The peace movements in India and Pakistan should force their governments to put non-proliferation and nuclear risk reduction high on the official agenda, leading Indian columnist Praful Bidwai has said.
Speaking at a function in Karachi on the status of the peace process between India and Pakistan 10 years after their nuclear tests, Bidwai also said the two governments should open borders for travel and trade through a liberal visa regime.
Criticising the lack of will on the part of both governments in opening their consulates in Mumbai and Karachi, the rediff.com columnist called on peace movements to frame a comprehensive agenda for putting pressure on the administrations for opening borders for trade, travel and cultural exchanges.
Addressing the function organised on Thursday by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Bidwai called for formalising the peace process. In India, there is a growing demand for taking special initiatives for promoting bilateral people-to-people contacts, he said.
The recent IPL cricket fixture was an 'outstanding example of the lead citizens have provided in breaking barriers', he pointed out.
He stressed on exchanges of school children and theatre groups and the setting up of a people's commission on South Asian history which, he said, had been distorted. He was of the view that the SAARC should also be used by the media 'for pushing the governments'.
The main thrust of Bidwai's speech was the negative fallout on the region of the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. He also stressed the need for peace movements to play a more proactive role by coming up with alternatives.
Bidwai, an outspoken critic of military expenditure on nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan, referred to the situation in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh and claimed this had created formidable challenges for the peace movements in the two nuclear-capable adversaries.
He claimed that while nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan is growing, the issue had been dropped from the agenda of their peace talks.
The induction and deployment of nuclear weapons by the two countries had created the 'finite possibility of their use and inflicting unacceptable harm on mankind', he said.
Bidwai said it was a shame that the governments of India and Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons despite their destructive nature. He said two years before detonating the last nuclear device, India was actively campaigning for making such weapons illegal.
The Indian columnist also criticised the idea that the deterrent capability would expand the room for a more independent foreign and security policy and economic and social dividends.
Referring to the proposed India-US nuclear deal, he said that in order to push through the pact, New Delhi had tried during the past five years to convince people that it would behave responsibly despite being a nuclear power.
He said that though the deal could be renegotiated, India twice voted against Iran on the nuclear issue, jeopardizing prospects of the IPI gas pipeline and its relationship with Iran, which had assumed added significance as it provided a bridgehead to Central Asia.