August Issue 2017

By | Special Report | Published 3 months ago

Ayesha Jalal

Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History, Tufts University.

Unlike family bonds, which are inherited and undeniable even if difficult, friendships and relations between sovereign nation-states are a matter of choice based on affinities and perceptions of mutual self-interest. The congenital differences that divide Pakistan and India are traceable to the dynamics of British decolonisation in the subcontinent and are more aptly seen as a sibling rivalry than a parting of ways between two erstwhile friends. Like all family disputes that spill out into the open, the internationalisation of subcontinental political differences and their crystallisation into the national myths of both nation-states have, over the years, limited the options available for a judicious and enduring resolution of their various disputes.

Emerging out of a bitter and bloodstained batwara (separation) of the subcontinent in 1947 along ostensibly religious lines, Pakistan was cast in the role of a seceding state despite the vocal opposition of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Dissatisfied with its share of the spoils – notably the controversial accession of Kashmir to India – and sharing a disputed border with Afghanistan, Pakistan has sought in vain for a revision of the status quo that resulted from Partition. By contrast, independent India not only assumed the international personality of British India, but is the preeminent status quo power in the region.

So while India and Pakistan are not on course to become friends, now or in the near future, there are weighty reasons for them to establish good neighbourly relations in the larger interests of the common shared destiny of the South Asian region. Unfortunately, ingrained suspicions and unprecedented levels of distrust, made worse by endless bickering and successive wars, have contributed to a deficit of political will on both sides of the historic divide. This has confounded the dilemmas stemming from the unresolved conflict over Kashmir and, with the rise of religious majoritarianism in both countries, raised the frightening spectre of future water wars between two nuclear-armed states.

Instead of recounting all the lost opportunities for a breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations over the past 70 years, it seems more appropriate to recall the words of the man held responsible for India’s partition. Speaking to journalists at Allahabad in April 1942, Jinnah gave a poignant assessment of the role he would one day occupy in South Asian history. “Whether you are Hindus, Muslims, Parsis or Christians,” he declared, “all I can say to you is that, however much I am criticised, however much I am attacked and today I am charged with hate in some quarters, I honestly believe that the day will come when not only Muslims but this great community of Hindus will also bless, if not during my lifetime, after I am dead, the memory of my name.” Jinnah drew an analogy between himself and the first man to appear on the street with an umbrella, only to be derided by people who had never seen one before. “You may laugh at me,” the Quaid said thoughtfully, but a time will soon come when “you will not only understand what the umbrella is but…use it to the advantage of every one of you.”

In the face of emergent shifts in regional and international politics, Pakistanis and Indians urgently need to grasp the meaning of Jinnah’s metaphor. The political, economic and environmental challenges confronting the subcontinent call for bold and imaginative solutions that entail unlearning the more rebarbative claims of jingoistic nationalism of both the Pakistani and the Indian varieties. Regrettably, the prognosis for achieving even a modicum of normalcy in relations between the two countries is not promising. There has been a change of guard in India from an older generation conscious of cultural and emotional ties with the areas now constituting Pakistan, to one that is seeking global ascendancy by ignoring, if necessary, the truths of geography and recent history. India might well continue to see political wisdom in isolating its regional rival internationally by chanting the mantra of cross-border terrorism, harping on the fallacies of Pakistan’s creation and calling it a failing and insignificant state. But this well-worn approach runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. An unstable Pakistan, far less the failed state of Indian imaginings, will seriously dent India’s successful projection of its global power. As a revisionist state whose foreign and defence policies are for the most part shaped by the military establishment, Pakistan has very limited options. As the bigger and better endowed neighbour, New Delhi must ultimately decide whether to continue treating Pakistan as a wayward sibling or, as an aspiring global power, show some measure of openness, if not generosity, towards a smaller regional neighbour. Until that crucial choice is made by India and duly reciprocated by Pakistan, relations between the two countries are not about to improve in the foreseeable future.

 

Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor is an Indian MPand Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs. 

Can India and Pakistan ever be friends? It’s a tough question, because it reflects a paradox: Indians and Pakistanis not only can be friends, but are, in most places around the world; and yet the official hostility between the two countries seems intractable and insoluble.

When Pakistan was created in 1947, its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, publicly expressed the hope (and the expectation) that its relations with India would come to resemble those between Canada and the United States. His idea was of two countries with more in common than not – separate politically but united culturally, and linked by strong economic ties and close human relationships. As we all know, that was not to be.

Each reader of this article may have his/her own views as to why this wish of Jinnah’s did not come to pass. I believe that the state he created became something he had never imagined – an enterprise dominated by the military and sustained by the mullah.

The seeds for this lay in the British Raj, whose deliberate policy of divide et impera and pernicious “martial races” theory meant that at Partition, Pakistan received a larger share of undivided India’s military than of either its population or territory. With 21 per cent of India’s population and 17 per cent of its revenue, Pakistan got 30 per cent of the Indian Army, 40 per cent of the Indian Navy and 20 per cent of the Indian Air Force, obliging its government to devote 75 per cent of the country’s first budget to cover the costs of maintaining this outsized force.

This disproportionately large military establishment had a vested interest in its own perpetuation, since it needed to invent a military threat in order to justify its continuance. Therein lay the prosaic roots of Pakistan’s obdurate hostility to India. Sadly, instead of cutting back on its commitments to the military, Pakistan kept feeding the monster till it devoured the country itself. Even when Pakistan lost half its territory in the disastrous Bangladesh War of 1971, the army continued to expand in numbers, power and influence.

The central problem bedevilling the relationship between the two sub-continental neighbours is not Kashmir, but rather the nature of the Pakistani state itself – specifically, the stranglehold over Pakistan of the world’s most lavishly-funded military (in terms of percentage of national resources and GDP consumed by any army on the planet). In India, the State has an Army; in Pakistan, the Army has a State.

Unlike in India, one does not join the army in Pakistan to defend the country; one joins the army to run the country. The military has ruled Pakistan directly for a majority of the years of its existence, and indirectly for most of the rest. When out of power, the army lays down the “red lines” no civilian leader dare cross. In return, it enjoys privileges unthinkable in India. Since the only way to justify this disproportionate dominance of Pakistani state and society is to foment hostility to India, the Pakistani military will continue to keep the pot boiling, even if Kashmir were to be handed over to them on a silver salver with a white ribbon tied around it.

Islamist ideology infused into militarism creates a lethal cocktail. The two countries can never be friends as long as the Pakistani military continues to support, finance, equip and train Islamist militants to conduct terrorist operations in India, to bleed India from within and to inflict upon it what a Pakistani strategist called “death by a thousand cuts.”

India’s response has been defensive, not belligerent. India is a status quo power that seeks nothing more than to be allowed to grow and develop in peace. I have therefore long urged that India expand people-to-people contacts with Pakistan, be unilaterally generous with visas (terrorists, after all, rarely apply for visas) and enhance cultural and sporting links. This will not change the military’s attitude, but it may gradually narrow the space for their belligerence.

But ultimately, Jinnah’s dream of friendship can only be realised the day Pakistan is able to shed its militarism and shake off the malign influence of its jihadis. That is unlikely to be for a very long time indeed.

 

General Tariq Khan

General (R) Tariq Khan, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, was the Commander of 1 Strike Corps at Mangla.

India is a big country with an even bigger ego. It has always aspired to dominate the region and find a niche for itself among the more prominent nations of the world. However, Pakistan has been a constant irritant for India and is seen to somehow stand in its way as India tries to achieve the status of a global power. A relationship riddled with a history of animosity and disputes, Pakistan and India continue to view each other with suspicion. Pakistan wistfully hopes that once the disputes are resolved, relations would automatically improve. But India will not cede an inch and is unwilling to discuss matters that have disturbed the bilateral equilibrium. India contends that since it cannot be its own fault, it must be Pakistan’s. The Indian leadership is at the forefront, leading their nation in the hunt for answers that could explain Pakistan’s intransigence. India blames the Pakistan Army, claiming that it justifies its existence through the bogey of an Indian threat. According to them, the army interferes in the governance of the country and holds coups because it wants to promote this image that India is to be feared and must be contained. Central to any Indian argument is the point that the Pakistan Army’s modus operandi is to first create an artificial scare and then justify its own existence by establishing itself as the only viable institution that can handle this scare.

Pakistan and India parted ways on August 14, 1947. The two nations chose to live separately; it was an outcome of a political and ideological conflict, laced with hatred and intolerance. The human carnage that followed the mass exodus – the people murdered, maimed and left homeless – stand testimony to the fact that this Partition was not born out of kindness or love. The Pakistan Army was inconsequential at the time. Then, in October 1947, the Indian Army, under the auspices of a biased and partial British governor general, managed to arrange for a dubious Treaty of Accession and marched into Kashmir, a Muslim-majority area. The Pakistan Army was stopped from reacting because its Commander was General Sir Frank Messervy who, under British instructions, refused to act. The Indian Army was given a free hand. Pakistani tribesmen who had entered Kashmir in response to the Dogra atrocities against the Muslim population, responded to the call for ceasefire in January 1948, after having captured parts of Kashmir that lie within Pakistan today. India now lies to the east of the Line of Control (LoC) and Pakistan to the west of this line of hatred and deceit. The longest outstanding UN resolution on Kashmir remains unaddressed. India does not allow international observers, or a UN peacekeeping force, while Pakistan does. India will not allow for international mediation and calls this a bilateral issue, but refuses to talk to Pakistan on one pretext or the other. Kashmir is considered to be central to normalising relations between Pakistan and India. This has nothing to do with the Pakistan Army.

The Indian Army has systematically murdered more than 100,000 people in Kashmir since 1989, according to various human rights groups. Much more is available on the subject of Indian genocide in Kashmir – an attempt to suppress an indigenous uprising that has been demanding the right to self-determination. This is where the core issue lies and cannot be glossed over by juxtaposing the Pakistan Army as the cause for Indo-Pak animosity. Apparently having lost control of the Kashmir region, the Indians have resorted to lobbing shells across the LoC. They want to make it look as if they are containing the Pakistan Army’s aggression. But it’s not working.

No Pakistani politician has ever used the Indian Card as a political gimmick to gain votes, while hardly any Indian politician has refrained from singling out Pakistan for punitive action to vindicate a perceived slight or an imagined offence. Prime Minister Modi was, at one time, subjected to US travel restrictions after being suspected of fomenting violence, but was elected by the largest democracy in the world, based on his rhetoric against Pakistanis and Muslims in general. He is on record for admitting Indian subversion in East Pakistan and for threatening to do the same in Balochistan. Modi has also threatened to scrap the Indus Waters Treaty and deny Pakistan its share of water. Indian National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval’s, only claim to fame is planning and executing terror in Pakistan, while Kulbhushan Yadev, a high-ranking serving officer of the Indian Intelligence captured in Balochistan, is strong evidence of what India stands for. “India will never be secure until Pakistan is destroyed,” wrote Doval. Leading Indian politicians compete in fanning hatred against Pakistan time and again, so much so that cricket series have had to be cancelled and cricket venues changed because of this animosity. Demands to expel Pakistani artists are on record and reflect the extreme anti-Pakistan sentiment fostered by Indian Leaders. The blackening of Indian socio-political activist Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face by Shiv Sena, prior to the launch of the book Neither A Hawk, Nor A Dove by Khurshid Kasuri, Pakistan’s ex-foreign minister, is another sorry example of where India stands in the bilateral context.

The Samjhauta Express train attack, which led to the death of Pakistani passengers, was engineered by Lieutenant Colonel Rohit – a serving officer. He has not yet been charged. The mindset that instigated the demolition of the centuries-old Babri Masjid has no qualms in murdering India’s own citizens – the thousands of Muslims in Gujrat. It will stop at nothing to promote hatred against Pakistan for the sake of Hindutva, which was the cause of Partition in the first place. Hindutva, heavily influenced by its self-made philosophy of Akhand Bharat, will never forgive Pakistan for dividing India. The quest to dismantle Pakistan is conspicuous in every speech or conversation that one sees on the Indian media. Biased and prejudiced reporting stirs up further hatred as screaming anchor-persons accuse Pakistan of everything under the sun.

On the other hand, the Indian Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh, has already shown his enthusiasm in extending the war to Pakistan through the infamous ‘Proactive Strategy.’ India now is considering changing its nuclear strategy to ‘First Use.’ Indian military thought has always revolved on the offensive, whether it was the Sunderji Doctrine of the Air-Land Battle, or Cold Start. India fields an army of 1.7 million and a budget of $53 billion. Its field army is arrayed along the Pakistan border and not China, as is falsely projected by India. All of its three armoured divisions are deployed against Pakistan. Against China, the Indians have only the Eastern Command, which has four corps, comprising 11 mountain divisions. Of these, only two divisions are deployed along the border with China, while the rest have specific instructions to be merged into offensives planned against Pakistan at later stages. India today, is the world’s largest arms importer. Pakistan’s response to this antagonism is a declared policy of non-initiation of war. It has a defence budget of $7 billion and a field army of just under 0.7 million. Pakistan calls its conventional capability ‘minimum deterrence.’ Minimum because anything less would be counterproductive and incapable of meeting the real threat that India projects; it refers to it as a deterrence because that is what Pakistan’s sole military objective remains – to deter. There is a glaring irony in the fact that a large country such as India, with its vast arsenal, feels threatened by a nation eight times smaller and which has a defence budget 300 per cent smaller.

Unlike Indian politicians, there is not a single case of a Pakistani politician propagating hate against India. There is no case of state-sponsored acrimony of the kind engineered by the Indian PM, ministers and army chiefs. Generally speaking, the Pakistani media is not known to project anti-Indian themes or sentiment like the Indian media. There are no extremist groups in Pakistan that influence Indo-Pak relations like those in India do. There is no example of attacking artists, or throwing out Indians, or disrupting sports between both countries on our side of the border. And there is no example of the Pakistan Army encouraging anti-Indian feelings in Pakistan or interfering in the civilian government’s conduct vis-a-vis India. This is precisely why Indian PM Modi could arrive unannounced and meet PM Sharif privately, without any formal notice. It is also why Sajjan Jindal, an anti-Pakistan Army zealot, had unprecedented access to the PM without a visa or formal permission to enter the country. Yet when Musharraf, then president and army chief, went to Agra to conclude an agreement on Kashmir in the hope of securing peace between both countries, his efforts were scuttled by the Indian Foreign Office.

When one sifts propaganda from reality, it becomes clear that it is not the Pakistan Army that is falsely projecting India as an enemy to justify its own existence, but that it is India that is constantly projecting Pakistan as its nemesis. The Government of India has to justify its own failures in the indigenous separatist movements all over India, its genocide in Kashmir to quell the indigenous freedom struggle and the poverty that plagues the teeming masses as they sleep on the sides of roads. It is their army that points a finger at the Pakistan Army, accusing it of cross-border militancy, when the LoC is heavily fenced and electrified as in the Uri case. False flag operations have now become routine, whipping up hysteria and anti-Pakistan sentiment.

With Kashmir boiling over, Siachen an unfinished business and Sir Creek a long-standing dispute, there is enough reason for India and Pakistan to be at loggerheads without the Pakistan Army creating further bitterness to validate its own existence. The CPEC is a new development in Pakistan and has the potential to connect the country with international commerce. China has planned a $50 billion investment; Russia is already on board, while Central Asian countries too would want to use this trade corridor. India, meanwhile, has tried its utmost to develop Iran’s Chabahar port as an alternative to Gwadar, but because of its relatively limited potential, Iran has abandoned the idea in favour of joining CPEC. Then there is the looming disaster unfolding in Afghanistan. With American withdrawal imminent, the Indians will be forced out. Indian investment in its attempts to use Afghanistan as a proxy against Pakistan will go to waste.

These events have caused great dismay in India, who, in blind rage, lash out illogically and at times irrationally. The notion of surgical strikes and claims of cross-border punitive activity are bandied about. The ridiculous territorial claim to Gilgit-Baltistan, to disrupt the Pak-China land connection, and numerous and unfounded accusations of terrorism, are falsely projected. Whereas the Pakistan Army has so far effectively contained and managed Indian military pretensions, the threat of an Indian adventure is, nevertheless, very real. The rabid mobs, worked up into a frenzy by the Indian leadership, may demand and insist that India teach Pakistan a lesson. This is why Pakistan has an army.

Kashmir and other territorial disputes are the main irritants at the moment, but because of manufactured prejudices and preconceptions against Pakistan, even if these disputes are resolved, peace would remain an elusive notion. Indian extremist thinking, the Hindutva philosophy of Akhand Bharat, shall continue to hold the two countries hostage while India will always find it easier to blame someone else for its own shortcomings. Pakistan will be painted as the main villain, who India’s heroes are battling in make-believe battlegrounds. Bollywood at its best.

 

Kalpana Sharma

Kalpana Sharma is a columnist and former Deputy Editor of The Hindu.

Can India and Pakistan be “friends”? I don’t think so. Indians and Pakistanis can be friends, and are friends. I can vouch for that personally.

But as countries, nations, governments? I somehow doubt it. At least not in the foreseeable future. There is too much history between us to overcome and currently a surfeit of internal divisive politics.

On the other hand, can we live as peaceful neighbours? Yes, that is possible. Perhaps not in the immediate future. But it could happen.

The friendship and affection between Indians and Pakistanis at an individual level is a reality. You love our films. We love your music, your food and Fawad Khan!

But so what? How does all this make a difference to the state of an “absence of peace” that exists between our two countries? No war, but no peace either.

So let’s set aside, for a moment, these superficialities and actually discuss whether it is possible for us to live together as peaceful and cordial neighbours.

I believe that is possible.

It has long been accepted that peace between nations works if there is a constituency for peace within these nations. In both our countries, there is such a constituency. It may be small, but it exists.

Unfortunately, the elements undermining this constituency are growing stronger every day in India.

The main culprit for the growth of hatred and belligerence towards Pakistan is not just the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its constituents – dismissed sometimes as “fringe elements” – who need to demonise Pakistan in order to push their agenda for a Hindu India, but also India’s mainstream media.

Since 2008 and the terrorist attack on Mumbai, it would be fair to say that Indian television news channels have launched an all-out war against Pakistan. For some of them, there is a Pakistani, or rather an ISI agent, hiding behind every bush. In the 1970s, Indira Gandhi would spot the “foreign hand” (in those days always America’s CIA) whenever there was internal conflict. Today, the “foreign hand” is the neighbouring country – Pakistan and its agencies. In fact, if you watch certain Indian news channels, this “foreign hand” seems so omnipresent, that you wonder how on earth India still survives.

Those who have paid the price for this constant anti-Pakistan rhetoric by the electronic media have been Indian Muslims. Never before has the demand that they “go to Pakistan” been more strident than today, 70 years after Partition and independence. “Pakistanis,” “beef eaters” – these are the swear words flung at ordinary, peaceful men and women, going about their daily lives, who just happen to be Muslim.

To me that is the real tragedy of this absence of peace between our two countries. We are creating more partitions, more exclusions, more deaths, more suspicion, more hatred, more sorrow. A soil poisoned thus cannot accommodate peace, or even real friendship.

 

Ayesha Siddiqa

Ayesha Siddiqa is an author, social scientist and expert on military affairs and South Asia.

It was just a couple of years ago that I was arguing with a trader – head of an informal association representing electronics retail from China – about the efficacy of trading with India. I thought he would argue against opening up. His view, on the other hand, was that opening up trade would strengthen the market and improve his own position in bargaining with China. There were many more trader-merchants like him in Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Karachi, Hyderabad and other cities that craved the opening up of trade opportunities with India. There were even those who thought that Narendra Modi’s election was a great idea, as a stronger government in India would ensure better trade initiatives.

But then everything blew away, as if someone had waved a magic wand. In two years, the tables have turned upside down and now India-Pakistan peace seems like a distant dream that is not possible to attain, at least in the foreseeable future. Unlike the past, when a crisis in relations was usually followed by a period of silence and then some shifting of gears to improve ties, this time it would take more time, greater commitment and effort, and far more clarity of purpose regarding peace. If one were to do a brutal assessment, the resultant prediction would easily be that peace between the two neighbours is nowhere in sight. There are two reasons for such morbidity.

First, both India and Pakistan are shifting geo-political camps. While Islamabad has moved from the US to China’s side, India seems to be laying its eggs in Washington’s basket. The next era belongs to China and Russia, who are expected to dominate international political airwaves. Pakistan sees a central role for itself as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that it hopes to build upon to grow into a significant regional player, which it never was in the past. As part of its partnership, Rawalpindi would aid Beijing in whatever way to counter an emerging partnership between India and the US. If approved by the US Congress, the $40 billion aid package requested for India and the terms and conditions accompanying it would put New Delhi next to Israel in terms of its significance. It will not just be Pakistan as a country but also the non-state proxies which will gain significance in China’s scheme of things to contest the Indo-American position in Afghanistan and the larger South Asian region. The non-state actors, in any case, are far more ideologically poised to fight the Christian West than the non-Muslim East.

However, this scheme of things will further deteriorate India-Pakistan relations that are at their lowest ebb, also because of a shift in perception of the other. I am reminded of my first ever visit to India in 2002, right in the middle of the military standoff. The people, even at the immigration counters, were far more welcoming than they were many years later. We are no longer seen as just an ordinary but estranged neighbour, but as a state responsible for the much publicised terror attacks in India. In Pakistan, there is fast growing fear and caution regarding ties with a country that is now dominated by a brutal Hindutva brigade that kills and silences ordinary Indians, what to speak of Pakistanis. The social shift underlines the psychological change that is taking place, thus pushing the countries at an even greater distance from each other. While Bollywood and Pakistan television will continue to connect some people, the next five years might push us away to such a degree that we may not even qualify as neighbours.

 

Jawed Naqvi

Jawed Naqvi is a Delhi-based journalist and correspondent for Dawn.

It has become difficult to guess what so many well-meaning people expect from their untiring display of faith in India-Pakistan peace prospects. Do they mean that the borders should be witnessing peace and tranquillity, a phrase borrowed from the Sino-Indian agreement of 1993? However, even that carefully crafted agreement between Narasimha Rao and Li Peng is up in the air in the Modi-Xi era, isn’t it? So China-India ties cannot be the inspiration any longer for the India-Pakistan peace-seekers. What other model is there, which can be cited as an example to follow between neighbours with unsettled disputes, not the least of disputes being Kashmir. And now there’s CPEC, which has raised India’s hackles. There’s nothing in South Asia as a model, is there?

The question of India-Pakistan peace (or no peace) boils down to expediency – domestic expediency, which may have little or nothing to do with India-Pakistan relations per se. This expediency flows from something more directly connected with power politics on both sides.

There was a requirement for both to come together to announce one fine day that their talks would never be derailed by acts of terror. Everyone applauded. It was the right gesture to applaud. They also promised to open consulates in Mumbai and Karachi. All that is there in writing, signed and sealed at the highest levels. Then there was a requirement for one or both to see to it that the agreement was locked up in the archives, to rot and be forgotten, but also to be available to be quietly revived at a more opportune domestic moment – domestic, not bilateral moment.

Sounds like a cliche. But both sides need military budgets. They need the budget as alibi for failures on the health front, poverty alleviation and so forth. Old hat. A military stand-off between India and Pakistan is otherwise a surer sign of a failed economic policy, a poor monsoon, uncertain elections ahead, random such events connected with power play at home. Any ruse is good to lay into the opponent. On the other hand, either side could ignore a big embarrassment and still continue to hold talks, depending on the need of the moment. Vajpayee was in Lahore despite a forbidding massacre in Kashmir on the eve of his visit, reciting Sardar Jafri and other beautiful poets. Modi, for his purposes, stopped all talks because some people met each other somewhere over a cup of tea, this despite Modi’s affinity with tea, many cups of tea.

The more important question to ask with regard to the elusive peace prospects relate to the nature of politics that has evolved or is still evolving on both sides over the last four decades.

Pakistan, since the late 1980s, has been struggling to pull out of the shadows of Zia-ul-Haq’s merger of politics with religion. Right-wing Hindu revivalists in India have seen in Zia’s Pakistan a useful model that worked for right-wing Islamists in the neighbourhood. And, in fact, still continues to defy efforts to fumigate the legacy of Shariah laws and sectarian hatred. India, led by Modi, is plunging headlong into that comfort zone of fascism.

On the practical front, Zia’s ties with India were pivoted on a policy of a thousand cuts. Now it’s India’s turn to deliver the cuts. Is it not? So the peace-seekers’ quest baffles me. What good came out of a friendship between Mussolini and Hitler, for want of a better analogy? Many kindly souls will visit the borders again on August 14, as is their wont. But they should think of staying home this time and fighting the bigger fight with fascism. A victory for enlightened democracy is needed on both sides before either one is ready for an overdue embrace across their borders.