Goodwill gestures, official meetings, accusations, denials and track-two diplomacy.
Set this sequence on repeat mode and it gives you an apt sense of the schizophrenic relations between India and Pakistan during the past decade. And where have these highly contradictory moves left the tenuous peace process? Not an inch away from square one.
Currently, the two South Asian nations are again going through the “accusation and denial” phase. India is accusing Pakistan of triggering a mass exodus of people from its large cities — mainly Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai — to their native region in the country’s remote northeast. According to Indian officials, its traditional foe is involved in using SMS service and social media to warn them of an impending attack by Muslim mobs in these economic centres, as payback for the gory clashes between indigenous Bodos and Muslim migrants in Assam — located in the Northeast — that have killed nearly a hundred people and displaced thousands. And how did Pakistan respond to these allegations? By simply rebutting them.
The last few days have actually been a stark representation of the on-again, off-again relations between the two countries. Last Friday, the shrine of Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan finally received President Zardari’s donation of $1 million and Pakistan released 55 Indian fishermen on India’s Independence Day. But any sense of amicability that was created by these gestures has quickly dissipated, as India lashes out at Pakistan for creating panic and dislocation in its territory.
Other goodwill gestures this year have fallen flat on their face. For instance, the release of Indian prisoner Sarjeet Singh by Pakistani authorities ironically served to grate the tenuous bond of understanding between the two neigbours. After Singh, who had been convicted on espionage charges, reached India, he openly admitted to being a spy for his home country. But New Delhi did the predictable: It followed the tried and tested mantra of denial.
So how will the two countries establish even a semblance of mutual trust, if vehement rejections are given precedence over dialogue? No amount of talk about pacifism and non-governmental initiatives can help the cause of peace, if the two governments are not willing to pay heed to each other’s grievances. As Pakistan prepares to partake in the Champions League T20 on Indian soil, the memory of the Mumbai attacks— again mired in a muck of denials and accusations— remains a sore point. If the two nations don’t admit to unintentional lapses and errors of judgement, they can jettison the idea of a secure South Asia. Kashmir is hardly the core issue that keeps the two nations apart; it’s their giant egos.