Before leaving Pakistan, Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna called his host a “good” friend and a “good” neighbour. Easy though it may be to write off his statement as the kind of harmless lie routinely told in cause of the greater good, there can be no doubt that in the aftermath of Mr Krishna’s visit, the two countries are better friends and neighbours than they used to be, even if the use of the word ‘good’ is a bit of a stretch. The agreement over a relaxed and liberal visa regime is an undoubted breakthrough that will have a ripple effect as people-to-people contact multiplies. Talk of war should hopefully subside when people from both countries see how similar they are and how they share the same aspirations.
This progress, however, has only come about by turning a blind eye to the many outstanding issues Pakistan and India still have. The question of terrorism has been put aside for the time being — a wise move given that any agreement there is likely to take a long time. Matters pertaining to trade and travel can be discussed in a more cordial environment, so long as these touchy topics are saved for another day. There will, however, ultimately come a time when militancy and Kashmir can no longer be ignored. That is when Mr Krishna’s hopeful remarks will truly be put to the test. Pakistan still has not acceded to all, or indeed most, of India’s demands pertaining to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, including banning the Jamaatud Dawa.
There is also no forward momentum on the Kashmir issue. Officially, both countries still hold to the maximalist view that the territory is an integral part of their respective countries. Pakistan, meanwhile, has found it convenient to continue to make India the scapegoat for self-inflicted problems in Balochistan and Afghanistan. For now, hawks on both sides have stayed on the sidelines and declined to derail progress on matters of peace. Once such matters come up for discussion at the negotiating table, they will have their say. And then all of Mr Krishna’s and the diplomats’ kind words will see how much water they stand in.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.
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