Peace can only be achieved when there is an understanding of each other's culture, heritage and values. That can only happen when genuine secularism takes root in Pakistan, says Pramod Kumar Buravalli
The world entered the atomic age exactly 65 years ago when the United States conducted the first nuclear test on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Maxico.
Oppenheimer gave the first atomic test the code name 'Trinity'.
The inspiration for the name came to Oppenheimer from the Bhagavad Gita. Oppenheimer once famously quoted the Bhagavad Gita: 'If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one,' and 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds'.
Today, there are no less than nine countries that possess atomic weapons, chiefly among them bitter neighbours India and Pakistan. Together, their total arsenal (if used) can destroy the world many times over.
When one reads the statistics on casualties of wars fought around the world over the past 200 years, there has been a sudden drop in the casualty numbers since 1945.
Many in the scientific community around the world attribute that fact (the drop of war casualties after 1945 in comparison to pre-1945 stats) to the inception of the atomic weapon. They call it 'deterrence'. They call it the fear of MAD or 'mutually assured destruction' and hence cite the importance the atomic weapon has played in bringing about 'relative' peace in the world.
But, take India and Pakistan for example. After Pokharan-2 and Chagai-1 in 1998, there has been a war in Kargil, there have been instances in 2002 and 2008 when India and Pakistan came very close to largescale war and every year since 1998 there are accusations and counter-accusations from either side about meddling in the internal affairs of one another.
So, this theory that nuclear weapons are a deterrent against a determined adversary is not applicable with respect to India and Pakistan.
India is a Hindu majority country and Pakistan is an Islamic nation. However, in India there is a sizeable civil society that would want to extend a hand of friendship to Pakistan. On the other side of the border, there is only a miniscule civil society that wants to do the same but is afraid of its own opinion. This disparity in peace seeker's percentage on either side is not likely to change in the near future because India has championed the cause of Vasudekha Kutumbhakam or secularism in its homes, classrooms and in public discourses while Pakistan took the leap into religious extremes very long ago.
What Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh have all done is to TRY and GO that extra mile to accommodate the smaller country and usher in peace but time and time again, the mentality of the Pakistani establishment and particularly elements within their armed forces have prevented anything sensible being accomplished by either party.
If Dr Manmohan Singh is fixated on legacy building or the Nobel Peace Prize then that is unfortunately a distant dream. He will be better off concentrating on his core strength, which is building the economy.
It is no hidden fact that generations of kids in Pakistan have been taught to hate anyone who comes from an alternate belief system. This indoctrination is not restricted to the uneducated but has been systematically spread into the hearts and minds of the majority of the educated elite too.
Therefore, and at the cost of repetition, I can only say that peace can only be achieved when there is an understanding of each other's culture, heritage and values. That can only happen when genuine secularism takes root in Pakistan.
Until then, the legacy builders and civil society champions can keep trying for peace and people like me will keep writing obituaries on those one-off "peace-making efforts".
Sad but true!