Friday, Aug 12, 2022
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The Peace Zygote

It's ironic that the myth of Vajpayee as the peacemaker, and the betrayed dove, has found so many gullible takers.

The Peace Zygote
The Peace Zygote
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

So much has been invested in this perception of Atal Behari Vajpayee that the world has come to rest all its hopes of peace on the subcontinent on his tired shoulders. The praise heaped on the PM when he visited America last September by President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore evoked stirring images of a statesman committed to the building of a pluralist governing ethos for a civil society peopled by diverse communities. Al Gore was lyrical in his tribute to Vajpayee: "As Prime Minister, you have challenged your people to act on their imagination, to create a shared vision for a united democratic, prosperous and peaceful India and then to make that vision a reality." Such words have a bitter resonance in the context of the reality that as a civil society India has never been more sorely tested nor have its reserves of nation-building been so strongly called upon as it is today. Yet, it is ironic that more than any other leader in India's recent history, it is Vajpayee who has been described as a healer and much faith has been placed in his capacity for reconciliation. So successful is the selling of the myth of the peacemaker that despite the fact, as any Foreign Office mandarin should acknowledge, that the much-celebrated Lahore Agreement is only an expanded and more detailed reflection of the earlier agreement that emerged during the tenure of Inder Gujral and wherein were the real conceptual breakthroughs as regards the Kashmir dispute, it is the Lahore pact which has received worldwide approbation. It might be true that the Lahore Agreement captured the world's imagination because it followed the prime minister's personally riding a bus to Lahore. But the fact remains that in substance the Lahore pact traversed little distance that had not been trodden before in diplomatic negotiations between India and Pakistan in the '90s.

The second myth, which of course arises from the image implicit in the first—the peacemaker—is that of peacemaker betrayed. So often has the refrain been heard from the bjp that "the road from Lahore led to Kargil and Kandahar!", Pakistan's folly in Kargil and its implicit sponsorship of criminal militancy, as painfully exemplified in the hijacking of an IA plane to Taliban territory last December, have been seamlessly woven into a tapestry that paints India as numbed and betrayed and hence no longer being able to conceive of sitting down and talking peace.

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