Reality testing

  N Ram, executive Editor, The Hindu There is a need to do what many call 'reality testing' of the India-Pakistan relationship, with reference to both the internal and external factors. Reality testing in psychology is the technique of objective evaluation of an emotion or thoughts against real life – as a faculty present in normal individuals, but defective in others. There has been some attempt in India to do this. There are visions of India's future, on this whole issue of India's place in the sun. It is arranged from the extremely bullish and upbeat, rooted in extremely optimistic projections of Indian economic growth, and in uninhibited realpolitik. At the other end, they are rooted in preoccupation with basic livelihood and human-development issues, and of moral concerns over recent and current foreign-policy developments. I would just like to cite as evidence the remarkable result of the 2004 general election, our 14th, where the slogan of 'India Shining' bombed. As for the mass of deprivations, I think the government figures tend to underestimate them. The play of external factors has its limits. Basically, it is my conviction as a journalist that the two countries need to settle it themselves. There'll be some pressure as during Kargil that works to the advantage of one or the other, depending on who is on the right side on that. But this kind of impatience for results coming from external pressure is not realistic. There is a significant crossborder input, which must be recognised by all sides. The big point is that it should not be converted into a polemical exchange. I think all reasonable people in India would say, 'Don't link it to talks'. The process of dialogue must go forward. Even if there are some inputs from that side, do you cease dialogue, terminate the process of détente, threaten Pakistan with crossborder strikes? Of course, you can turn around and say public opinion will not accept it. This is often a euphemism for being timid. And this is our criticism against the Manmohan Singh government, as well as the Vajpayee government. The second strand of criticism is about the abandonment of what was seen to be a dilution of a commitment to what were seen to be core values. I personally believe that there has been this loss – the passion to sit at the high table, and all this has taken Indian foreign policy off the track. It needs serious correction. Nuclear weaponisation has destabilised the situation. But on the Pakistan side, you cannot escape from one conclusion: that you cannot depend on anyone else to force the pace, to deliver anything, other than the well-known methods that have worked when you have tried them or when India has tried them. It is not fully correct to say that nothing has happened on Kashmir with the dialogue. Reality testing would demand that you recognise, at least as a discussable proposition, that this is the Indian political consensus. And we know that the reality in Pakistan is that this cannot be sold to the political forces in Pakistan. Therefore it looks like an intractable problem or an intractable gap, which has to be lived with, tolerated, you have to be patient with it, and you have to work on it to narrow that gap. There must be agreement on one principle: non-use of force to alter the status quo along the Line of Control. This is the sacred principle in India-China relations, and this is the only principle that would work in India-Pakistan relations, whether anyone likes it or not. There is no way, there is no god from the machine, no external factor that can force the pace.

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