Maldives SAARC Summit

By K.N. Pandita

After their hour-long meeting on the sidelines of the SAARC summit at Addu in the Maldives, the two prime ministers asserted that time had come to write a “new chapter in the history of two countries” Who would not like to see the fulfillment of this pious wish? Dr. Manmohan Singh found his Pakistani counterpart a “man of peace”. He knows that for writing a new chapter of bilateral relationship, it is of singular importance that his counterpart is a man of peace. Keeping in mind the past story of Indo-Pak relationship, the Indian nation has hitherto gathered an impression that Pakistan has made the use of violence and muscle power as the mainstay of her policy towards India.  

In order to justify this stand, Pakistan has, from the very beginning, unleashed ‘hate India’ campaign and, in the process, generations of Pakistanis have been brought up in that atmosphere. Obviously, Dr. Singh hopes that the presence of a man of peace as the head of Pakistan’s government should help dispel this impression.

The essential pre-requisite for beginning a new chapter is that Pakistan should dismantle the terrorist structure and put an end to all sources of violence sponsored by state or non-state actors on her soil. The fact is that Pakistan is now faced with the deadly strike from its Theo-fascist Frankenstein, something about which India had been warning her time and again.

The writing of a new chapter of Indo-Pak history of relationship may be easy for India but it is extremely difficult for Pakistan, notwithstanding the earnest desire of her Prime Minister. The reason is that it is not the civilian and the elected government in Pakistan that enjoys real power or the power of deciding policy matters essentially in the context of relations with India. Pakistan has not one centre of power and much less one to which the actors are answerable. As long as the de facto power centre in Pakistan does not reconcile to the historical imperative of J&K remaining an integral part of the Indian Union, not a single new word can be written about Indo-Pak relationship, leave aside writing of a new chapter. Writing a new chapter on relations with India means reversal of stereotypes that Pakistan evolved to justify creation of a state on the basis of religion. Pakistani ruling cabal has the resilience of projecting a soft face of the civilian government through milder sections of her feudal estate. But will it allow this softer module to trespass into forbidden areas of military state policy is a million dollar question. This is where Prime Minister Gilani’s weakness in writing a new chapter remains embedded.

But the Indian Prime Minister has shown his extraordinary understanding of the constraints and compulsions under which Prime Minister Gilani is conducting the affairs of his high office. During their previous meetings, whether at SAARC summits or on other occasions, he has been able to develop a culture of mutual trust in the hope that Gilani might prove a buffer between the hawks and doves in Pakistan with a fallout on Indo-Pak relationship. This has to be a slow process and neither of the two Prime Ministers can afford to rush through things. Even New Delhi’s slow but steady engagement of stakeholders in Kashmir has to be assessed in the light of what is stated above. As such the expression of opening a “new chapter” in Indo-Pak relations is meaningful. Easing of visa regime, expanding trade and commerce, talking more about irritants and trying to find a way out, envisaging free trade agreements, encouraging people to people interface, all these efforts are strong measures of building mutual confidence and at the same time defeating negative approach. No sensible observer in India or Pakistan should expect that terror structure will get dismantled overnight, that terrorism will be eradicated lock, stock and barrel and the decades-old indoctrinated, frozen and solidified mindset will melt in no time. Things do not happen that easy. The axiom is “give time to time”. Maldives summit meet is another positive step towards building a new era of understanding and reconciliation. It is welcome. The Pakistani Prime Minister’s good intentions have to be responded and helped to flourish. In a significant quip he asked the Indian Foreign Minister if he found the new Pakistani foreign minister more responsive and cooperative. This indicates that Prime Minister Gilani is taking his Indo-Pak CBMs very seriously. This has to be given due recognition and responded adequately. Let us not miss the chance.

Family affair?

Unexpected entry and expected exit of Mustafa Kamal is the best practical joke of the year. Who among the NC stalwarts did not know that Kamal lives with his unremitting hate-India obsession? Even his elder brother and the President of National Conference warned him time and again not to be lose-tongued when speaking about Congress and India. But he has a penchant for anti-India outburst because he has some takers of his ilk. Why then was he inducted as Additional General Secretary of the party? Maybe party chiefs thought he would mend his ways once serious responsibilities devolve on his shoulders. But he has belied their expectations. The family affair did not succeed. Earlier, it was believed that he had working relationship with Omar, and it was only when the CM gave a green signal that Kamal was inducted as Additional General Secretary. Kamal did show solidarity with his nephew. Some observers believed that the CM was not averse to a spoilsport in the part who would play the odd man. His reaction was very subdued when Kamal brought allegations against the army. It was Farooq who supervened and tried to do damage controlling exercise. But the damage was too phenomenal to go down the crocodilian throat of New Delhi rulers. and Kamal had to go. Observers think that NC is coming under pressures for abandoning the tradition of dynastic rule. Maybe the dynasty has begun to learn some odd lessons from the Arab Spring, a development in contemporary history of the Middle East Muslim states which has become an eye opener for “azaadi” movement leadership of Kashmir.

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