In a note sent to me few days ago, a retired captain of Indian army wrote that soldiers are not enemies of each other. They just follow instructions and take war as task. He also shared his own experience wherein during his posting at Hussainiwala Indo-Pak border and on Nathula Indo-China border, he used to enjoy and exchange greetings with the soldier stationed at the other side.
As it made me more curious to know what soldiers actually think about war, I initiated a mini research and found news reports covering statements of aretired Lt General from Pakistani army saying that conflicts need to resolve through dialogues and that he hopes, youths of the two countries may do something for this.
Relations of Pakistan and India are prone to turbulence. The waves of relationship may experience tide and ebb at any point of time. Jingoism is also inherent in this vulnerable relation. When tension increase on border, jingoism also takes its position on both sides of border and ‘peace’ becomes its first target. It immediately defines peace as something ‘weak’ and of ‘no use’. Those who advocate for peace are considered to be ‘anti-national’ as they are not in alignment with public opinion that supports waging a war. With the mixing of opinions with emotions and political ideology, there becomes a suffocating environment where no one is ready to listen to anyone.
The question remains the same. Who needs peace? Not all of us? The most controversial accusations about Peace building by war mongers have been to regard it to be a disrespect to the soldiers. However, the truth is that even soldiers’ ultimate aim is towards maintaining peace and to stop any armed or forceful attack that disturbs peace. Action of soldier is just a limited and controlled way to respond for immediate measure. Soldiers have put their life at risk, to protect a geographical and political boundary known as country and to which people feel attached emotionally. But it must be known that even soldiers talked about peace and argued and favored for peaceful negotiations to resolve conflicts instead of armed conflicts. War mongering is basically a constructed phenomenon and demanded mostly by those who are not directly affected with conflicts. To speak for war is always an easy task than to work towards peace.
The two examples cited in beginning of this article along with several of more such examples and initiatives wherein soldiers advocate for peace are also a contrast to the civilians who are waging for war and especially those who do so in the name of soldiers. There is a need to understand the effect of conflicts and more importantly, to recognise that conflict just doesn’t impact on soldiers but impacts all of us. Avoiding a single bullet fired on border can help feed a hungry person. Avoiding the buying of 1 tank can result in opening of dozens of new schools to let the future read. Pakistan and India, both have common challenges of hunger, illiteracy, healthcare and climate change that need to be taken seriously. If both countries will not take such challenges as common enemy and if both will only focus on fighting each other, it will be a historical mistake.
Recently, Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was organized at New Delhi where official representation of Pakistan could not become possible. In the conference, the Indian Home Minister rightly said that disaster recognizes no politician boundaries and that a collective approach with neighbor countries is requirement and should be commitment. In fact, citizens of both countries observe earthquakes of similar type as tectonic plates beneath earth is same. Water channels and rivers flow from one region to another in India, Pakistan and their neighbor countries. It shows that how collectively these can be utilized as common resources and linking points to benefit each other. The recent smog over Delhi and Lahore also an example of how both are affected with common threats.
There is a need to realise these common challenges and explore opportunities for greater viability and benefit of healthy relations between India and Pakistan. There is a need to understand that our culture is peace, compassion, non violence, tolerance and humanity and all such values have its great history and applicability in this region.
Ravi Nitesh is a youth activist and founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at twitter.com/ravinitesh
(Views expressed are personal)