No one wins against geography 

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  • It decides our fates, fortunes and misfortunes 

Tucked uncomfortably between two bitter brothers and an avowed enemy, Pakistan continues to exist, even obstinately, in one of the most hostile neighborhoods in the world. Geography couldn’t have been unkind, crueler to this country of more than 200 million inhabitants. Cornered, distrusted and always inches away from being labeled ‘rogue’, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan scampers from crisis to crisis, tragedy to tragedy, debacle to debacle. The keen historians remember the times it escaped complete ruin, the impassioned scribes have witnessed the moments its pyrrhic victories drained its vigor and shine.

The question, however is, what hope a country has in a dog eat dog world when three out of its four neighbours are ill at ease with it and recount- whenever an occasion pops up- all the instances when they were dealt a wrong hand. Our brother to the West, Afghanistan, have a long list of grievances, be it from Pakistan’s role in ruining it in the first place, seeking an ever-elusive strategic depth or returning Afghan refugees at a time when the country is under immense turmoil.

Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan, all four neighbours refuse to behave with neighborly grace and restraint are yet to learn how to shed undue interest in each other’s ‘state of affairs’.

Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan, all four neighbours refuse to behave with neighborly grace and restraint are yet to learn how to shed undue interest in each other’s ‘state of affairs’. The newfound affection between Afghanistan and India with the latter pledging a billion dollar financial assistance to show its ‘abiding support for a unified, sovereign, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan’ is being interpreted in Pakistan as birth of an evil nexus between a war ravaged, mercenary country and an old enemy turned regional bully.

India, once famed for not aligning itself in shackles of dependence has recently found bonhomie in the Americans. Iran, on the other hand, is all set to reap benefits from loosening of sanctions. India, the former founding member of Non-Aligned Movement has finally realized that in this bad, bad neighborhood, it is always good to have a hyper-power on its side. Never having been comfortable with and around both China and Pakistan, India has made pals across seven seas that have naval presence in all of them. Considering Pakistan a permanent nuisance and China as a competitor to reckon with, India aims to draw Afghanistan, the so-called graveyard of civilizations, and Iran, flag-bearer of one of the most ancient civilizations, nearer. In the meantime, we want to execute Kulbhushan, which unfortunately for the time being we can’t, and we want to free Kashmir.

Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, goes our official stance. Since time immemorial, we have been demanding that the Kashmir issue be resolved as per the dictates of UN Security Council resolutions. The death of Burhan Wani last July brought back the Kashmir issue in the media’s gaze, across Pakistan. The old flame that was on the back burner with sporadic rallies featuring the usual suspects of Kashmir cause, a public holiday on 5th of February, occasional talk shows highlighting the ‘plight of poor Kashmiri brothers’ kept it alive till something new, something big, something Burhan Wani eventually fell in our lap.

Since their inception, both Pakistan and India have tried every trick up their sleeve and every sleazy tactic in their armory ranging from fighting two full-scale wars and many low intensity battles, pulled each other’s leg on international forums, acquiring nuclear capability to level things out and still spend billions of dollars on acquiring weapons. I didn’t want to quote Einstein’s full definition of insanity here, as you can google it yourself. The ICJ staying Kulbhushan has a lot to tell us, and it isn’t telling us all things soothing, all things good.

After surviving the war hysteria, catalyzed by flag-waving, a chest-thumping attitude spearheaded by media outlets of both countries, the recent verdict has taken things to a new level, a level where black coat donning, wig wearing folks pettifog and talk and twist ‘matters of grave importance’ around.

In courts of law and justice, the passion, aggression, bravery, righteousness of cause, selflessness and all things noble and admirable are reduced to smithereens by a clever counsel who can quote the right precedent, at the right time. Need I say more?

Robert Frost, the beloved American poet, in one of his most widely read poems, ‘Mending Wall’ portrays a neighbor who insists on wisdom inherent in raising boundaries and fences as it was handed over to him by his father and repeatedly reminds his interlocutor of the benefits of erecting fences, one of them being a time-tested formula that keeps neighbours dear to each other, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ he says. Our dilemma is that we plan to build concrete walls on our borders not  fence them, but when we take our case to higher podiums, we are reminded of another line by Frost that goes like, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

P.S: The road less travelled does not always lead to victory or success. It may also lead to ruin, damnation and isolation.