Indo-Pak disputes: In the chill of Siachen, Kayani warms up to peace

Published: April 19, 2012

President Asif Ali Zardari arrives at the Skardu airport for his visit to Giari along with Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. PHOTO: APP

Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani talks to the media. PHOTO: APP
President Asif Ali Zardari arrives at the Skardu airport for his visit to Giari along with Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. PHOTO: APP

SKARDU / ISLAMABAD: In an unusually candid talk with the media on Wednesday, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani joined the debate about the human and financial cost of fighting in an uninhabitable area – suggesting that the Pakistan Army was in favour of demilitarising Siachen, dubbed the world’s highest battleground.

He said that Pakistan and India should resolve all outstanding disputes with each other, including Kashmir and Siachen, through dialogue.

Speaking at Skardu airport after visiting the remote Gayari base, where he accompanied President Asif Ali Zardari on day 12 of the search operation in the sector, the general said the high cost and environmental impact were good reasons why the area should not be militarised.

“Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people,” he told reporters. He hastened to add that Pakistan’s desire for peace “should not be misread as weakness.”

However, asked about Nawaz Sharif’s comment that Pakistan should take the lead in pulling out its troops from the inhabitable climes of Siachen, Gen Kayani said: “I do not want to answer the questions raised by Nawaz Sharif; the world knows why we are sitting in Siachen; Pakistan is not willingly staying in Siachen as we placed our forces in response to India.”

Defence spending

The army chief went on to add that he would like to see the country spend less on defence, adding that even though soldiers would do their duty come what may, defending borders should not be the country’s sole priority.

“We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot be spending on defence alone and forgetting about development,” he said.

“Ultimately, the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe,” Kayani said, adding that national security should be a comprehensive concept.

“And therefore we would like to spend less on defence, definitely,” he said. “Any country should do the same – more focus should be on the welfare of the people.”

Kayani also stressed the urgency of halting the damage to the environment caused by troop deployment on the Siachen Glacier.

“Ultimately it’s going to affect the River Indus adversely and we understand water is important and water management is very important,” he said.

Zardari’s visit to Giari

Earlier, President Zardari was accompanied by General Kayani to Giari base, where the supreme commander of the armed forces expressed solidarity with the military personnel and rescue teams searching for the 138 soldiers and civilians buried under an avalanche nearly two weeks ago.

The visit comes a day after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif travelled to Skardu and conducted an aerial survey of the avalanche site.

The president and army chief were also given an aerial view of the avalanche site where rescue operations are currently in full throttle. Later, the president was given a detailed briefing about the rescue activities underway by Force Command Northern Areas Commander Major-Gen Ikramul Haq.

President Zardari appreciated the efforts that were being made by the army and paid tribute to the buried soldiers.

“The whole nation is indebted to these sons of the soil and prays for them from the very core of their hearts,” the president said, adding that all available resources should be utilised to further expedite the operation.

On April 7, a huge wall of snow crashed into the remote Giari sector base, where the 6th Northern Light Infantry Battalion had been stationed, smothering an area of one square kilometre and burying at least 124 soldiers and 14 civilians. More than 450 rescuers have been working in sub-zero temperatures at the site, which is at an altitude of around 4,000 metres, though experts have said there is little chance of finding any survivors. (WITH INPUT FROM WIRES)

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (54)

  • Apr 19, 2012 - 5:58AM

    Seems like Zardari has put on some weight!

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  • softy
    Apr 19, 2012 - 6:19AM

    hahaha, just now comprehended the dialogue from Sholay – “Ab Aya Unt Pahad Ke Neeche” – meaning the camel is now beside a mountain and realised his height is much lower than the mountain(which he was thinking otherwise). Jokes apart, lets not get fooled.Remember the “Treaty of Hudaybiyyah” which helped in regaining strength in 10 years peacetime.Keep the Burner ON to ensure everlasting peace.

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  • Falcon
    Apr 19, 2012 - 6:28AM

    As obvious from statements, I think Kayani is the wisest general Pakistan had so far. Civilians should negotiate on curtailment of defense expenditure while Gen. Kayani is still in service.

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  • Pragmatist
    Apr 19, 2012 - 6:37AM

    Mr.Kayani, please stopped sending soldiers dressed as Mujahideen and you will have nothing but peace. But is this what your establishment wants? The nearly unlimited funding to the Pakistani military will stop if peace is made with India. The scores of businesses run by the establishment would be in trouble if the importance of the military is diminished. These statements are good for public posturing. But, deep down inside sir, you know that peace is the last thing you want.

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  • Lal Bahadur
    Apr 19, 2012 - 6:52AM

    General Kayani, If you can make it as COAS of Pakistan Army, I don’t see any reason why you can’t go for the the position of PM of Pakistan, You are certainly more honourable and trust worthy then what we have today. You and Imran Khan seems to be the only last light of hope for Pakistan. Sir Why don’t you give it a shot.

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  • Umer Z
    Apr 19, 2012 - 6:57AM

    Didn’t knew political success can also increase your height, even in 50′s. For some odd reason Zardari had started looking taller, then what he use to look in public discourses or maybe it is just the stature he managed to build with his sagacious political skills.Recommend

  • C. Nandkishore
    Apr 19, 2012 - 6:59AM

    Hallucinations occur at greats heights due to lack of oxygen.

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  • JSM
    Apr 19, 2012 - 7:39AM

    Practical General. He knows that he can fight Indians but can not fight the nature.

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  • Billoo Bhaya
    Apr 19, 2012 - 7:41AM

    Kayani sahib, the Indians have not been hit by an avalanche!!! They are sitting pretty and higher than we are, because in 1984 the Indians perched themselves in the highest part of the Glaciar from which Pakistan was unable to dislocate them. That is the fact and they are not asking to negotiate a withdrawal. We are. As a Pakistani I find it bizzare that we failed to defend even one contested battlefield since 1947, including losing East Pakistan. Why don’t the Generals when in power negotiate with their adversaries a safe exit?? Why do they keep quiet unless an avalanche lands on their head???

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  • Apr 19, 2012 - 7:48AM

    Commendable words. Not too long ago he had said India is the enemy(When Osama was just few miles away from where he was standing), now he either, a) Seems to have changed his mind, or b) Taking the horses for courses approach.

    Only time will tell.

    But, I see a trend here. Musharaff when he became the Army Chief he did everything he can to hurt India. He moved his troops into Kargil, supported anti-India terror. Then, he saw the futility of fighting with an enormous, developing neighbour, with the potential to be a Super Power and seems to have changed his mind. He seemed to realize that India will never give in and it was in Pakistan’s interest to compromise. Then he came up with “out of the box forumlas” like “soft-border” and “making borders irrelevant”,etc. Basically sugar coating India’s stance for the consumption of the Pakistanis public.

    Is Kayani walking the same path? Only time can tell.

    P.S. Kayani is retiring soon, I think. So the next Army chief will start all over again.

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  • Ahmed
    Apr 19, 2012 - 7:55AM

    General sahab you are already spending less on defence & more on welfare of people i.e. army because civilions are not people, right.

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  • yajsingh
    Apr 19, 2012 - 8:03AM

    Should we say grapes are sour General saab?Recommend

  • jerseybb
    Apr 19, 2012 - 8:15AM

    Let’s see how many indians will condone it? since india has occupied siachen glaciar illegaly and they should be the ones to leave it FIRST

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  • gp65
    Apr 19, 2012 - 8:25AM

    If these words are spoken with sincerity, I know that you will find India and Indians reciprocate in full measure.

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  • Liberal
    Apr 19, 2012 - 8:36AM

    So Kayani has finally started feeling the heat…I guess better late than never. We will only believe it when the GDP share for education and health is more than defence…and more money is spent on schools than on BMWs and defence plots for the jurnails.

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  • malik
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:02AM

    If you want peace, you should be prepared for war. No question of vacating Siachen, in fact, we should more troops out there. Our country’s security is at stake.

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  • Pragmatist
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:14AM

    @thoughtfelon: You’d put on weight too if you wore a full-body bullet-proof suit.

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  • Fayyaz
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:26AM

    I really appreciate this statement and it has raised the respect level for Kayani in my heart…Although i always criticize the military policies and decisions but this one is really worthy of praise…..and must be encouraged!!!

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  • Mirza
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:30AM

    It is a pragmatic statement from the most powerful “politician and policy maker” of Pakistan Gen Kayani. He knows that there is no option but the whole nation and the world wants no military activity then he has to descend from his high horses. With the money streams drying up and the people of Pakistan cannot take it anymore, the luxuries of no win wars cannot continue. Pakistan has to cut down its military expenses to keep the starving and angry civilians at bay. Even a future coalition govt (no matter who wins) would not be able to continue with this much expenses on defense.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:31AM

    @softy:

    Remember the “Treaty of Hudaybiyyah”
    which helped in regaining strength in
    10 years peacetime

    Excellent point!
    Never should one be blind to the concept of taqqiyah when dealing with Pak.

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  • Atif Razzaq
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:32AM

    Gen. Keyani is a through professional and good human beings. If we check all the things he did in the past it shows clearly……………..

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  • Adeel759
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:37AM

    These otherwise Harmless and Blissful Mountains Of Tranquility will continue take our Sons untill we return there Calm, Silence and Peace back to these Heights. And that is the best way to Honor the sacrifices of the sons of Those mothers ‘Jin Ki Jholiya’n Ujar Gain’ on both sides of border. Viva Peace’

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  • vasan
    Apr 19, 2012 - 9:39AM

    I think the COAS is in good mood. India and Pakistan should sign a no war pact and LOC Freeze pact including No terrorist pact. That will bring peace and prosperity to sub continent.

    Then they can sit down and talk all issues. Better will be to put the issues in a pot, make a lucky draw in turn and solve within a stipulated time frame. Get on with the next issue.

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  • IZ
    Apr 19, 2012 - 10:57AM

    Agree with Fayyaz. Its good to hear these things from the COAS and lets hope there is progress in implementing them.

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  • BlackJack
    Apr 19, 2012 - 11:25AM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:
    That’s exactly what I said! Surprisingly they censored my comment – strange.Recommend

  • Hot potatoes!
    Apr 19, 2012 - 11:38AM

    Reality hits one when in trouble. World has been advising pakistan that with a dire economy, and breakdown of law and order, complete disruptions in daily life, a country can ill afford an army, let alone have it take the largest share of the countrys meagre earnings.
    The combined army strength of EU will be less than pakistans, while EU ‘s GDP is USD 16 trillion, and Pakistans 195 billion. Unsustainable, especially now that Aid has dried up.
    Siachin is where pakistan by stealth started showing it as if it was in control, and started sendind army missions. That is why india moved in.
    kayani has started talking peace. hope its a honest move.

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  • vasan
    Apr 19, 2012 - 11:38AM

    I also think that Kayani has lost the war with the civilian govt of Pakistan which started after the OBL fiasco. Mehran attack also wounded the army. Memo gate brought more shame to the army. Bannu prison escape of the TTP morons brought more misery to the army.This is a clear sign that Pakistan may get the real powers to the civvies oneday. Good going Pakistan.

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  • vickram
    Apr 19, 2012 - 12:54PM

    The team that is batting well without losing wickets will decide when to declare; not the team that is bowling pathetically.

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  • waqar
    Apr 19, 2012 - 1:27PM

    We are proud on our army who devited their lives for the dignity of their motherland. Army chief knows better than other people that what should be done there.

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  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    Apr 19, 2012 - 3:06PM

    General Kiyani is a man of few words. I will take his words very seriously. It seems India has responded very warmly to his words. Indo-Pak relations are entering a very interesting phase from now on. Good Indo-Pak relations will be game changer not only for the region but for the entire world. Do I see the joint Indo-Pak front against Saeeds and Hamid Guls in near future?

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  • G. Din
    Apr 19, 2012 - 4:15PM

    Discretion is the better part of valour.
    India, beware! Do not be fooled! You are dealing with an adversary who is duplicitous and deceptive by his own nature!

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  • hamza khan
    Apr 19, 2012 - 8:21PM

    @BruteForce:

    you’re clearly delusional, having been fed anti pakistan propaganda by your hindu madrassas that are churning out hindu terorrists by the thousands. pakistan and the army have no interest in fighting the indians, we know that we can mutually destroy each other. there will no winner. president musharraf as COAS fought the kargil war, and in an interview with deccan herald recently stated that kargil was a tit for tat response. india can do misadventures all it wants (i.e. siachen) but pakistan is bad for giving a fitting response? no COAS has caused terror inside india. its your own policies and poor treatment of minorities that causes them to take up arms against the government. dont blame pakistan for that.

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  • hamza khan
    Apr 19, 2012 - 8:23PM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:

    there is no concept of taqiyaah in peacetime or wartime. learn your fundamentals and stop spreading propaganda Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Apr 19, 2012 - 10:57PM

    @hamza khan:

    there is no concept of taqiyaah in peacetime or wartime.

    So, in what time does the taqiyaah “concept” exist?

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  • Meaningful idiot
    Apr 20, 2012 - 2:02AM

    “taqiyaah ” is fine as long as you sleep on it

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  • softy
    Apr 20, 2012 - 3:46AM

    @hamza khan:

    “taqiyaah meaning – Concealining what is in one’s heart”-Ref: http://www.erfan.ir/15888.html
    “According to the Shariah, if a person is trapped between two hardships and one of them is intolerable, then to save oneself from the greater hardship, one should tolerate the lesser one. Therefore, Imam of Ahle Sunnah Allamah Fakhruddin Razi wrote”.

    The current predicament and relations with US now and comparing US and India, India is indeed a lesser evil, hence the current blooming of trade relations / talks.

    INDIA Beware.
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  • Kazmis
    Apr 20, 2012 - 9:28AM

    I am afraid Kashmir may see a Siachin type of solution. Very sad! – A tug of war ultimately won by the mighty one.

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  • non-conformist
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:52AM

    Finally there is one serving general who is talking sense. He has talked the talk. Lets see how he walks the talk. Still, enlightened words from a visionary general.

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  • Hot potatoes!
    Apr 20, 2012 - 11:17AM

    @Kazmis:
    Thank God if Kashmir sees a siachin type of solution. At least pakistan would have put its obsession behind after 65 years and get moving on in life. The past cannot become a baggage and millstone around the neck of 180 million poor pakistanis. And certainly not in this dangerous century, where the economically focussed countries will survive and the rest will wither. Kasshmirios realised this long back, and this year have seen twice the tourist arrivals than whole of pakistan.economic wellbeing of people is most important agenda for all countries. Thankfully Kayani has realised that.

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  • vickram
    Apr 20, 2012 - 11:25AM

    @Kazmis:

    Pak scores 180 all out. In reply, Aus scores 580 for 2.

    Misbah asks Clarke, ” If you play like this, players of both the teams will be demoralized ! Why don’t you declare ? “

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  • jagjit sidhoo
    Apr 20, 2012 - 12:41PM

    @hamza khan:”hindu madrassas ” have not seen one yet

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  • Mariam Javed
    Apr 20, 2012 - 1:14PM

    There is no doubt that our brave soldiers always stand in the way of strongest enemy and harsh weather. I salute to Pakistan military and all the institutions that are taking part in this special search and rescue mission. And Since our relations with India is improving, it is important that India demonstrate a friendly gesture and withdraw its troops prior to the 1984 position. Until this proposal materializes, it is crucial that Pakistan must equip itself with “state of the art” snow clearing vehicles, especially operating at such a high altitude. Efforts should be made to make these machines available on immediate basis, because snow cutting, blowing equipments can only serve one aspect of such a complicated operation. We must keep praying for those who day-and-night serving Pakistan.

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  • M. Adil
    Apr 20, 2012 - 9:08PM

    I am just as shaken with grief as most other Pakistanis at this tragic loss…..
    The proof lies in the lone tear that I just wiped off my cheek / it was more than we can collectively do on that damned Sir Creek.

    But where are our nation changing war poets, our Sasoons and Owens…
    Are they as yet cowering under an avalanche of deciet and lies / just as our sons too stare with opaque eyes / lips and limbs for ever frozen / unable to hear our eternal salaams, unable to say their last goodbyes/ 
    The land of the pure shows true the theory of the Gaia / even as the blood flows in vain like the valleys of the Maya / Baichaari Mamta sar zameen pai yeh kaisa waqt hai aaya / kai dard e dil sai pehlai kashmir kamp gia tha / duryaai Sindh ko apnai ansoon sai shalak kar / Maan kee sees nai ab Siachen ko haai hilaya /
    Oh weep not Mother Earth, for ye can never atone / for those with little minds and hearts of stone /  Even as your writhing and rumbles moves this nation / you can never know the science of genetic mutation /

    May those who perished on both sides of the Glacier, forever rest in peace, you’ve paid your dues with your priceless lives.

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  • Blackbirdz
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:14PM

    @Pragmatist:
    DO U EVEN KNOW WHAT MUJAHID MEANS THIS IS ARABIC WORD WHICH MEANS WARRIOR THEY R FREEDOM FIGHTERS FIGHTING FOR THE LIBRATION OF OUR LAND KASHMIR WHICH IS PAKISTAN’S 5TH PROVINCE N U R OCCUPING IT BY FORCE N OPPERATION WE R KASHMIRIS N WE R PAKISTANIS IM FROM BARAMULA 4TH BIGGEST CITY OF VALLEY WE R HAPPY N OPEN OUR ARMS TO THE RESISTANT MUJJAHIDS OF KASHMIR BY OUR FELLOW MUSLIM BROTHERS PAKISTAN, WE KNOW OUR COUNTRY, PAK IS DARK TIMES BUT WE STAND FIRM WITH OUR BROTHERS IN THESE TESTING TIMES OF HISTORY LIKE THEY HAD, HAVE N WILL BE WITH US IN OUR DARK TIMES

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  • Blackbirdz
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:19PM

    @Billoo Bhaya:
    1947 WAS WON BY 1965 WAS WON BY US IN 1971 THANKS TO THE INDIAN HELP TO TERRORISTS WE LOST BUT EVENTUALLY THE ENEMY COULDNT MAKE EAST PAK PART OF THE INDIAN UNION EVEN THEY WANTED TO DO THAT.SO EVENTUALLY WE WERE VICTORIOUS SOME WHAT

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  • Blackbirdz
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:21PM

    @jerseybb:
    WELL SAID BRO

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  • Blackbirdz
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:28PM

    @Hot potatoes!:
    HAHAHAHA JUST READ UNBIASED SOURCES OF 1984 U WILL KNOW WHO DID WHAT

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  • gp65
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:45PM

    @Blackbirdz
    Read all your posts. The fact is you can wake up someone who is sleeping. But someone awake who is pretending t be asleep cannot be woken up. No-one can change your ideas about what happened in 1965 (and who won), what happened in 1971, what happened in 1984 and what happened in 1999 because you are relying not on facts but propaganda.

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  • Truth
    Apr 21, 2012 - 12:04AM

    Kiyani is as corrupt as Zardari and he is dancing to Zardari’s tunes.

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  • jahandad
    Apr 21, 2012 - 1:51AM

    we can talk and offer peace ,as Pakistanis, we have suffered a lot at the hands of Indians,,,,,,not through wars but through their [Indian]ill minded zigzag negative intentions against Pakistan,,,,,,still we [Pakistanis] can go for peace,,,,,,,,,,,,but remember ,,we don’t know the next dance of this clever cat[India],,,,,,that can produce a real curly bally dance,,,,,and won’t give a chance to opponent ,,,,,, so be careful,,,,,,

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  • John
    Apr 21, 2012 - 3:14AM

    The comments of Indian posters here reflect the extent of hatred and paranoia Indians harbor toward Pakistan. Most of them believe what their media, which is much much more jingoistic than Pakistan’s, tell them. Let us also not forget that there is a whole industry of people, including propagandists like ‘softy’ and ‘Brute Force,’ that benefits from the whipped-up animosity between the two neighbors. Which is why, realistically speaking, normalization of ties, however desirable, between the two countries is unlikely even if Kiyani comes begging for it, Zardari keeps visiting India for ‘lunch’ every once in a while, and even if Pakistan keeps bestowing titles like the “Most Favorite Nation” to India.

    Indians HATE Pakistanis and consider Pakistan their real enemy, many even advocating an overt all-out war with it, as the comments here reveal as well. Pakistanis therefore should stop obsessing with India and instead hope that they do not completely estrange their hitherto allies like the United States without whose support– both financial and diplomatic–Pakistan would be completely isolated and even more impoverished international pariah.

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  • jagjit sidhoo
    Apr 21, 2012 - 10:20AM

    @jahandad:I wish we Indians were as clever as you think we are.

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  • Blackbirdz
    Apr 22, 2012 - 6:07PM

    @gp65:
    hmmm strange the country’s media still brainwashes its citizens of just what it can be seen as a RUBBISH blames us of propaganda. How weird just do a research from unbiased sources n u will Know what r the differences in facts n propaganda.

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  • Blackbirdz
    Apr 22, 2012 - 6:10PM

    @jahandad:
    100% right

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