No doubt, the view that wars per se are absurd ventures, especially in this age of mutually destructive weaponry, has unquestionable merits. One, however, expected Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to realise the dangerous implications of the unwavering, warlike posture India has been maintaining towards Pakistan since independence, before counselling both the countries to live in peace with each other. At best he could have addressed his advice to New Delhi. As for Islamabad, it has time and again demonstrated its peaceful intentions. At a luncheon he hosted in honour of Indian Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar at Chief Minister’s Secretariat on Saturday, he said, “the resources that would have gone to the welfare and uplift of the masses, are instead of being wasted on wars.” In principle, the idea is unexceptionable, both from ethical and realistic point of view. Both Pakistan and India have hundreds of millions of poor masses whose condition cries out for improvement.

However, seen against the backdrop of New Delhi’s unmistakable animosity towards Pakistan and its weapons’ buying spree, the Chief Minister’s wish sounds too naïve to be taken seriously. India is feverishly engaged in equipping all three arms of its fighting forces with the most lethal and state-of-the-art weapons. For this, it is spending billions of dollars that, as Mian Shahbaz pointed out, could have been used to help relieve the miseries of the downtrodden. That virtually leaves Pakistan with little choice but to prepare at least minimum deterrence, even though, as our Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Asif Sandila has said, we have no intention of matching “an arm for an arm”. Nevertheless, he added that the acquisition of nuclear submarines by India was a cause of concern for Pakistan and that we were taking “necessary measures to restore the strategic balance in the emerging situation”.

While talking about peace with India we should keep in mind its history of wars with Pakistan and, indeed, its current stand on issues of existential concern to us. It is holding in subjugation the people of Kashmir in Indian occupied part of it against their wishes and in violation of law. Under the UN Security Council resolutions that India itself proposed, it was obliged to let Kashmiris exercise their right of choice through a UN-supervised plebiscite. As an offshoot of the Kashmir dispute has emerged the Indian side's aggressive disobedience of the Indus Waters Treaty. Using water as a tool of war, is not the act of a harmless neighbour. Its impact is already manifesting itself in water shortages. If anything, this is hardly the attitude of a country that could be expected to give a positive response to the calls for peace, except on its own terms. But those terms, our policymakers should understand, stipulate that we sacrifice our legitimate right to Kashmir, including water resources, something that would endanger our very existence. Offers of peace or the grant of MFN status would cut no ice with India in furthering the imperatives of peace under the circumstances.