Talks are the only way out
Much at stake
The forthcoming meeting between the national security advisors of Pakistan and India will determine whether there is going to be any respite to the prevailing level of tension. In case the meeting goes well it would help, among other things, to reduce persistent border provocations. Indian hostility at the Line of Control as well as Working Boundary has increased in proportion with its diplomatic onslaught against Pakistan, which Islamabad has raised at relevant international fora. In case it fails to take place or remains fruitless, however, there is a possibility of the ante on both sides being upped, benefiting neither.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India has invited the Hurriyet leaders to meet Sartaj Aziz on the same day he is scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. There was nothing unusual about the meeting as Hurriyet leaders have in the past been regularly invited to meet visiting dignitaries from Pakistan. Last year a meeting of the sort was however used by the Modi government to call off the scheduled talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. This amounted to introducing a new red line in bilateral relations.
The suspension of dialogue has not made South Asia in any way securer or safer. It has instead added to the existing strains leading to a series of incidents of cross border exchange of fire. The attempt to pump national pride by organising a carnival in New Delhi to mark the 50 anniversary of 1965 war has led to a reciprocal move by Pakistan. Acrimonious statements by India’s interior and defence ministers have further contributed to bad blood. Modi’s statements in Dhaka in June and in Dubai early this week have added fuel to the fire.
Pakistan and India face highly serious threats like poverty, terrorism, global warming and water shortages. None of these can be met single-handedly. The opportunity created by NSA level talk must not, therefore, be lost. India needs to abandon the big power bluster while Islamabad needs to realise that India’s projection of power in the region cannot be contained through military means alone.
NDMA in crisis
A disaster in itself!
It is not unusual for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to appear incompetent. Its inherent inability to deal with national disasters – especially foreseen ones – has led to repeated calls for a critical evaluation and overhaul. One main reason for its present paralysis was presented to the Senate standing committee on climate change on Tuesday. It turns out that some of its most important commissions have not met since Feb ’13. That means there has been no movement on mandated benchmarks under the present dispensation.
Interestingly, just as the Senate standing committee was being enlightened about some of the disaster management authority’s many inabilities, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal – speaking about Vision 2025, of course – was underscoring the need for ‘a holistic approach’ for human resource development ‘by synergising efforts on education, health, nutrition and population’. Yet the government’s policies reflect a different set of priorities. There is not much emphasis on the sectors Iqbal listed. There is, though, overwhelming focus on mega projects like motorways, power plants, etc. It is little surprise, in hindsight, that the crucial organs of state remain non-functional, just like NDMA, while official energy is invested in efforts that do not relate to the people’s most pressing issues.
This policy framework rightly draws criticism from the opposition. The government loses points every time disasters kill and dislocate people – not to mention the continuous drain on the GDP. In case of floods, when small farmers are destroyed, it takes much longer for the periphery to return to the natural production and earning cycle. It doesn’t help, of course, when more floods come before the process is complete, inflicting compound damage. Concerned offices continue to display criminal negligence by ignoring institutions like NDMA. The government must immediately reset its to-do list, not just for the sake of the people, but for its own political survival. It is not winning many hearts by being so detached from the people.