It is time
B Y F.S. AIJAZUD DIN | 6/18/2015

IT is time for Pakistan and India two responsible, nuclear-trussed democracies to make up. It is time for their elected prime ministers Narendra Modi and Mian Nawaz Sharif to wake up. It is time for the armed forces of both countries to pack up. It is time for peaceniks in both countries to speak up.

And it is time for two retired generals to shut up.

Considering the senior positions both Gen V.K. Singh (COAS and now India`s minister of state for external affairs) and Gen Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan`s ex-president and future parliamentarian sans constituency) held in their respective countries, they have displayed an immaturity heard more often in school playgrounds than in diplomatic dialogue.

V.K. Singh attends a Pakistan Day function `under duress`, and then vents his spleen by twinning the words `duty` and `disgust` in a Twitter message. Musharraf, whose calm finger remained for eight years on Pakistan`s nuclear button, answers Indian chauvinism with the retort: `Do we have nukes saved to be used on Shab-i-Baraat?` Mr Modi has been in power for over a year.

Mr Sharif is his senior by a year, both in age and in office. More than a year though separates them in their antithetical approaches to Indo-Pak relations. Mr Modi sees no harm in needling Pakistan. He uses every opportunity whether at home or during foreign visits, most recently in Bangladesh to foment anti-Pakistan sentiments and to spew anti-Pakistan propaganda. His determination to commemorate the 1965 war has more to do with belated patriotism (he was only 15 years old when hostilities broke out) than with the war itself a war without purpose, ending with a peace without honour.

Nawaz Sharif on his part adopts a more mature, conciliatory approach. He has decided to deflect Modi`s barbs with a nonnuclear shield. `Calumnies,` Ben Jonson once observed in his play Volpone (1606), `are answered best with silence.

What can the electorate on both sides of the border look forward to? A continuation of the same prickly peace, or a quick indecisive war, itself a harbinger of yet more wars? Ask an average Pakistani. He would opt for peace. He has enough bloodshed, enough wars being fought on his doorstep.

Ask the average Indian. He will immediately ask his government. The Pakistani voter has developed the habit of questioning his government. He may not agree with its policies. He will criticise its excesses. But it has yet to question its patriotism.

By contrast, Mr Modi`s saffronised BJP government has made Paki-bashing such an integral part of India`s domestic politics that to be anti-war is ipso facto to be anti-1ndianand therefore pro-Pakistani. It is a cruel perversion of Thomas Jefferson`s conciliatory words in the US Declaration of Independence.

His original reads: `Enemies in war, in peace friends.` Modi reads Jefferson differently: `Enemies in war, in peace implacable enemies.` Meanwhile, as a Ramazan gesture, he has released Pakistani fishermen into the sea.

Does Mr Modi seriously regard war as the final solution for Pakistani and Indian Muslims? Does he imagine that he can outdo Mrs Indira Gandhi by encouraging the creation of more Bangladeshes? Mrs Indira Gandhi may have been the midwife attending the bloody birth of Mujibur Rahman`s Bangladesh in 1971. She was canny enough though not to take responsibility for fostering the infant she helped deliver.

Does Mr Modi have a long-term strategy in mind for a post-war situation? Assuming, of course, that there is something left of India and something less of Pakistan left after a Mutually Assured Destructive (MAD) nuclear holocaust.

One wonders. Or is Mr Modi`s plan to bring the situation to a boil and then leave mothers to cry over spilled blood? A person who has been spared the spectre of another Indo-Pak war is the Indian social sculptor Nek Chand. He died a few days ago.He became famous for the life-size figures he created out of broken bangles, china plates, fragments and daily discards.

The impetus for his creativity was provided first by Dr M.S. Randhawa, then chief commissioner Chandigarh. Dr Randhawa encouraged Nek Chand to make his statues and then displayed them in one of Chandigarh`s public gardens. The idea caught on. Nek Chand became unstoppable. His figures procreated uncontrollably, populating almost 25 acres of Chandigarh`s public gardens.

Nek Chand`s figurines were essentially pacifist. He never attempted the equivalent of the Xian terracotta warriors. His figures are models of passive domesticity, just as the Chinese terracotta warriors are mannequins of militarism. Would it be heresy to suggest that if a country is to have an army, it should have one made up of benign static sculptures or action-less terracotta warriors? At least, the V.K. Singhs and Musharrafs amongst them would remain silent until eternity. •
The writer is an author.

Published in Dawn