By L. Ramdas and Arjun Makhijani
This op-ed appeared in The Hindu on Friday, May 31, 2002
India and Pakistan stand at the brink of nuclear catastrophe. Many people from all over the world – including businessmen, politicians, strategic analysts, diplomats, scientists, peace activists and common people above all – have all voiced their concern regarding the rapidly deteriorating situation in South Asia. Infiltration of terrorists from across the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, the massing of troops at the border by both countries, and the increasing exchanges of artillery fire matched only by the verbal volleys exchanged between the leadership of both countries, could escalate quickly into a full-scale war.
This, in turn poses the threat of a nuclear exchange, which would be catastrophic for both the countries, South Asia in particular, and affect the world at large.
India and Pakistan signed the Shimla Agreement in 1972 and the Lahore Agreement in 1999.
In both these accords, they agreed to renounce the use of force and to resolve all outstanding issues between them by peaceful means.
There has never been a time more urgent and more important to respect the letter and spirit of those agreements than now.
We urge the governments of both Pakistan and India to immediately step back from the brink of war and nuclear holocaust by committing themselves to the following seven-point peace plan. We urge all those Governments that endorsed the U. N. resolutions against terrorism in the wake of September 11, 2001, to use their good offices with the Governments of India and Pakistan to accept this peace plan and to help put it into effect with the greatest urgency. The proposed plan:
1) There should be an immediate ceasefire by Indian and Pakistani forces along the LoC.
2) Pervez Musharraf should take immediate, firm, and demonstrable steps to stop cross-border infiltration from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir into the Indian-controlled side. To ensure that these steps are being taken, an International Anti-terrorist Monitoring Group should be formed and deployed. Pakistan and India should agree to full cooperation with this group.
This would provide a neutral means of ensuring that Pakistan’s commitments about stopping cross-border infiltration are being carried out.
3) If these measures are agreed to, India in turn should make a commitment not to cross the LoC.
4) Pakistan should also adopt the no-first-use policy of nuclear weapons, which has already been adopted by India. These measures should be urgently instituted within a time-frame of a few weeks. Thereafter, three further steps can be taken to ensure long-term peace and towards resolution of a crisis that has now lasted well over half a century. These three steps are:
1) India and Pakistan should thin down their military deployments along their common border and return to pre-December 13, 2001, levels.
2) India and Pakistan should resume their dialogue on all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, in the spirit of the Shimla and Lahore agreements, and pick up the threads where they left off at Agra barely ten months ago.
3) As a part of the dialogue process, India and Pakistan should form a joint technical commission to explore and recommend how the mutual commitment to no-first-use of nuclear weapons can be verified and maintained.
4) Why not a Shimla-II? It would be truly fitting if this could take place on July 12, 2002, the thirtieth anniversary of the historic Shimla agreement.
(The writers are, respectively, former Chief of the Naval Staff and president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Maryland, U.S.)