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The News International
March 21, 2005

Moving towards a durable peace

by Sandeep Pandey

Why should the Prime Minister of Pakistan be interested in talking to 
an Indian activist about a proposed peace march?

My friend Karamat Ali, a peace activist and co-organizer from 
Pakistan of the proposed Delhi to Multan India-Pakistan Peace March 
(March 23 to May 11, 2005), was trying to include me in a delegation 
of Pakistan Peace Coalition, which had got an appointment to meet 
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on March 12, to discuss the organization 
of the march and specifically request visas for the marchers from 
India, who would cross over into Pakistan at Wagah on April 18. I was 
amazed when got the invitation, just 48 hours before the appointment. 
I had to literally rush to Islamabad after getting my visa and ticket.

That the office of Prime Minister decided to invite me to discuss the 
peace march along with Pakistani activists clearly indicated that the 
Government of Pakistan was viewing this march positively. The peace 
activists of India and Pakistan, independently and jointly, have been 
opposing the nuclearisation of the sub-continent and advocating for 
peace even when the relationship between the two countries was very 

Peaceniks on both sides of the border are often dismissed as a bunch 
of idealists and accused of playing into the hands of elements 
working against the interests of our respective countries, and 
sometimes directly accused of being anti-national. The governments 
aren't very supportive either. Hence it was a welcome surprise that 
the Pakistani Prime Minister was full of praise for initiatives taken 
by peace activists and hoped that more such initiatives would bring 
about a lasting change in the situation in South Asia. He 
acknowledged the role of peace movements in having a decisive 
influence over the two governments.

Shaukat Aziz expressed the commitment of the Government of Pakistan 
towards building an atmosphere of peace in the sub-continent and the 
willingness to do whatever was necessary to achieve this objective. 
He said that President Musharraf shared this vision. He was quite 
candid about the contentious issues and hoped that through dialogue 
they would be resolved. He claimed that no past Government of 
Pakistan had been so open about this objective and for the first time 
there was no fear about discussing the issues.

He was happy with the way the peace process was moving forward but 
disappointed over the lack of progress on resolving the Kashmir 
dispute, resolving which in his view is key to establishing permanent 
peace between India and Pakistan. He was also disappointed at the 
postponement of the SAARC meeting and said that Pakistan was 'hurt' 
on the Baglihar Dam issue; water is emerging as a contentious issue 
between the two countries.

I was impressed by Shaukat Aziz's forthrightness. He said that unlike 
the past this government is not interested in merely containing 
problems, but is actually committed to resolving the outstanding 
issues. And this is obvious in his approach when addressing some of 
them. He spelt out the position of the Government of Pakistan on each 
issue and hoped that on bilateral matters India would respond 
positively. He was full of praise for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 
for his positive attitude towards settling differences.

Security, however, is one issue that makes the leadership of the two 
countries nervous. During the exchange Shaukat Aziz pointed out the 
necessity for Pakistan to keep arms for its security, and admitted 
the compulsion of Pakistan to match India's capability whenever it 
decides to procure any new category of arms, leading to an arms race. 
There exists tremendous confusion regarding more dangerous arms 
giving a sense of security.

If you think about the issue with a cool head, you realise the 
relationship between security and more dangerous arms is inverse. We 
become more insecure as we possess more dangerous arms.

Peace activists from Pakistan and India have been advocating the 
unilateral, or with bilateral agreement, renunciation of nuclear 
weapons and downgrading armed forces at the border. Only a border 
free of army and arms can provide us with a sense of true security on 
both sides. I hope our heads of State will eventually understand this 
clear logic and move towards getting rid of weapons.

That is when the common people on both sides will be the winners, as 
resources being diverted in the name of security today, will be freed 
up for real development. In times of globalisation as economic 
progress becomes more important than military security, the leaders 
of the two countries appear to have realized the futility of the arms 
race and pursue the road to peace. Times are changing. The concept of 
jingoistic nationalism is going out of date and this is a welcome 
development. The economic development of the people who comprise a 
nation is becoming centre-stage on the political agenda, as it should 

I still find it difficult to believe that I was allowed into the 
office of the Prime Minister of a country that until not long ago was 
considered an enemy country, and got to listen to his frank opinion 
on pressing issues. His approach clearly reflects the commitment of 
the Government of Pakistan to bring about peace and normalcy in the 

Thank you, Mr. Shaukat Aziz, for making it possible for me to meet 
you. If your government allows the India-Pakistan Peace March to take 
place, your initiative will go a long way towards opening the doors 
for normalising the relationship between citizens of the two 
countries. This will help establish a durable peace, something that 
appears elusive but which the people most definitely desire on both 
sides of the border.


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