External Affairs Minister SM Krishna is back after a three day visit to Pakistan along with his entourage including a 70-strong media team. One would have expected a mega media event but apart from the liberalised visa agreement what we got was lengthy speeches and interviews with Pakistan Foreign Minister Khar. Reading these reports or watching/hearing her, one came away with mixed impressions. Was Ms Khar being insensitive, patronising or making it a convenience?
Insensitive, when she advised us to forget incidents like November 2008 and ‘move on’. The past need not be a millstone but surely history’s milestones teach both nations a great deal. In her speech at the Press Conference the loquacious Khar said not a word on terrorism much less 26/11. By stressing instead on the doable she was telling us there will be no joy on these issues. To now say that the younger generations do not carry the ‘baggage of history’ is typical salon talk. There are thousands of bereaved Indian families who lost their young to terrorism in wars thrust upon us. We owe it to these families to show that their sacrifices were for a cause to secure our nation and will not be beguiled into a false peace.
Patronising when she said Pakistan would take the lead in the peace effort forgetting that it was Pakistan that led the war by all means all these years. It was amusing to hear the Pakistan Foreign Minister claim that Pakistan’s politicians would now lead India to neighbourly peace. This could not be left to unimaginative bureaucrats and in Pakistan’s case, the powerful military bureaucracy. Yet, in Pakistan, open and liberal minds have spoken of a thousand year war, of a thousand cuts and the determination to eat grass, or provocative calls for Azadi at the LOC. How many remember that the Taliban that threatens Pakistan Army was born during the second term of Benazir Bhutto. It was Zulfiqar Bhutto who opened the doors to Islamic fundamentalists when he declared Ahmediyas to be non-Muslims. Later, Zia-ul-Haq led the Pakistani people down this slippery regressive path and efficiently Islamised the Pakistan Army — the country’s core and mindset.
Or was FM Khar merely making a virtue of necessity, a convenience, while talking of peace beleaguered as her country is currently in all sorts of turmoil and needs a few moments of breathing time before reverting to old habits.
Pakistan has spent its entire existence either trying to be India’s equal or trying to reduce India. Now unsuccessful, it turns the argument around and urges that as the bigger neighbour India ought to be more generous. Statecraft is not a TV soap opera. It is about preserving or enhancing national interests. Acrimony and hostilities are debilitating for any country. It is here Pakistan has to take the lead by showing that it means what it says and is not merely playing for time. A mere declaration of intent is not enough. There has to be a demonstration of intent. How about a demonstration that Pakistan does not support any form of terror and then proceeds to round up all those terrorists, knock off their training camps, cut off their finances, shut down their propaganda outfits including those on the Internet?
Hina Khar was not even willing to condemn Hafiz Saeed or his policies of jihad and violence beyond saying that the government had nothing to do with his policies or his ilk. These are obviously domestic compulsions as indicative of extreme radical reactions to the assassination of Punjab Governor or the blasphemy charges against a sub-teen girl and the government’s timid reactions. Pakistan had privatised jihad decades ago which provided some deniability. Rehman Malik now says the Pakistan government is unable to control the terrorists operating in his country. Is that a confession or a threat that terrorist acts could continue in India ?
Pakistan has been duplicitous with the US, its main benefactor, on the War on Terror, so there is enough reason to assume that Pakistan will be even more so with its declared arch enemy, India. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the world cheered Gorbachev. But the West did not wind down NATO. Instead it expanded. The moral is that nations may forgive but they must not forget. Let our enthusiasm for peace be tinged with a heavy dose of realism. When dealing with Pakistan, the dictum should be verify and then trust and not trust but verify.
The writer is a former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)