As the world celebrates Mohandas Gandhi’s 150th anniversary on 2 October 2019, let’s take a look in part at what is going on around the world -- particularly in the region closer to India and beyond.
The pacifists like the Mahatma would always emphasize that every conflict, no matter how bloody or destructive, has to end on a negotiating table in the spirit of truth and nonviolent reconciliation.
An encouraging news came from Afghanistan that a 19-year old conflict with the Taliban might end in that country with the gradual withdrawal of the American troops and the Taliban’s participation in the Afghani government.
But the talk had to be called off. The Afghani conflict has become so deeply intractable. The Talibans -- a party to the negotiation whose hands are soaked in blood -- seemed to understand only the language of violence. They wouldn't talk to the Afghani government led by president Ghani who is characterized as the "stooge" of the USA or the West. They wouldn't commit to a ceasefire until a time table for the withdrawal of the US forces was offered. They would consider issues like gender equality in the Afghani society only after they had assumed power.
In any intra-Afghan negotiations as proposed by the peace-makers, they would like to be treated as the first among the others. Thus, in a word, the Talibans wanted the governance of Afghanistan to be offered on a platter and the US forces to leave unconditionally.
They may have the claim too. The Talibans are said to be in control of the 46% of the Afghani territory.
A weird scene of political drama was witnessed on the US side as well. Donald Trump envisioned to spring a surprise on the American people and planned to invite the leaders of the Taliban and the Afghani president to Camp David, the week-end resort of the US President near Washington, DC. A clash occurred between the two schools of thoughts within the Trump Administration over Afghan-Taliban policy. One led by Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, closest to the President, he wanted to go ahead with the summit with the Taliban. The other school was led by John Bolton, the National Security Advisor. He was in favor of the gradual withdrawal of the American forces but opposed to any concession to the Talibans.
Following strong additional opposition from some Republicans and defense or foreign policy experts, the President called off not only the proposed summit but also the negotiating process set in motion about a year ago.
The irony turned out to be that John Bolton, whose views eventually won the debate, got fired. The Talibans also snubbed the US plans later alleging that Trump was planning to 'trick them' into a negotiation with the Afghan President Ghani, an idea they had always opposed. The negotiation between the US representatives and the Talibans were taking place behind the back of the Afghan government.
In the midst of this diplomatic chaos and an atmosphere filled with mutual distrust, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, was making a case on 23 September that the USA and the other parties must continue to negotiate with the Talibans. His only argument was that the Talibans of today were not the Talibans of 2001 when they harbored terrorists from all over the world and engineered 9/11. He admitted for the first time that the Pakistani army and intelligence were training Al-Qaeda at several training camps in Afghanistan at that time. Since they don’t do it anymore, they should be trusted.
Imran Khan also claimed that the Pakistani military, under his administration, was complying fully with his civilian leadership and was trying hard to disentangle the Talibans from the Jehadis.
Many in the international community wouldn't believe Imran Khan that the Pakistani military had completely yielded the supremacy in governance to a civilian government.
During his visit Imran Khan also tried to convince Donald Trump and the international community to stop India from continuing to embark on the path of Hindu nationalism and restore autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.
In the background of all this was the news that certain oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia had allegedly been attacked by Iran causing the prospect of oil prices going up. It has also brought the "Shia-Sunni Divide" in the Middle East into sharper focus. America has tightened sanctions on Iran and the Middle East might flare up.
In this scenario of geo-political or ethnic tension, every country -- big or small -- will naturally become security conscious. For India also there are grave implications. There are many Indians (and Muslims from Bihar) who work in the Middle East and any instability in the region will force them to return.
Sadly, therefore, on Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, the world in general, and the Indian subcontinent in particular, were not free from regional and/or racial-communal tension.
Gandhi’s message, however, will still be guiding us toward achieving the objective of World Peace.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.