Sudheendra Kulkarni says when it comes to Kulbushan Jadhav silence is not golden

Jan 07, 2018, 15:10 IST | Hemal Ashar

Mumbai think tank chief insists silence is not golden; it is deadly

Sudheendra Kukarni at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) office in South Mumbai. Pic/Atul Kamble
Sudheendra Kukarni at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) office in South Mumbai. Pic/Atul Kamble

Mumbai's Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) was aide to India's former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the PMO between 1998 and 2004. Kulkarni was the target of a Shiv Sena attack in 2015 where his face was smeared with black ink for organising the book launch of former Pak foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. As the Indo-Pak climate is currently fraught, with Kulbushan Jadhav's case putting it on boiling point, Kulkarni says silence is not golden, in fact, it is in silence that war drums beat the loudest.

An interview:

On the controversy surrounding the visit of Kulbushan Jadhav's mother and wife to Pakistan...
Kulkarni: The manner in which Kulbushan Jadhav's mother and his wife were treated in Islamabad has understandably angered the people in India. If Pakistan wanted to show this visit as a humanitarian gesture, it did not achieve its purpose. Through insensitivity or ignorance about Hindu culture, it has hurt the feelings in India. However, if there is one silver lining in this bitter episode, it is that Pakistan's foreign office has said this is not the last meeting. So Jadhav's mother and wife may get to meet him again. This meeting should be truly a meeting – with no glass partition, and without repeating the earlier mistakes. In any case, the best solution to this controversy is that Pakistan should send Jadhav back to India safely and at the earliest. This will be a good confidence-building and trust-promoting measure. It will remove this major obstacle in the path of Indo-Pak relations.

Signature campaign at Shivaji Park
Signature campaign at Shivaji Park

Why still insist on talks when such incidents means every time you think there is a step ahead, we take two steps back...
Kulkarni: Yes, you are right. Incidents like these derail the dialogue process. Nevertheless, there can be no substitute to talks. We cannot stand still. In the absence of talks, our bilateral ties will be pushed back further. Going backwards means worse consequences...more conflicts, even a new war. We have had four wars and five near-war situations in the past 70 years. Wars have not solved any problem. Rather, they have created new problems. Now that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, a new war can have catastrophic consequences for both countries. Therefore, only serious, sustained and result-oriented dialogue on all the outstanding issues, including terrorism and Kashmir, can normalise India-Pakistan relations.

Poster at Shivaji Park
Poster at Shivaji Park

Still insisting on talks with Pakistan, a terror supporter who can never be trusted...
Kulkarni: Pakistan has supported terrorism against India as its state policy. It has paid a heavy price as a consequence. Terrorism, fuelled by religious extremism, has killed over 50,000 men, women and children (mostly Muslims) in Pakistan itself ─ far many more than in India. Many people in Pakistan, including sections of the political and military establishment, are alarmed by this dangerous self-created phenomenon. Pakistan's army has begun a war on terror. Negatively, it has not so far touched those terror groups targeting India. But when it comes to trusting our neighbour, we should know that there is a similar view in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis ask: "How can we trust India? India has betrayed us in the past. India broke up Pakistan by supporting the liberation of Bangladesh. Even now, important Indian leaders openly talk of further breaking up Pakistan. Moreover, India refuses to discuss Kashmir with us." Therefore, there is a lot of trust-deficit on both sides. And both countries should make sincere efforts to remove this mutual mistrust.

Avanti (l) and Chetankul (r), mother and wife of Kulbushan Jadhav in Islamabad. Pic/AFP
Avanti (l) and Chetankul (r), mother and wife of Kulbushan Jadhav in Islamabad. Pic/AFP

Many Indians have stopped sympathizing with Pak's we are the biggest victims of terror theory. After all, it (terror) is of their own making...
Kulkarni: Again, you are right. Yes, terrorism and religious extremism are Pakistan's own making. But they are now endangering Pakistan's own peace, stability, socio-economic development and survival. In this context, we need to look at a recent statement by Pakistan's army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, that he is ready to support his country's political establishment in their efforts to improve relations with India. We should not cynically dismiss such positive signals.

Workers of Dogra Front and Shiv Sena protest against the ill-treatment of Kulbushan Jadhav's family in Pakistan in Jammu. Pic/PTI
Workers of Dogra Front and Shiv Sena protest against the ill-treatment of Kulbushan Jadhav's family in Pakistan in Jammu. Pic/PTI

Chetankul Jadhav wife of Kulbushan  Jadhav in Islamabad. Pic/AFP
Chetankul Jadhav wife of Kulbushan Jadhav in Islamabad. Pic/AFP

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