TO GO OR NOT TO GO?
0 comments | by IKRAM SEHGAL
There is a lot of speculation about the PM’s possible visit to New Delhi on Monday May 26 to attend Narendra Singh Modi’s inauguration as Prime Minister of India. Any exchange between Pakistan and India assumes symbolic proportions, arousing considerable comment and analysis thereof. Even though the invitation went to all SAARC member countries, Modi’s outreach initiative after the heat generated by the BJP against Pakistan during the election campaign cannot be brushed aside. The fulminations of an election campaign and the responsibilities inherent in running a state are quite different, BJP has shown this to good effect in earlier tenures.
Detractors suggest that despite the visits of Musharraf, Asif Zardari and Gilani, the Indians have never reciprocated at the State level on one pretext or another. The Indian PM has not visited Pakistan in more than a decade. with Congress not being able to afford riling his coalition partners, or for that matter buck the Opposition, the “visit” remained unfulfilled throughout Manmohan’s two tenures. He was himself for good relations with Pakistan but every time he made a positive move eg Sharm El-Sheikh, he got roasted by the BJP. They have maintained a constant drumbeat of anti-Pakistan trade on every imaginable forum in the world, the interference in Balochistan through Afghanistan and sporadic violation of the LOC in Kashmir does not show any tendency to be less animositic towards us. Given that that India has been assiduously fomenting anti-Pakistan protest in Bangladesh, Pakistanis have every reason to be aggrieved.
A decade plus has seen no progress on the much-touted Confidence Bidding Measures (CBMs), some of the problems like Siachen can (and should) be solved in a day. Even Kashmir may not be that intractable. We can never have an agreement in the near future why not expand the “arrangement” that we have developed. If successful, could this be the harbinger for eventual peace in South Asia? Trade is something we should seriously consider, commercial enterprise transcends religions, ethnic and nationalistic prejudices and barriers, the caveat is that we cannot run the risk of beggaring our industries and counterprises. It India’s only purpose is to open the land corridor to Afghanistan and Central Asia, we must get tangible geo-political quid pro quos.
One immediate concern of consequence is India’s projection of “soft power”. India cannot offer the hand of friendship and profess peace while at the same time using a major Pakistani media group to undercut the basis of both our ideology and nationhood. India’s Research and Analytical Wing (RAW) has a long history of anti-Pakistan actions, they have been trying through the country’s own media to destroy the guardians of the country. Going by Kautilya’s “Arthashastra” handbook to perfection in its present campaign against the Army and the ISI, RAW is using an individual with aspirations of forming a big media group in India. We have to face reality, greed and avarice of one particular individual is being exploited to the hilt to defame the Armed Forces. In reaction even moderate opinion has been driven into the right wing extremist camp. The state and the Army will survive but there will be a backlash, the resultant loss of the present freedom of the media will be irretrievable.
All sorts of conjectures and scenarios notwithstanding, the debate in the Indian electronic media about our PM’s possible visit to India has run wild overtime. One must however commend the Indian media, they are nationalistic first and foremost, over and above party lines. Either pro or anti-govt, their tirades are never anti-state. Moreover they never attack the Indian Armed Forces despite the many scandals of corruption, etc. Pervaiz Rasheed thinks that the present controversy can be resolved by a simple apology, he should ask the psychiatrist treating him to give his more potent medicine, the present one is not curbing his venom towards the Armed Forces. Why are some in the media becoming party to this calumny? What signal is Mian Nawaz Sharif sending to the khakis persisting with him as the Federal Minister of Information? The Sharifs should listen to wise counsel among their inner circle, do they want another decade out in the cold? What would happen to an Indian Minister of Information if there was even a hint that he (or she) was siding with anti-state forces against the Armed Forces?
While there is a lot of sentiment in Pakistan against the PM’s visit to India, we must not let emotions dictate against pragmatism. Not only India is our neighbour, we have historical and cultural ties with them. We do not have the luxury of changing our neighbours and/or ignoring our responsibility towards the hapless 180 million plus Indian muslims who bear the brunt whenever anti-Pakistan feeling is whipped up by Hindu nationalists. India may trot out the one odd muslim billionaire like Azim Premji and Uncle Toms like MJ Akbar and Fareed Zakaria, they are certainly not representative of the feelings of the broad mass of muslims who overwhelmingly remain far below the poverty line.
Narendra Singh Modi, the PM-to-be in India, has won the elections fair and square. He was not voted in because of his anti-Pakistan or anti-Muslim stance but because of the fact that as Chief Minister Gujrat he made the state into a successful economic model. The population of India, mostly under the poverty line, overwhelmingly voted for him. Forget the campaign rhetoric, if his hand is screwed on right he will focus on the Clinton adage, “its the economy, stupid!”. He cannot afford distractions on India’s borders while he attacks the pervasive poverty affecting the masses within India. On the contrary what better than having neighbours on his borders that he can trade with freely? He wants India to become great, my bet is that he will go the economic route rather than projecting the “hard power” one. That is not to say that BJP does not have a whole host of hawks who prefer that option, however whether he can rein in RAW is a moot point. We must be confident as a nation that our Armed Forces provide a good enough deterrent, the caveat is that they do not need someone like Pervez Rasheed trying to undercut their reputation and effectiveness on a day-to-day basis.
Represented by the BJP in power, India has extended a hand of friendship, we must take it. While we cannot forget the past and must exercise great care in the present, only peace in South Asia will bring economic prosperity to the peoples of this region. Have all the reservations that you want and take the necessary precautions (keep your powder dry)!) but this is a unique opportunity to put the past behind us and look to the future.
Mian Nawaz Sharif must go to New Delhi and attend Narendra Singh Modi’s inauguration as PM of India.