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Taking Stock
The economic factor
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahThe people of this vast land sprawling from the high Himalayas to the high seas have been suffering too much for too long. Much of their blood is soaked into this soil and their plenty ploughed into the dust. They very much need mercy from all the elements that rule the fortune of these unfortunate people. Many countries that saw destruction of great magnitude during the two great wars and in many conflicts afterward have come to settle in peace and marching on towards progress and prosperity of their people, Germany, Japan, Vietnam and Korea are brilliant examples, there are others too. Why cant we save our people and get them out of the plight they are in? After all how long the peasants will prefer to commit suicide? How long will the unemployed youth in their millions wait in queues with vain hopes of clinching a job? How far these frustrated people can resist the urge to clinch on a trigger to avenge for their deprivations? Every thing is getting too late in the day.

Recent months and years have seen many furrowed foreheads and twitching faces swathed in tears of agony and tears of joy on both sides of a political divide in Europe and Asia. Separated relatives and members of divided families who had survived the vicissitudes of time met with their near and dear ones in Germany, in erstwhile Soviet territories, in South Lebanon and in Korea. One can only hope and pray that innumerable broken hearts should see the dawn of that gleaming day on the Indian subcontinent whose torso has been subjected to devastating butchery, not once but again and again within the span of a generationís life time leaving many weeping wounds and running sores. The fore mentioned events show that the hopes of the Indian people for a new dawn must materialize one day although such hopes have been belied when they were almost within reach and close to the attainment.

A durable peace was within reach after the Tashkent agreement in 1966 when Ayub Khan, a military general, carried the bier of the Indian Prime Minister late Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri. But it was missed by the margin of a razorís edge. It was Mr Bhutto who sabotaged the peace prospects. The agreement could not be given a try. He fell for the blood of Ayub Khan for he was strongly against the peace agreement signed by him (Ayub Khan) in Tashkent. He was so furious that he did not join Mr Shastriís funeral procession at Tashkent and hurriedly returned to Pakistan to launch a campaign against Ayub Khan which blocked the efforts to build a base for peaceful development of Pakistan which would have been in the interest of not only the people of Pakistan but in our interest also, for a neighbour engaged in peaceful construction and development is far better and safer than the one which is weak, suffering from fear psychosis and indulging in confrontational activities. Mr Bhutto did set Pakistan on the latter course and step by step led to the break up of that country. Moreover, what he had spat in Tashkent licked in Shimla five years later.

Vice versa in Lahore Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was accorded a red carpet welcome but the general who did not participate on the occasion to avoid saluting the Indian Prime Minister planned the Kargil episode, overthrew his Prime Minister and forced him out in exile. Now the same general is extending his hand for peace and suggesting that what had happened was history and should be forgotten But what should be remembered is that Field Marshal Ayub Khan was administering the affairs of his country when India and Pakistan agreed on a system of distribution of river waters of Punjab. That system and the agreement governing it survived the two wars between the two countries and ups and downs in their relations, no harm was done to it while an earlier agreement, Nehru-Liaqat Pact, did not hold for long.

Thus it may be concluded that the economic interests of the two countries can be the solid base for any understanding or agreement. The fabrics of mutual relations based on economic scaffolding will be strong enough to resist many tensions. There is a corollary to this conclusion which can also stand the test of time: The survival or breakdown of an Indo-Pak agreement does not depend upon the nature of administration, civilian or military turned civilian, in that country. We have to deal with the people of Pakistan anyway. World has been dealing with many military leaders who being disciplined by virtue of their training have proved, in most cases, more dependable than the turncoat politicians.

As for General Parvez Musharraf's forthcoming visit to India the Kargil episode is behind him. When Vietnamese can rush and crush for a shake hand with the visiting U.S. President why can't India meet with Gen Musharraf. After all Pakistan could not do to India what the U.S. had done to Vietnam. Despite partition the people of the subcontinent remain the same suffering lot, torn in toil, swathed with tears, suffering silently, praying in poverty for peace and salvation.

By the way, a good opportunity is close at hand. After the meeting of an Indo-Iranian joint working groups the two governments have agreed on a feasibility study of an overland gas pipeline running through Pakistan. If materialized it will be a sort of contract between Iran, the supplier, and India, the client. There will be a separate bilateral agreement between Tehran and Islamabad. Apart from the fact that this overland pipeline will be cost effective India does not stand to lose in any case for the supplier will be responsible for the loss. It seems to be a favourable and dependable deal as Pakistan will be bound by the terms of the agreement, by the political influence of a great friend and above all by the diktat of its own economic interests. Let the gas pipeline run parallel to the water channels.

However, the spade work should be thoroughly done and social pegs be fixed on solid grounds and at the same time digging of pitches should not be permitted at any cost. Every player should know that peace is the greatest need for all, peace at any cost and every cost, for otherwise the cost will be unbearably high for all.

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