I was once driving on a 20-degree sunny day on the busy streets of Melbourne with a friend. It was one of those in-between days where if you stand in a shade you feel cold if you don’t have a jacket on but if you stand in the sun you’ll have to take your jacket off. Situation wasn’t much different in our car. If you have the windows up, the heat will get trapped and if you roll the windows down the cold breeze will make you uneasy.
I was wearing a t-shirt with my jacket sitting in the backseat while my friend was wearing a t-shirt and a jacket. Very early into our trip, my friend felt a little hot and hence rolled the window down, I started feeling cold and rolled his window up as I had the controls for all the windows. Not only that, I also locked the windows so he couldn’t roll it down again. He protested and demanded to be given the control of his window which I declined, humbly of course. I asked him if he is feeling hot, he should take his jacket off. He declined my humble request and instead suggested me to put my jacket on. Neither one of us wanted to give in and we were both more interested in getting it our way with no giving. This was a problem that required a solution by the action of only one side. There was no give or take, it was only give. Either one of us could relinquish our built-in instinct of getting something in return or stay in this stalemate. If I had pulled over, taken my jacket out of the backseat and put it on, I would have gone through a little inconvenience but the problem would have been solved. In this entire exercise my friend would not have had to move a muscle. This is probably why I was reluctant to go through any inconvenience, no matter how small because the other party was not going through anything. The same thing could have been done by my friend as well, he could have gotten out of the car, taken his jacket off and could have thrown it in the backseat but just like me, he wasn’t willing to go through any inconvenience without getting something in return. In the end, there was a stalemate and the person with the power, won i.e. me who had the controls of the window.
This is exactly the stalemate India and Pakistan are at in the recent years. Pakistan demands India to open up dialogue on the future of Kashmir as Pakistan believes Kashmir should have been the part of Pakistan on the principles of the Indian division in 1947. India denies that claim and demands Pakistan to stop sponsoring terrorism in India. Pakistan also denies that and goes back to its demand of opening up the dialogue. This is a vicious circle and has no end until one party lets up. Whoever lets up, will have to go through enormous amount of political inconvenience in return for possibly nothing. States often act like individuals because they are run by individuals and hence they end up expressing feelings like anger, ego, love, hate etc.
I understand this is a complicated issue and probably this is not all there is but this seems to be the biggest hurdle for the time being. Pakistan just elected its long awaited Prime Minister, Imran Khan who recently wrote a letter to his counterpart Indian Prime Minister, Narender Singh Modi, asking him to open up the dialogue. Modi, as expected, rejected the demand and said no dialogue can be initiated until Pakistan stops sponsoring terrorism in India. I don’t know how true the claims from both sides are but one thing is for sure, India and Pakistan will remain enemies until they break this circle.
In my personal view just like I think, I should have pulled over and put the jacket on, I also think India should open the dialogue as there is absolutely no other way to resolve their disputes with Pakistan. I don’t think Pakistani state is sponsoring terror in India or at least to the extent it was doing that in the 90s but Pakistan must take steps to assure India that they are genuine in their desire to have good relations with India. First step Pakistan should take is arrest the terrorist Hafiz Saeed and dismantle Lashkar-e-Toiba. India should start the peace dialogue with Pakistan, not just on Kashmir but on trade, water, visa restrictions etc.
Imran Khan has forwarded the hand of friendship, let’s hope India doesn’t ignore it.