SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) has remained a paper dream, due to its two major members, India & Pakistan at loggerheads in past. Can South Asian Nations look forward to a period of a strong South Asia coming into its own as a major global power center; both economically & politically like ASEAN & EU in the near or distant future?
My answer is ‘Yes’, only if these two strong members India & Pakistan move towards a mutually beneficial relationship, eventually becoming friends, than foes. Without going into repeated assertions of both sides on the contentious issues bogging down both countries, I suggest both countries to give a fresh & a closer look at every such issue that has proved a barrier to coming together of both strong countries of South Asia.
Let me take on the most contentious issue that has created such a bad blood between two, i.e. KASHMIR. I speak as a common man with the common sense to help solve this issue that could then lead to a series of other steps forging a common front of both countries tackling the real issues of development, growth, happiness of suffering poor of the region. My views would shock most Indians and in equal measure, a large number of Pakistan people.
I studied Kashmir issue from historical perspective. I went there many times, interacted with many Kashmiris & finally came to this conclusion that given a choice, Kashmiris may not like to stay with either India or Pakistan. To me, what is moral is what is real.
Any real solution can not be done if it is not right & moral. So I say, let the future of Kashmir be decided by its people. How do we go about it. Neither India, nor Pakistan would think it realistic enough to withdraw from their respective controlled parts of Kashmir. We need a longer time span than a few years to make people of both countries to digest in this inevitable solution.
I suggest a time span of 20-25 years, where by both countries in principle agree to the concept of people of Kashmir being given a free, fair, transparent chance to decide their own future. I do have many specific suggestions to the modalities under which this moral & right concept can be put into action. I am sure, most Pakistan people would willingly, happily & readily accept this concept. Indian people would find this concept more difficult to digest, fearing that even after over 60 years, Indian state or people have failed to win the hearts or minds of Kashmir people.
How do we make Indian people accept this concept would require relentless efforts & time, & hence I seek a time span of 20-25 years to achieve this. Once this most contentious issue is resolved to the satisfaction of people of India, Pakistan & most important of all people of Kashmir, I feel, a fair groundwork would have been laid to solve other less contentious issues, of minor border adjustments, some territory swaps, water, & other related issues. From here onwards, the dream of fulfilling the common aspirations of common folks of this region can start taking a meaningful & a concrete shape, giving a real touch to the powerful South Asia emerging from the dark clouds of over 6 decades of animosity & ill will.
Am I assuming too much. Yes I am, & my assumptions are based not on today’s ground realities, but upon the aspirations of poor of this region. My assumptions are based on what is right & what is moral. It is only a matter of time, whether it takes one, two or many generations, to turn moral & right into real & practical.
Pakistan Times welcomes Professor Sudershan Batra on becoming a part of its team. Readers of Pakistan Times are certainly going to be amused and benefited from his life long experiences that he is going to share on Pakistan Times. He is extremely useful addition to team.