. Attempts at peace may or may not be successful, but if nobody even tries, there won’t even be any hope. After all, as John Lennon said in the iconic song, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”