The Pity of War

The Pity of War
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Often times, or perhaps even invariably, those who suffer in and during wars, or war like situations or all forms of war , that is limited war, total war, or the grey zones of low intensity conflict(s) (LIC’s) are the people of a given contested and contended territory. This suffering can take multiple forms and shapes; it is not just deaths or killings which are the manifest and obvious accruals from militarized conflict. Wars and conflicts can have psychological and emotional effects on people. All these are generally well recognized and identified points and themes. But, what is glossed over and even ignored is that the main belligerents do not calculate or even take cognizance of these “costs” or prices of war. Kashmir is no exception to this. The belligerent dyad , in the conflict over Kashmir dimension which then spills on over to the conflict in Kashmir, India and Pakistan , appear to be rather indifferent to these costs of war. For India, what matters is maintenance of the status quo at any costs; and for Pakistan, altering this status quo is the larger goal. The energies vested for and by both towards these respective ends have been immense both historically and contemporarily. But, what has been the end result? Intensification of the conflict in Kashmir is the obvious answer. While the outer dimensions of the conflict remain rather frozen but within Kashmir is defined by intensified conflict, whatever the ebbs and flows of conflictual conditions might suggest. This is not a condition that any side can and should consider as a success primarily because implied in this condition are seeds for future conflict. So, broadly, speaking containment, management and other forms and dimensions of conflict management have not really worked. Success in war like conditions can and should be measured not by statistics or other correlates but the actual condition of the peoples and other related themes. And, in any case, success, in even prosaic dimensions of life is relative. So, it is not the yardstick of success or lack of it that should determine the approach towards the conflict in and over Kashmir. The conflict must be viewed as one that involves people. Other dimensions can flow from this. But, once the initial premise is clear then other aspects can only follow. In real terms, this means that all sides and parties to the conflict realize that , instead of a cost benefit analysis, a humane approach that leads to the resolution of the conflict in all its forms and dimensions, be crystallized , developed and instituted. It is this that wisdom and prudence suggests. Power and power politics which freeze conflicts are, in the final analysis, fleeting , illusory and ephemeral. Let then wisdom be given a chance in terms of Kashmir.

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