All hope is not lost though. To know this all one has to do is relive the time when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif made the most sincere effort, at least in my memory, to date. The opening of many new civilian transportation channels is still the most effective approach to resolving this conflict. The friendship between the two leaders was irrepressible and the intent was equally clear. Together, both of them got the languid bureaucrats on both sides to get cracking on resolving petty issues.
Anybody who followed the Indian cricket team’s tour of Pakistan during that time would have been lured into believing that the impossible was just around the corner. The camaraderie between the travelling Indian fans and the local Pakistani’s was unmistakable and infectious. So much so that even the usually reticent-at-best and hostile-at-worst on field interaction between the players was clearly sporting in nature. News stories those days were filled with anecdotes from fans and Indian cricketers alike at how magnanimous Pakistanis were as hosts. Many other stories followed on how Indians would outdo Pakistanis at hosting them when their cricket team toured India the following year. Even the days of Pakistanis touring India came and went with an even greater fervour of hope on both sides. The final result of both the series is a mere footnote in this larger story. Images etched in my memory are many but the one that stands out is the Pakistani crowd chanting “Balaji! Balaji!”. Pakistanis honouring Sehwag with the title “Sultan of Multan” in honour of his first test triple century is another.
Even then, the gnawing fear that this dream would come crashing down was, I’m sure, nibbling us within. And it did. To such a state of affairs now, that to the multitudes who were overawed the most with emotion during those times, those days seem like ages ago. We are still left wondering, ‘what happened?’. ‘How did we reach to this state of affairs so soon’?
Perhaps things were moving too fast towards friendship then. Weren’t we missing a few necessary steps between being bitter enemies for half a century to bosom buddies? After all, fables would have to be re-written if we succeeded. The speed and agility of the hare should not win. It’s the slow and painfully trudging, the very same with the ability to outlive all other creatures, that must win. So hunker down for a few more generations of gut wrenching conflict.
Since then, leaders of both sides have shown their ineffectiveness as well as unwillingness to resolve this conflict. Although not to the same levels of sabre rattling as the last century, but the accusations and and demands have been escalating steadily. The public on both sides have been clinically take out of the equation by leaders of the respective sides. The business of diplomacy is back on track. Administrators have won, the two leaders have lost and with them lost was the final glimmer for my generation.
Both Atal Bihari and Nawaz has been exiled from active politics by the leadership of both sides. Just as well for them. May they find solace in the fact that they produced the best chance of resolving this conflict by bringing public on both sides to the very precipice of friendship. The final leap of faith that was needed proved to be just one bridge too many to cross.
The real stakeholders of a conflict
7th August, 2010, Mumbai.