Addressing the second Pak-India Economic Conference at Lahore on Monday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani waxed eloquent on the virtues of peace between the two countries. He cautioned them against wasting any more time in harmful wrangling over disputes and come forward to settle them, expressing regrets that they had already lost precious six decades and a half in the process. Mr Gilani counselled the governments of both Pakistan and India to grab the opportunity presented by the easing of tension, shed the language of the past and move forward. He bemoaned that the lack of mutual trust and tension have left the people on either side of the border in rank poverty; they lack such basic necessities as clean drinking water and do not have two square meals a day. “They are citizens of the two democracies and deserve better,” Mr Gilani emphasised.

No one would dispute the unlimited benefits that peace could deliver. That is, in fact, a fundamental requirement of economic growth, progress and prosperity for the citizenry. It must be remembered that those who strove hard to make Pakistan a reality, and on top of that the Quaid-i-Azam himself, had visualised that the partition would herald a new era of understanding and peaceful relations between the two states; each would follow its own chosen path to a desired goal. As ill luck would have it, things turned out quite differently. Hostility and bad feelings generated by the soul destroying events of partition continued to grow, as India dillydallied in addressing contentious issues that had come in the wake of the creation of the two states. And as time passed, New Delhi reneged on its commitments contained in the UN Security Council resolutions and began touting that Kashmir was its integral part. That dispute continues to rankle with not only Kashmiris, but also the people of Pakistan. The Kashmiris have invested blood in search of freedom from the brutal hold of India. Varying estimates of loss of lives account for the death of as many as 80,000. Their struggle goes on unabated. For Pakistan, the baleful impact of India’s occupation has appeared in the shape of diversion of its own share of water for use by India. To assume that by putting this core issue on the backburner or just abandoning it for the sake of normalisation would not work. There have been unmistakable indications from across the border that it has no intention of taking up this dispute with the seriousness that a just solution would require. India’s words of promise have been tested far too many to be trusted. Finding the route to peace through MFN or increased trade that the conference aimed at would not help. New Delhi must first be made to realise a basic fact if human nature that no durable peace is possible in the presence of such vital disputes.