There is much wisdom in the saying: "Water finds its level." Sooner or later reality asserts itself no matter how much you may have distanced yourself from it or how much of an act you have put on pretending to be something that you are not, be you an individual, institution or country. Sure every country lives on certain myths and legends - like Washington and his cherry blossom tree - or hides embarrassing facts - like Washington raping a slave girl - for legends and myths are important for building healthy self-esteem and pride. But if myths go too far they create a people living an unhealthy delusion. Inevitably, they get rude shocks now and then. Then the truth outs. Defensively, people blame others but never look at their own shortcomings, thus compounding their delusional condition. The more delusional they are the more they pass the buck. The day comes, as it inevitably must, when they come face-to-face with their condition. That is when reality dawns. The more water finds its level, therefore, the more likely are people to mature and start living more in reality and less in make-believe. Thus it was a pleasant surprise to hear Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee say that dialogue, not war is the only option. "We can't erase Pakistan," he said. "It's going to exist. War is no solution." By the same token, neither can Pakistan erase India, even with its nuclear arsenal, for it too would get erased, which would be pointless. Mukherjee was coming to the aid of Manmohan Singh, his beleaguered prime minister being unfairly pilloried by his political opponents for "capitulating" to Pakistan in the Joint Statement after talks in Sharm El-Sheikh with his Pakistani counterpart. Politicians in opposition must stop exploiting anything and everything against the government to gain dubious mileage without regards to the huge damage that it might do. No one capitulated to anyone. Singh's government returned to reality after his earlier government, in the throes of an election campaign, had perforce to adopt a highly aggressive posture towards Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. That has to be very good news. Three things caused the return to reality. One, US pressure on India to resume the stalled composite dialogue so the Pakistan army's attention doesn't get diverted from its tribal areas to the eastern border with India. Two, Pakistan is investigating the Mumbai attacks seriously so India's grounds to grouse have been greatly reduced. Three, after the Indian elections the need for belligerence ended. India knows that it's about time to get back to the negotiating table. It has not given up its demand that Pakistan must end anti-India terrorism from its soil, just as Pakistan has not given up on its demand that there can be no meaningful progress until the core issue of Kashmir is resolved to the satisfaction of all three parties, meaning that India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris must be able to 'sell' whatever solution there is to their own people and save face. Reality also demands that all three parties realise that their demands have to be realistic. There is no way Pakistan can conquer Kashmir or force India to hold a plebiscite there. India has to realise that as long as it insists on holding on to the present status quo in Kashmir, so long will anti-India terrorism continue. And the Kashmiris must realise that whatever the end product, it will probably be achieved in stages. None will get everything they want, thus none will lose everything either. The biggest demand of reality is the acknowledgement that the real issue is water. With all the rivers that feed Pakistan originating in Indian held Kashmir, there is no way Pakistan can leave the territory entirely in Indian control. India has not helped with its dams and plans to divert the waters. The flip side is that India will never countenance the source of the rivers in Pakistani hands either. Thus the solution, whatever it is, should leave the sources out of the control of either and the rivers should be allowed to flow in a manner where the water is equitably distributed between the two countries. If there is anything that can start an India-Pakistan war, it is water. An important condition of realism is that Pakistan should finally realise that there is no morality in relations between states, only self-interest. They are least interested in the interest of the other - unless it is in their interest to do so, like keeping Pakistan afloat is in America's interest right now. For some reason Pakistan has failed to understand this. So whenever something goes wrong, which is often, we seek refuge and solace in blaming others - America, Britain, India, Israel, whoever. Whatever we blame them for might all be true - and most of the time it is - but we still fail to understand that no matter how powerful a country, no matter how devious or surreptitious, it cannot get away with using, abusing and exploiting us or creating insurgency and instability in Pakistan unless we let them, which happens when we fool ourselves either by a feeling of weakness or for some ephemeral advantage. Or because we fight amongst ourselves so much that we fling our doors wide open for the enemy to walk in, as we did in 1970-71 when we let India walk into East Pakistan because we were not intelligent and honest or democratic enough to accept the will of the people as reflected in the 1970 election result. If today India is meddling in Balochistan, we have to realise that we have ourselves created conditions in that province of ours where India can operate with some impunity. And if India is doing that through its numerous consulates along the Afghan-Pakistan border, it is because our so-called 'ally' the US and its Afghan satraps are letting it. Why can't we tell the US that future cooperation with us will be jeopardised unless India is persuaded to close its consulates there? What stops us from telling the US that its Afghan satrap cannot be allowed to host and assist an insurgent leader like the one from Bugti clan? Why cannot we realise that all this is happening not because America is letting it happen but because America wants it to happen. Who says that only we have the right to be America's stooges? Realism also demands that the necessary first step is to forge 'normalisation' between India and Pakistan, meaning the absence of war or any possibility of war that causes mindless belligerence and can spin out of control and start a war by accident. Once that happens one can look at 'Confidence Building Measures'. To jump the gun and start talking of trade and common currency zones, investment, visa-less travel and the like can come later and will take time. Peace, love and friendship will take even longer. The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: