By OUR STAFF REPORTER
DEHRADUN, 21 Jul: As the calls for Indo-Pak peace keep getting louder, many prominent veterans are getting aboard the India Pakistan Soldiers’ Initiative for Peace (IPSI). The latest addition to the IPSI fraternity is Lt Gen BS Takhar (Retd), former DGMO and Army commander, Southern Command. Well versed with the Kashmir problem, the retired General got aboard IPSI recently to extend his support to the Track II peace initiative between the retired military officers of two neighbouring states. From an idea in the imagination of a Gandhian social activist, Nirmala Deshpande, the organisation has grown into a well-known Track-II platform with respectable and notable figures on board. Preceding him is a stream of senior retired Armed Forces personnel who also got connected with this apolitical peace organisation in the recent past including former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Deependra Singh Hooda (Retd); former Adjutant General Lt Gen Natrajan (Retd); former Western Army Commander Lt Gen KJ Singh (Retd); former Corps Commanders Lt Gen ZU Shah (Retd) and Lt Gen Bobby Mathews (Retd), former Military Secretary Lt Gen Avdhesh Prakash (Retd); Maj Gen NJS Sidhu (Retd) and other senior officers. This trend is a testimony to the fact that veterans value peace and count on dialogue as a viable option for establishing peace with Pakistan. At a time when bilateral ties between India and Pakistan are going through a rough phase, these retired military officers from both the states are working together under the aegis of IPSI. As a voluntary and apolitical initiative, IPSI was established in 1997-98 by the late Nirmala Deshpande, MP, a great Gandhian who envisioned bilateral peace, love and welfare of the common man across both sides of the fence. Back in 2001, when both the countries were still recovering from the Kargil episode, Deshpande led IPSI’s first delegation to Pakistan to meet former President Gen Musharraf; the meeting which eventually paved the way for the Agra Summit. Since then, veterans from both the states have been meeting in India, Pakistan and beyond to keep alive the dream of peace. In keeping with the tradition, IPSI organised its annual meet-cum-seminar on 5 and 6 July in collaboration with Christ University, Bangalore to deliberate over “Dynamics of pursuing Peace with Pakistan”. Spread over a period of two days, the event brought together the members of IPSI fraternity and some prominent personalities from across the country including Maj Gen TK Kaul (Retd), Maj Gen Amin Shah (Retd), Maj Gen Raj Chadda (Retd), Maj Gen HK Sharma (Retd0, Maj Gen Ratan Kaul (Retd), Lt Gen Moti Dar (Retd), Lt Gen S N Handa (Retd), Lt Gen K J Singh (Retd), AVM Kapil Kak (Retd), several other retired brigadiers and colonels. Prominent academicians including Prof Bidanda Chengappa, who worked with IDSA’s Pakistan division and was a part of the first Indo-Pak Neemrana dialogue in the 1990s, also shared their wisdom on the subject from a purely academic point of view. The initiative has also received support from young research scholars in universities across India including Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Christ University, Bangalore. One such young researcher is Divya Malhotra, who visited Pakistan in 2012 to attend the South Asian Youth Conference and is currently pursuing her research on geopolitics in West and South Asia in Delhi. As the IPSI fraternity strives to reach out to a greater section of intelligentsia and youth across the country, one man has made Indo-Pak peace the mission of his life – the executive president, IPSI India Chapter, Maj Gen TK Kaul (Retd). From an ex-soldier to a peace monger, Maj Gen Kaul has dedicated his heart and soul to the peace process. Outlining a “roadmap for peace” based on AID approach: Acceptance (of our geography and demography), Integration (of Kashmiris into mainstream) and Dialogue (with all stake holders), the former General firmly believes that Track II initiatives like IPSI have the power to influence the formal Track I diplomacy. His involvement with the Operation Sadbhawna for integration of Kashmiri youth with the mainstream has been noteworthy. Particularly in countries like Pakistan where the military’s voice is taken seriously by the policy makers, talks between veterans are not utopia-ridden conversations but realistic assessment of peace, while taking stock of challenges and constraints. Thus even though the two states continue to traverse on a challenging diplomatic path, the unofficial Track II channels must remain open and the rendezvous must go on!