President Zardari in India

Published: April 8, 2012

This was the first time a Pakistani head of state had visited India since Musharraf in 2005. PHOTO: AFP

One of the more unheralded achievements of the PPP government has been the way it has repaired relations from the nadir of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, when war seemed a very realistic possibility. Rather than try to be overly ambitious, the government has cautiously taken small steps towards lasting peace, with trade and regular high-level meetings inching the process forward. President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, which allowed him to hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, was yet another indicator that the two countries are moving firmly towards setting up a lasting peace between them. By all accounts the talks were cordial and Dr Singh accepted Zardari’s offer of a return visit to Pakistan. This was also the first time a Pakistani head of state had visited India since Musharraf in 2005, marking another landmark in the slow return to normalcy.

The two countries are fortunate that they both have leaders who are committed to the peace process but that does not mean that danger is not lurking around every corner. The army could easily scuttle whatever progress has been made by working around the elected government and embarking on yet another military adventure along the lines of the Kargil conflict. In India, too, the hawks (of which significant sections of the media is a part) remains resolutely anti-Pakistan. Issues like Hafiz Saeed, who had a bounty placed on him by the US for actionable information leading to his conviction, are still unsolved. The two have so far decided to at least go ahead with lowering trade barriers with Pakistan set to grant India Most-Favoured Nation status by the end of the year. However, the rigid visa regime between the two, which makes it next to impossible for the citizens of either to visit, must be relaxed as well.

Also, as the recent landslide tragedy at Siachen has showed, both countries need to realise that perhaps the time has come to demilitarise the glacier.

Far more lives on either side have been lost to the ravages of weather than to actual combat and the cost of maintaining troops for both countries on the world’s highest battlefield should be enough to necessitate a final push for a bilateral drawdown.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.

Reader Comments (22)

  • Max
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:55PM

    It is a move in the right direction, and more formal and informal contacts between the administration and the people are required. Both also need to tone-down the antagonistic statements, venomous propaganda, religious furor, and ultra-nationalism.
    It is time find the common ground, shake hands, and move forward. At some point one has to leave behind the past and look forward. One just cannot live in the past. It is long overdue.

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  • JAYADEVAN
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:05PM

    My country India and Pakistan are natural partners or friends or brothers. China is also Pakistan’s neighbor. Whenever a Pakistani leader comes to India all Indian’s warmly welcome them. But I am sure Pakistani leaders will not get the same level of affection and warmness from any other country ( including your all weather friend china).

    I hope my kids and your kids will leave peacefully and there will not be any like Hafeez Saeed’s in between them. Hafeez Saeed says he has no link with LeT. Everyone including Ajmal Kasab knows he is lying. If he is a true believer in God, how can he lie. Recommend

  • Ghulamullah Kyani
    Apr 9, 2012 - 1:51AM

    let India demilitarize Kashmir first, all issues get solved.

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  • Indian Muslim
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:07AM

    Like you yourself admitted. There are multiple power centres in Pakistan because of which is legitimacy of the democratic institutions is far lesser in Pakistan than in India. Until Pakistan fixes this, I remain skeptical about peace.

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  • true_blue_pakistani
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:09AM

    Zardari Zindabad, Pakistan Paindabad

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  • kaalchakra
    Apr 9, 2012 - 3:38AM

    Pakistanis are peace-loving people. Even Saeed Hafiz is a friend of India. Indians have to just given up their anti Pakistan hatred, recognize Pakistan’s right to exist without trying to hurt and destroy Pakistan by holding back all Pakistan’s water, helping Pakistan’s enemies in Afghanistan, Balochistan and Karachi, return Kashmir, Siachin along with Junagadh and Hyderabad and agree to not kill Muslims and destroy mosques anymore. Let us live with justice and equality.

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  • Maria
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:19AM

    @Indian Muslim: The real reason why there can be no peace is that an outstanding resolution on occupied Kashmir exists. Unless India allows Kashmiris to vote on their destiny in accordance with UN resolutions, peace will remain elusive.

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  • Mirza
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:54AM

    A truly great and pragmatic editorial and thanks a lot for that. War itself is the problem not a solution. The hate mongering has been practiced for six decades now is the time to make peace. Once there are stable democratic institutions in Pakistan it would be a new dawn for peace for both countries. There has been no war between India and Pakistan during democratic rule in Pakistan. No wonder all the rightwing hate mongers are opposed to democracy in Pakistan and peace.

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  • MarkH
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:30AM

    @Ghulamullah Kyani:
    The same could be said for Pakistan keeping its nose out of it.

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  • Pollack
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:58AM

    @Maria: the Kashmiris have already voted to elected their leader. The only Kashmiris who have not voted live in the area controlled by Pakistan army.

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  • Pollack
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:02AM

    @kaalchakra: “Pakistanis are peace-loving people. Even Saeed Hafiz is a friend of India”

    Sure.Sure. Kasab is hafiz saeeds ambassador of peace in Mumbai. I understand that you live in a parallel universe but this is just too much even by your standards.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:12AM

    @Ghulamullah Kyani: ” …. let India demilitarize Kashmir first, all issues get solved.

    All Pakistan needs to do is go to the UN and indicate that due to demographic and political integration of areas designated as “AJK” and “Gilgit Baltistan” into Pakistan, the conditions for plebiscite BY INDIA can not be met. And therefore, Pakistan wishes to request removal of its name from the UN resolution as a party.

    Pakistan then must publicly announce to the Indian Kashmiri separatists that Pakistan will not provide material, financial and political support as that would amount to interfering in another nations internal affairs.

    Indian Kashmir will be demilitarized within days. It is THAT EASY. Recommend

  • sharifL
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:20AM

    I live in Germany and have few friends from India and we g along much better than if I met people from other neighboring countries, including Iran and China. We can tell jokes, laugh at our weaknesses and enjoy almost the same food. A good start. I have also visited India a few times and when I told them where I come from, I noticed warmth. So I say Carry on with friendship with India. Both sides have been brainwashed with hate and this needs to be reduced. Both Singh and PPP are going in the right direction. There will be disappointments, but the road to peace must ignore small hiccups and look for greater fruits of peace and friendship..

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  • anand
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:47AM

    We never give any part of india to any one.
    Pakistan hand over most of their Northen area to china.
    They may handover all the pakistan to china.

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  • vasan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:12PM

    Kaalchakra: I agree with you. Return Kashmir, Junagadh, hyderabad etc, The list is endless. Why dont u return Sind, Punjab, Balochistan and AJK and accept Akhand bharat and secular Indian constitution. That I think will be much easier. Because Indian muslims of Hyderabad or Junagadh do not want to have anything to do with Pakistan,. Otherwise they would have migrated to Pakistan in 1947. So stop dreaming and face the realities. By the way, to be serious we have no hatred for pakistanis, only the terrorists like ur beloved sayeed, kasab etc are not acceptable to us.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:01PM

    @pollack
    izrael and its god father are very peacefull actually more than ahanssa.

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  • zahra
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:40PM

    should someone suggest or advise the president there are more grave and basic issues which need urgent attention than religious rituals which are so bizarre and leaves a sensible person to question the so called loyalty and love of our government.(present and useless) proving every day their worthlessness and shallow behaviour.
    Sad, amidst the worst energy crisis, civil insurgency ,geographical strategies and economic down turn. mr president leaves on a private /state visit to seek refuge in the dead Sufi shrines.oh lord please save my country.

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  • SM
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:55PM

    Zardari on a personal visit at government expense whilst the nation mourns the loss of close of 150 jawans of Pakistan Army. Sounds about right – this is Zardari at his best.

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  • shouvik mukherjee
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:54PM

    @Maria:
    Why doesn’t Pakistan arrest and put Hafeez Saeed on trial for his terrorist
    activities according to the UNSC Resolution: 1267 ?

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  • omg!
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:57PM

    @JAYADEVAN
    Pakistan was created because 1940s Congress Ministers who were elected by people of India discomfort minorities. Neither Ajmal nor Hafiz Saeed are elected to torture Indians. First look at their status. They are terrorists.

    Pakistan has 1 enemy. India has at least two. Problem lies in your nature. You are not irritating neighbors, but also your own minorities that is why India is divided read history of 1947. 1962 when Pakistan conformed non-aggression while in 1971 India did aggression. Our blood is very sacred. 100 soldiers died, I salute them. But I can guarantee the big evil is not here. We did not made nuke until u made. We did not occupy Junagadh like you did Kashmir. So please, open your mind and accept the facts and history. We are peace-lovers. We were. And we will always be.

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  • MIQ
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:55PM

    @shouvik mukherjee: for your information, he was arrested properly trialed for over a year and was released by the court as there was no evidence of his involvement, also for your information, Paksitani courts are more independent and transparent than Indian, you might have seen a recent survey told, its now improving …
    dont u think, dont you see, its India’s habit of making hue & cry for no reason and Pakistan is soft target and excuse to blind ppl of India, please grow up now… we should learn to live,
    Also, dont you see, Pakistan has lost the most since 2001, lives, economy and respect… why wont we not like to restore to pre war conditions… i think, for us, best thing is, we should not care about India, America..as like America, India is never happy too, we have been “doing more and more” and demands have been on imprest system, increasing as more as getting furnished …

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  • hra
    Apr 10, 2012 - 8:43PM

    why didnt he use that money to call rescue teams from all over the world to help dig out 150 people from the snow? we are suffering and will in future if we keep supporting him.

    Goodwill is more important to him then the precious lives of our people :(

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