By K.N. Pandita,
Reports of political climate surrounding foreign secretaries meeting just concluded in Thimpu strike a note of optimism. Read between the lines, this meet seems to have proceeded with remarkable caution and cordiality. The meet has come as follow up action to the meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the last year’s SAARC Summit at Thimpu. The two leaders had broadly agreed on three main policy parameters to go into evolving the process of continued dialogue for bilateral relationship. These are (a) frequent contacts between the two countries at various levels, (b) bridging the trust divide, and (c) discussing everything that needs to be discussed in the background of bilateral relations. These are not vague parameters by any stretch of imagination but are important precursors to a fruitful dialogue. Contacts may not be as frequent as one would wish; nevertheless, there is interaction which augurs well for the future course of events. Trust divide has not been fully bridged as yet and much remains to be done in this context.
But the fact that both governments are interested in promoting confidence building measures, the process is on. And for discussing everything, the foreign secretaries meet is a testimony to that premise. Both Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir expressed their satisfaction with their 90-minute discourse on bilateral relations and felt happy to have something positive to report to their respective governments. Though the two top diplomats were very cautious in their statements to the press and chose their words with utmost care, overall assessment shows that there is definitely a change of approach on both sides to the nature of relationship that should be there between the two countries. For example, when Pakistan’s foreign secretary was asked to comment on the recent ranting of Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, he made a pragmatic and matured comment that the point was t get over the past. The most significant thing of the meet was that the two top bureaucrats did not want to get stuck with one or the other particular issue and thus spoil the congenial atmosphere that was needed to be created for smooth conduct of deliberations. Significantly, when Bashir was asked a question about alleged involvement of Indian rightist groups in Samjhauta Express blast, he evaded a comment and said that this was not the subject for him to react upon. Significantly, both Rao and Bashir made use of two terms, “vision” and “realism”. Focusing on the term “vision” a press reporter asked the Pakistani foreign secretary if there were any new ideas thrown up in the course of dialogue for induction into Indio-Pakistan bilateral relationship, he did not make any forthright comment but restricted himself to mere vision in what the scope and quantum and contours of future relationship between the two countries could be or could be envisaged. If there is a vision on both sides that in global context their mutual cooperation and collaboration can be beneficial to both of them and to the world at large in stabilizing peace and security, it is a big change in perception and should be a welcome step. After all the two countries together make a big power in Asia and they can command the respect which is due to them as developing nations. This is a grand vision and is cherished by both. One thing is significantly notable in their talks. Both confirmed that all outstanding bilateral issues were discussed not for crating opinion on each but for finding how the process of dialogue could be assured and pursued. It could be called a deviation on the part of Pakistan in the sense that Pakistani side did not make Kashmir the be-all and end-all issue. Pakistani side did not take the position of making all other outstanding issues subservient to the resolution of Kashmir issue. And on India side, agreeing to discuss all issues of mutual concern is a concession that is welcome and statesmanlike. Making an overall estimation of Indo-Pak relationship, Pakistani representative made a very cogent remark. He said that between the two countries “there are large areas of convergence and when divergences appear we need to work together,” Nobody denies existence of divergences but these should not be allowed to become a source of continual irritation. Realism demands that these have to be ironed aut and realities of modern world have to be given due weightage. This is the way forward for both.
The killing of a youth in Chogal-Handwara in the valley when the army laid ambush to nab suspected militants, is very unfortunate. It happened as a result of mistake and the Army commander has candidly admitted that the killing was by mistake and hence regrettable. The Army has instituted enquiry into the incident, and it has its laws to deal with such happenings. It is true that the loss of a youth cannot be overcome by whatever sympathetic words are uttered. The bereaved family is in pain and even the chief minister visited the family to assuage hurt feelings. Sometimes back the Prime Minister had emphasized on using non-lethal crowd controlling mechanisms. But here was not a case of mobs getting out of control; it was what may be called a military operating in which siege had been laid to a particular area from where movement of militants had been reported. Therefore nobody can say that this was either an intentional or custodial killing. Opposition parties should not try to capitalize on such mishaps but should understand the nuance of the situation. There has been condemnation of the act by separatist leaders and political dissident groups and other public personalities. All this is right in its place but it has to be reminded that only ten days back in Sopor two young and innocent sisters were kidnapped from their homes at the point of gun and then shot dead and left in a pool of blood. No mass demonstrations against the perpetrators of the crime took place in Sopor, the site of incident or in any other part of the valley. The PDP which is vociferous on killings of whatever sort was subdued on the Sopor incident. Killing of innocent people is a dastardly act and should be condemned in strongest words. But then humanistic sentiment has to be universal and not parochial. Destruction of valuable lives is a big loss to the families concerned but at the same time it is also a loss to the community and the nation as a whole. We hope that Kashmir will return too its old and pristine sensibility and humanism and the era of gun and gun culture will come to am end.