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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
M A I L B A G

The Indo-Pak peace process must continue

HK. Dua’s article, “Walking the peace track” (Sept 3) is very timely and makes interesting reading. It is heartening to learn that a slow but steady dialogue is going on between Satinder Lamba and Tarique Aziz, representatives of our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf on Track I. The travellers of Track II need not be impatient and wait for the outcome of the dialogue in progress on Track I.

True, it is impossible now to make any change in the territories under the control of the two countries. But it will be fraught with dangerous consquences to open the borders in Jammu and Kashmir when the border areas in both countries are surcharged with terrorism.

Pakistan has remained under the military rulers for longer periods. For their political survival, the military generals unnecessarily create trouble on the borders to divert the attention of the people in our neighbourhood.

There is no guarantee of peace in the border areas. Therefore, the question of reducing the strength of forces should not arise. If at all it is done, it will be at the cost of the security at our borders. For lasting peace and prosperity between the two nations, more people-to-people contacts are the need of the hour.

IQBAL SINGH, Bijhari (Hamirpur)


 

II

Mr Dua’s five points succintly explain the entire peace process. As I was discussing this article with some residents of my ancestral village, I found them scary about points 2 and 5, i.e. “open borders” and “reduction of forces” in Jammu and Kashmir. Even with elaborate explaining, they were not totally satisfied with these proposed moves. Such is the magic of a good article published in the print media! Mr Dua has rightly said that the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistan President are not in a position, at least for the present, to take bold decisions on this issue because of domestic conditions in both countries. Hence, the peace process may be slower than expected.

However, such peace initiatives ought to be supported by all political parties of either side as it is in the best interests of both countries. Moreover, nothing better can be done by those in the Opposition. Politics on such a sensitive matter can only prove dangerous.

L.R. SHARMA, Sundernagar (Mandi)

III

Given the raison d’etre of Pakistan and the past history, it is highly imperative that any negotiation with the Islamic country is characterised by gun-boat diplomacy. Islamabad needs to realise that unlike it, India does not differentiate between the communities inhabiting it. India’s claim to Kashmir is based on history, geography, culture and mythology. Hence no terrorist can be allowed to hold the country to ransom.

There is a well-established principle which was upheld by Abraham Lincoln at the cost of civil war that any schism has to be resisted whatever it may cost. India must be suave in dealing with the Jehadi-infested nation gone berserk with crass fundamentalism, but at the same time Pakistan must be made aware that her gunpowder is dry. Anyway, India should never allow itself to be led up the garden path as it happened at Simla in 1972 and at the time of the Kargil war.

GEETANJALI KORPAL, Amritsar

Of Sikh identity

Please refer to Maj-Gen (retd) Himmat Singh Gill’s article “Govt. should intervene to stop turban frisking” which appeared in your esteemed paper (Sept 6). It tends to put the blame on the “Akali Dals” for the trouble faced by the Sikhs vis-à-vis the turban.

Happily, we in Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) are as smart and forward looking as the writer and his brother Dr M.S. Gill, now an MP. My party and I have raised the issue of the Sikh turban in the Indian Parliament; I have spoken to the State Department in Washington DC and marched with a thousand Sikhs in Paris to make the French understand that the turban is a symbol of our faith and an inseparable part of our dress. As a result, the State Department has issued an official gazetted proclamation of the various styles of the turban worn by the Sikhs. As a Member of Parliament, I pressed upon the Vajpayee government to issue advertisements in the Western print and electronic media about the distinct Sikh headgear. All my efforts hit a dead end.

As a Member of Parliament from 1999 to 2004 two distinguished Union Law Ministers, Mr Ram Jethmalani whom I knew personally and Mr Arun Jaitly I came to know were approached by me regarding various matters pertaining to the Sikhs. The first was about the Sikh Anand Marriage Act which was passed in 1907 in British India. Like other Acts passed before 1947, this Act was not gazetted by the Government of India.

The turban indicates a distinct Sikh identity but the Government of India will never support this case internationally, as it is not a token of faith in the Hindu religion and because the Sikhs have been made a part of the Hindu religion in the Constitution; by supporting this separate identity of the Sikhs, the Government of India would be stating something outside its Constitution, which it will not do just like no Turkish government will accept the Kurdish language or identity. Similarly, since we have been constitutionally made to accept the Hindu religion our own Anand Marriage Act (1907) will never be made a separate tender.

SIMRANJIT SINGH MANN,President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Quilla S. Harnam Singh,(Fatehgarh Sahib)

Make armed forces attractive

I read the news-item, “Armed forces seek service incentives to keep them hooked” (Aug 26). This is a welcome suggestion. We have to do much more for our defence personnel. Today the defence services do not attract the youths anymore. Similarly, young officers are losing interest in the defence services and seek premature retirement. Besides, our armed forces are short of over 15,000 officers. This shortage will increase in the days to come if necessary course corrections are not introduced.

True, those serving in the Army face domestic problems, but we also have to accept the ground reality. Today the civil services are more attractive and lucrative. Besides, the corporate sector attracts young talent as it pays handsome salaries to its staff. We need to make the defence services more attractive by giving their personnel good pay and benefits.

Prof PARVEEN SINGH RANA,Hoshiarpur

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