No Peace in Our Time?

Yet another peace initiative between India and Pakistan is fizzling out. The Financial Times:

India and Pakistan blamed each other for the breakdown of a peace initiative just hours before their representatives were to have sat down for talks.

The Pakistani side withdrew after Sushma Swaraj, Indian foreign minister, said the talks could not take place if Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s national security adviser, did not drop plans to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders.

At this point, few should be surprised. The India-Pakistan quarrel has burned for generations now, occasionally erupting into violence, more often sullenly smoking and glowing. Americans and other liberal minded people around the world keep hoping for negotiating breakthroughs, pointing out that the quarrel is expensive for both countries and that they could both benefit from a solution. But the settlement never comes, and it’s unlikely to come anytime soon. Unfortunately, as both sides add to their nuclear arsenals, the chance that a clash could spiral out of control also rises over time.

And the struggle will likely continue; the Pakistanis hope that rising religious conflict in India (due both to the ascendancy of traditionally Hindu chauvinist parties like Narendra Modi’s BJP, and to the increasing militancy of Muslims worldwide, which is being felt inside India) will weaken its larger neighbor. India hopes that a growing economy and successfully-managed internal conflicts will propel it to a level of global power that leaves Pakistan choking in the dust. As that happens, Indians hope that the many ethnic and tribal rivalries inside Pakistan itself will continue to weaken the country and perhaps lead to its breakup.

Both sides are patient, both sides are determined; neither side is in a hurry. Expect talk of peace, and talk of peace talks, to continue—but don’t expect real peace to break out anytime soon.

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