|Hegemonic aspirations, dominance and arrogance of power are no
where seen in Chinese style of leadership. Deng made it very explicit: we should not
criticize or condemn other nations without good reasons or go to extremes in our words and
deeds.33 Later, in another talk with leading members of the Party Central Committee,
Deng further stated: some developing countries would like China to become the leader
of the third world. But we absolutely cannot do that, this is one of our basic state
policies. We cannot afford to do it and besides, we are not strong enough. There is
nothing to be gained by playing that role; we would only lose most of our
South Asia, remains one of the most volatile regions of the world. Three wars have been fought between India and Pakistan - the two core members of the region. Near war like situations have more or less always prevailed. On a number of occasions, the two almost came to an around collusion, some anticipating even a nuclear war. The roots of conflicts are varied. India is essentially a hegemonic power. A think-tank organization on South Asias Affairs - Henry Stimson Centre - on Indias arms build up says: In many ways, Indias defence procurement programme is driven by wider and more subjective goal. The pursuit of great power status. The scale and nature of Indias defence build-up is related only in part to security against either Pakistan or China. Indias defence programme, it adds, is also designed to create a sort of multi-dimensional defence capability, that is the hallmark of any major power.35
There is an increasing sense of insecurity among the smaller nations of the region e.g. Bangladesh. Writing in the Morning Sun, Dhaka, Brig (Retd) Hafiz, says: While India considers the security of the smaller nations to be integral to her own, they perceive India as their principal source of insecurity.36
Barbara Crosette, makes a similar observation: Politically, everyone of Indias smaller neighbours has been the victim of Kautilyan intrigue since the death of Nehru in 1964 and the subsequent consolidation of power by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, a few years later. Except for two brief historical moments in 1977-79 under a Janata Party government and in 1989-90 when Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh and his foreign minister, Inder Kumar Gujral pledged to stop playing dirty tricks on the neighbours, Indian policy-making on Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and to some extent Maldives and Pakistan (a special case) was a game for intelligence agents, schemers in the ministry of External Affairs, and viceregal diplomats in imperial cloaks.37
India had the ambition to dominate the Indian ocean as highlighted by Indian Strategist - Pannikar - in his famous book India and the Indian Ocean. He had argued: To the Indian ocean, then we shall have to run as our ancestors did when they conquered Socotra (Sukhdara) in the Arabian Sea and established empire in the Pacific which lasted for 1500 years.38
On the social structure of India, Ikram Sehgal says: Many people in the outside world are not aware of the Hindu class system, almost 53% of the population are of the lowest class, the Untouchables. With about 17% muslims and 3-4% Christians of various denomination, only about 25-27% of the population is really enfranchised. Most of the government jobs go to this minority with a sprinkling drawn from the majority for purposes of window dressing. The only government employment really open to the majority population are the menial jobs, even in the Armed Forces untouchables, muslims and christians are few and far between. Control of the government at all levels and of the Armed Forces thus gives the Hindu minority upper class dictatorial authority over the rest of the population. When VP Singh was PM he tried to overcome this inequity by enforcing a Quota system, riots broke out all over the country, mostly fanned by the civil administration. In Delhi most of the protestors were government servants, this was repeated during the Babri Masjid riots in December showing BJPs hold. To sustain their rule, the ruling classes use RAW as a weapon to stamp down dissent, spread disinformation, political character assassination, hit squads to commit murder, etc. The amazing thing is that they got away with it despite the fact that the maximum amount of movements for independence are raging within India.39
The atrocities and terror that are being perpetuated on the hapless Kashmiris, is beyond description. As Sehgal says: In Kashmir today, if death, rape and torture has become endemic, it is mostly at the initiative of Indian forces. To be fair while one may accept that we may have cast a stone or two, in the face of the Indian barrage of terrorism against all its neighbours, one will expect that justice will not be denied. If the world community has any even-handed non-discriminatory yardstick for labelling any nation a terrorist State, India outstrips everyone else by a mile!.40
Human Development profile of South Asia is indeed very distressing. It is fast emerging as the poorest, the most illiterate, the most malnourished, the least gender sensitive - indeed the most deprived region in the world.41 The region has a population of 515 million out of the global population of 1.3 billion people who live in absolute poverty (below $ 1 a day in 1985 PPP dollars). The bulk of South Asian poverty is concentrated in Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Eastern and Central Indian States and Nepal. According to the latest World Bank estimates, 53 percent of the population in India, 12 percent in Pakistan, 29 percent in Bangladesh, 4 percent in Sri Lanka and 53 percent in Nepal subsist in absolute poverty. 46% (395 million) of its adults are illiterate, 35% (177 million) people do not expect to survive to the age of 40, 30% (271 million) people are lacking access to basic health services, 33% (442 million) people are lacking access to safe drinking water, 31% (826 million) are lacking access to elementary sanitation, 49% (85 million) of its children are malnourished and 45% (243 million) of its adults females are illiterate.42
When the Gulf crisis was at its peak, General Beg propounded the idea of Strategic Consensus as an antidote to becoming vulnerable to foreign aggression. Isolation, he said, breeds temptations. Countries, therefore must forge a climate of mutual understanding, through integrating themselves into regional economic cooperation. This way, speedier economic development would be ensured, which would eliminate human miseries, deprivations and poverty. This idea, was pursued through holding several international level seminars on regional economic cooperation and fulfilment fundamental rights by Foundation for Research on International Environment, National Development and Security (FRIENDS). The culture of peace in Central South Asia, was the theme of the International Seminar organised by FRIENDS in November 1995. General Beg spelt out the vital strategic options, which the Central South Asian states must choose to promote culture of peace. These are:43
- Institutionalized System of Study, Analysis and Dissemination of Information on matters of common interests. Establishment of Peace Research is a commendable idea.
- The three centres of regional power - China, India and Iran must collectively accept responsibility for maintaining a regional geo-political balance with due respect to national integrity and interests of the smaller partners.
- Develop regional economic cooperation to strengthen inter-state relationship and support existing organisations and concepts such as: Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO); South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) etc, and Asian Identity Concept propounded by Iran and Asian Regional Cooperation concept (ARC) advanced by FRIENDS.
- Develop spirit of Defence against hegemony, exploitation and all forces which disrupt the peace of the region.
- Develop a Culture of Dialogue to settle all disputes at the bilateral and multilateral levels Ñ the notables being Kashmir, Afghanistan and other areas of conflicts.
- Determine a correct level of relationship with USA. In this respect examples of China and Malaysia may be cited.
What does it mean to talk about the Culture of Peace? Conflicts are ubiquitous and are the warp and woof of life. Promotion of peace entails a realization that in a conflict situation there is a choice of behaviours for dealing with conflicts, which runs into a continuum from total destruction of the other, to an optimum accommodation and harmony. It may range from extreme polarity of War to Extermination - Limited war - Threat systems (Deterrence) - Arbitration - Mediation - Negotiation - Mutual Adaptation - Alliance - Cooperation and finally to total Harmony. The first three categories glorify violence. From arbitration onwards the modalities are steps towards promoting the Culture of Peace. It is a paradox that, by and large, we do adhere to remaining within the middle ranges of conflict management and tend to value integrative approaches in our day to day living, but only when we face adversaries in the international context, that we shift to the threat side of the continuum - a sort of schizophrenia of nationalism. How, to effect learning for peace, so that the cognitive structures, tuned to perceiving in we-they and win-lose categories are changed and zero-sum-game gives way to an attitudinal shift towards positive-sum-game are the basic imperatives. Without modifying the prevailing cognitive structures, no peace learning can be meaningful. It is not for any utopian peace as it is only found in the grave, the culture of peace, essentially reflects a way of life - an attitude which puts premium on dialogue and negotiation. Peace through suppression, very often achieved through authoritarian order is no peace, nor a cold peace depicting absence of war is any worthwhile goal to achieve. Peace, concept, puts its locus into the minds of men, who interactively promote peace through a negotiated social order.
The peace concept, true to the declaration made by the founders of UNO in 1945, was that its battle was to be fought at two fronts. The first was the security from where victory spelled freedom from fear, and the second was the economic and social front, where victory meant freedom from want. Unfortunately, in the context of South Asia, the concept of security remains fixated on safeguarding the border security. There is a need for transcending the narrow grooves of security and taking a holistic perspective, which keeps the security of individual, groups and the environment as vital as the security of state.
The silent crisis of underdevelopment is the root of all deprivations, poverty and unemployment, leading to the alienation of people and in turn causing violence, displaced aggression, ethnic, linguistic and religious conflicts and even fissiparous trends and wars of cessation. The deprivations, in fact, are the early indicators, and if not appropriately corrected, lead to disruptive trends in society, having spilling over effects in the region and even beyond. The new developmental strategy puts people at the centre of development and regards economic growth as a means and not as an end in itself. Growth must reflect in the improvement of the quality of lives of people and not some individuals and vested groups.
One would conclude by stating what Hermann Hesse said: The man of power is ruined by power, the man of money by money, the submissive man by subservience, the pleasure seeker by pleasure. Let us choose to be balanced and moderate.