The siege within — and without

Published: January 23, 2013

The writer is a consultant based in New Delhi, where she writes for Business Standard and blogs for The Times of India

There is so much noise and fury inside Pakistan over the real and imagined motivations of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Long March and the impact this will have on the country’s future that many Pakistanis have simply missed the sound and fury between India and Pakistan that was mounted after the beheading of an Indian soldier on the Line of Control (LoC).

This is what happened: there was an exchange of fire on January 6 and the Pakistani side alleged that Indian soldiers had crossed the LoC and killed two Pakistani soldiers. The Indians rejected the charge. The Pakistanis retaliated two days later, killing two Indian soldiers. One of the soldiers, Lance Naik Hemraj, was found beheaded — a grotesque, abhorrent act that no self-respecting army should condone.

The beheading has so inflamed Indian public opinion, leading to a sudden ratcheting of tension that Pakistan has halted the cross-LoC passenger bus, as well as trade on the Chakan-da-Bagh crossing point in the Poonch-Rawlakot sector in Kashmir. New Delhi retaliated by asking Pakistani theatre activists and hockey players to leave India and return to Pakistan, one of its most regressive gestures in recent times. Meanwhile, the visa-on-arrival facility for Pakistani citizens of 65 years and above entering India has been put on hold, as if the arrival of old men and women was threatening the unity and integrity of India.

So, let’s ask the basic question that has sparked off the latest nasty furore: who carried out the beheading? And whose interests does it best serve?

Pakistan has denied all knowledge of the incident, something that truly aggravates Indians. The denial has brought the right-wing forces to the foreground in India, leading to familiar tit-for-tat accusations that have succeeded in considerably vitiating the atmosphere. The gains of peace of the last two years that largely came from India, delinking progress by the Pakistani state on the Mumbai attacks to progress in other areas, e.g., in trade and people-to-people interaction, are in real jeopardy.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has denied that the Pakistan Army carried out the obnoxious beheading and has offered talks on the matter. India should immediately accept her offer, not only because dialogue is the only alternative to diminishing the poison that periodically seeps into India-Pakistan relations but because India should not allow regressive elements to compromise the essence of a secular republic that was forged in similar fires of hate and prejudice. Ms Khar can set the stage by at least acknowledging the reprehensible mutilations of the Indian soldiers. Perhaps, Pakistan, besieged by the fire within, is unable to comprehend the seriousness of the matter and how incidents like these immediately bring up the recurring nightmare of the Mumbai attacks in the Indian mind.

This, then, is the nub of the matter: if Pakistan were to be seen seriously making progress on investigations into the Mumbai attacks, it would strengthen the hands of peacemakers within India and enable them to deflect their own hate-mongers. Pakistan’s inability to make progress on the Mumbai trials is a failure of the government in taking on its own terrorists, as well as a remarkable compromise with terrorist elements.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists have worn army uniforms to attack military headquarters in Rawalpindi, as well as the Pakistan Navy’s main base. Did the LeT regulars also target and behead the Indian soldier on the LoC last week?

So, what happens now? It would be best for both governments to see sense and immediately call off the hostilities. Once tempers are cooled and the situation is normalised, both sides must seriously think in terms of how greater engagement between Kashmiris from both sides can keep this sanctity alive.

As for India, if it is to continue to think of itself as a unique country and a distinct civilisation, it must look for unique and creative ways in which to transform the behaviour and accommodate the fears and needs of the other country — in this case Pakistan — alongside those of its own citizens. In any case, an eye for an eye is an Israeli speciality, not an Indian one. And as Mahatma Gandhi once said, that will do nothing except end up blinding both sides.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2013.

Reader Comments (40)

  • Yoghurt lover
    Jan 24, 2013 - 12:00AM

    “Perhaps, Pakistan, besieged by the fire within, is unable to comprehend the seriousness of the matter and how incidents like these immediately bring up the recurring nightmare of the Mumbai attacks in the Indian mind.”

    It’s not Qadri who is preventing Pakistanis in understanding the seriousness of the matter.

    Pakistanis are used to such things. Beheading, torture, these are common weapons of terror used in Pakistan both by the state and non-state actors.

    So, pakistanis don’t think it is a serious matter.

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  • Gratgy
    Jan 24, 2013 - 12:02AM

    Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists have worn army uniforms to attack military headquarters in Rawalpindi, as well as the Pakistan Navy’s main base. Did the LeT regulars also target and behead the Indian soldier on the LoC last week?

    The army headquarters were attacked by the Taliban while LeT is an arm of the Pakistani army and ISI and thus belongs to the “Good Terrorist” category. Asking Pakistan to take action against the LeT is like asking it to take action against the army itself.

    I wish you would do some research before commencing on an article

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  • BlackJack
    Jan 24, 2013 - 12:16AM

    India should immediately accept her offer.
    Talks on what? The first thing she said is that the Indians are lying about the beheading, that such an incident did not take place and the Pak army, as usual, is perfectly blameless. Once you have established those boundaries, what is there left to talk about – maybe she should have specified that. You will find that they wanted to talk about everything else outside this issue, just like their Interior minister who recently visited India and advised us to forget the Mumbai attacks. Don’t blame right wing forces for this mess – it comes from the fervent desire of the government to demonstrate superficial progress without addressing festering issues including continuing support for jihadis, terrorist training camps and implacable hostility that is encouraged in Pakistanis towards Indians at a very early age – there is no equivalent on the Indian side for any legitimate give and take on this issue. I agree that sending back Pakistani sports people and theatre artists is regressive, but given the vitiated atmosphere, was unfortunately unavoidable.

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  • sumeet
    Jan 24, 2013 - 12:57AM

    oh lady..please cut this crap..indian and pakistan can never be frnds..they never were and they nevery will.this is the blunt truth.i dont understand why this simple dont go into the head of u and ur bunch of ‘peace loving’ people..and wht do you mean by it may be Let in pak army uniform may have beheaded indian soldier..you are propagating a conspiracy theory and actually giving idea to pak how to divert the situation by using such idea..Recommend

  • John B
    Jan 24, 2013 - 12:58AM

    There is a growing consensus that emerging Islamic Jihadis are going to out maneuver the established state machinery and the threat is more eminent in Islamic nations due to the dichotomous role of religion and passive support to the Jihadis.

    PAK stated policy position is that it is not their responsibility to prevent the so called non state actors from crossing the LOC from PAK side. It is similar to Mexico’s position in preventing illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from Mexico. The PAK position suits several objectives of the state also, and so the LoC violations will continue.

    It is India’s interest to be vigilant and expecting PAK to enact on the Mumbai terrorists and beheading maniacs is wishing for snow in tropics.

    To be honest, PAK always had good international relations, including with India whenever she was under army control and in some aspects the domestic situation were also better. Since, such army control is unlikely to happen in the present political climate, siege within PAK by various establishments are only going to create a headache for India and the Islamization of PAK army local ranks are not going to away.

    If trends around the world are any indication, PAK is under serious siege from closet and open Jihadis and is brewing in a conflict, and nothing better to incite the civil war mania than LoC.

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  • sumeet
    Jan 24, 2013 - 12:59AM

    oh lady..please cut this crap..indian and pakistan can never be frnds..they never were and they nevery will.this is the blunt truth.i dont understand why this simple dont go into the head of u and ur bunch of ‘peace loving’ people..and wht do you mean by it may be Let in pak army uniform may have beheaded indian soldier..you are propagating a conspiracy theory and actually giving idea to pak how to divert the situation by using such idea..ur Recommend

  • sabi
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:14AM

    Author.
    “As for India, if it is to continue to think of itself as a unique country and a distinct civilisation, it must look for unique and creative ways in which to transform the behaviour and accommodate the fears and needs of the other country — in this case Pakistan — alongside those of its own citizens. In any case, an eye for an eye is an Israeli speciality, not an Indian one. And as Mahatma Gandhi once said, that will do nothing except end up blinding both sides”

    Kudos.you have said it as, many Pakistanis feel India should be.Indian leadership is as much weak as any Pakistani civilion government might be.What is the difference then?.A little punch and whole indian government falls flat on ground.

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  • Vikas
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:15AM

    Because of no eye for eye policy, we are paying with our heads. Shame on such a govt. in India.

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  • Rommel
    Jan 24, 2013 - 2:25AM

    Author didn’t give any impotanc to Pakistani stance that Pakistani post was raided by Indian forces. Story finished on inndian denial. Its funny and biased article.

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  • gp65 .
    Jan 24, 2013 - 3:04AM

    “Meanwhile, the visa-on-arrival facility for Pakistani citizens of 65 years and above entering India has been put on hold, as if the arrival of old men and women was threatening the unity and integrity of India.”

    This process was not put on hold due to the implicit risk posed by over genuine 65 year old people. It was put on hold to send Pakistan the message

    that its actions had undone some of the trust that formal negotiations had established.

    that Pakistan needed to match its soothing words with actions on ground in order to regain trust.

    Also the constant narrative from Pakistan that it is making unilateral concessions (based on verbal assurances not matched by action whether on trade or terror) and treating as an entitlement everything India offers – grates on most reasonable Indians.

    Finally where is India’s peace dividend, if Pakistan does not dismantle terror camps, does not stop facilitating infiltration? If India is not to gain anything via peace why not simply disengage?

    @BlackJack: “Don’t blame right wing forces for this mess – it comes from the fervent desire of the government to demonstrate superficial progress without addressing festering issues”

    Well said. This is the heart of the issue.

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  • Falcon
    Jan 24, 2013 - 3:21AM

    I didn’t read past this paragraph…”This is what happened: there was an exchange of fire on January 6 and the Pakistani side alleged that Indian soldiers had crossed the LoC and killed two Pakistani soldiers. The Indians rejected the charge. The Pakistanis retaliated two days later, killing two Indian soldiers. One of the soldiers, Lance Naik Hemraj, was found beheaded — a grotesque, abhorrent act that no self-respecting army should condone.”…so whatever Pakistan says about India is “allegation” and whatever India says about Pakistan is the truth???

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  • Babloo
    Jan 24, 2013 - 3:50AM

    The 26/11 attack on Mumbai was carried out by LeT , under the guidance of Pak Army. That is what has been revealed by Daood Gilani alias Headley in Chicago court. So to expect Pakistan to punish LeT is like expecti9ng Al-Qaida to punish Bin Laden. Get real.

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  • Misery Ghalib
    Jan 24, 2013 - 5:06AM

    everybody in india is taking a hardline – even this lady author

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  • Pakistan
    Jan 24, 2013 - 5:35AM

    Author wants pakistan to take responsibility of that pack of lie about beheading so that india’s warmonger media and politicians get a face saving :)

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  • sabi
    Jan 24, 2013 - 5:56AM

    @Falcon:
    so whatever Pakistan says about India is “allegation” and whatever India says about Pakistan is the truth???
    Intresting.Indians are good people but somewhat insequre and that makes things complicated.

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  • akash
    Jan 24, 2013 - 5:57AM

    @Falcon – yes thats exactly right – Whatever Pakistan says is a lie because it has been proven time and again.

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  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Jan 24, 2013 - 6:59AM

    @akash

    Then learn to live with it! because LoC is bilateral issue and no third party will come to verify the claims of India/Pakistan against each others. what ever Pakistan says Indian will either has to accept it or live with it.

    Off course Indian can do as much Pakistan bashing as they want on their own expense, neither world nor Pakistan is interested on these nonsense.

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  • F
    Jan 24, 2013 - 7:51AM

    The liberals in India continue to suffer from Stockholm syndrome. They believe that it is something about them that make their tormentors be unkind to them.

    No country or human can transform the behaviour of another, unless the commitment to change comes from within that entity or individual. The responsibility rests with Pakistan to become whatever it wants to. Today, it has made a conscious choice to be an Islamic state. All decisions follow from that. Why put the burden of transforming Godse on Gandhi or the likes of Hafiz Saeed on his neighbours?

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Jan 24, 2013 - 9:17AM

    @author ” … As for India, if it is to continue to think of itself as a unique country and a distinct civilisation, it must look for unique and creative ways in which to transform the behaviour and accommodate the fears and needs of the other country — in this case Pakistan — alongside those of its own citizens. … “

    The naivety of the author amazes me. Does Pakistan look like a country that is interested in behaviour modification ? The tussle between India and Pakistan is based on religion/philosophy – ignore it at your own peril.

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  • Feroz
    Jan 24, 2013 - 9:20AM

    There are a few inferences that can be drawn from recent events in India/Pakistan relations. Pakistan is unable to understand that India is a functioning democracy because they never ever had one. There is no Establishment or parallel centers of Power, except in a few peoples imagination. Nobody knows who is head of RAW/IB or who heads the Army either because all these posts and people occupying them are inconsequential. Indian public opinion cannot be tuned on and off like music from a pied piper like in Pakistan. Once these facts are understood it will be much easier to bridge gaps.

    The Mumbai 26/11 massacre has turned Indian opinion firmly against Pakistan and nothing the Politicians do or say carries any weight with the Indian masses till they believe justice has been done. This is the crux of the matter which few have understood. To aggravate the situation the tolerance levels of the Indian Army after the beheading of their soldier is abysmally low. In this situation the Field Commanders on the LOC will not allow the smallest provocation or infiltration attempt to pass without a heavy response. This development requires a new paradigm for conflict resolution because Pakistan has really cut the earth from under the Indian Government(political class) — the only Power that could deliver. Disturbingly Pakistan never realized or calculated that its continuing relationships with non State actors, has effectively killed hope of it getting even a single concession from the Indian Government, killing the golden goose that could have delivered. Now, it is all downhill because chances of another dove like MMS becoming PM of India even in the distant future look bleak. The Indian electorate has now demanded a much higher level of accountability and responsible decision making from its leaders, if they wish to continue in Public life, putting considerable stress on the entire Political class. If Indian Politicians cannot deliver but only dither they will be replaced by a new set of faces with better ideas. India like an Elephant with a thick hide will be able to walk through the densest Bamboo thicket with minimal damage but Pakistan is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place with very few friends.

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  • IndianDude
    Jan 24, 2013 - 9:40AM

    Author Jyoti Malhotra and ex-pm Gujral etc. are punjabis. Some punjabis long for punjabi-punjabi bhai bhai along with some sikhs (mostly due to their holiest place being in pakistan). Lady! Shove indian punjabi- pakistani punjabi bhai bhai, up your rear. Rest of the indians don’t give a damn about friendship with the pakistanis, we just wish they keep their unwanted ‘holy’ warriors on their side!
    BTW, Pakistanis be proud of your “land of the pure” identity, don’t call yourselves indians as they have been doing in the USA, save us the embarrassment and identify yourselves as pakistanis!

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  • Observer
    Jan 24, 2013 - 11:06AM

    @Falcon:

    “…so whatever Pakistan says about India is “allegation” and whatever India says about Pakistan is the truth???”

    Yes, Pakistan arny has used the “deny, lie, distort and brainwash” the Pakistanis themselves and the global community. Remember Musharraf’s statements “Bin Laden is not in Pakistan, Pakistan doesn’t support anti-Afghan or anti-India terrorists, Kargil aggression was done by the militants…” to give you a few examples of Pakistan’s lies? There is a very long list I can provide if you are not aware of facts.

    To sum it up, once a liar, always a liar.

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  • Happens
    Jan 24, 2013 - 11:16AM

    As for India, if it is to continue to think of itself as a unique country and a distinct civilisation, it must look for unique and creative ways in which to transform the behaviour and accommodate the fears and needs of the other country — in this case Pakistan — alongside those of its own citizens. In any case, an eye for an eye is an Israeli speciality, not an Indian one. And as Mahatma Gandhi once said, that will do nothing except end up blinding both sides.” —No doubt we are a unique country and civilization and culture . But Regarding Mahatma’s philosophy , these people don’t believe in this . They are the descendants of a leader named Jinnah , they do only understand Israeli language and specialty . So Let it be.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Jan 24, 2013 - 11:40AM

    @IndianDude: You need to pipe down pal.

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  • Anuj
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:05PM

    Why for once and all, we stop this friendship drama….as someone above commented, India Pakistan can not be friends and trust me We dont need a friend like Pakistan who bites the very hand that feeds…Let them suffer their own deeds and problems, we have ours…..Pakistan is not interested anymore in Kashmir, i guess any common pakistani would be happy to get rid of non-state actors working overtime for army to hype Kashmir issue and would settle down for a peaceful pakistan without Kashmir…..its sane, isnt it…
    so lets seal the borders forever, those who have relatives can settle down in one of the countries they want to but give me break from this overrated useless people-to-people contact show off….
    cut the crap and let the world worry about other things….

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  • BlackJack
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:31PM

    @Naeem Siddiqui:
    Then learn to live with it! because LoC is bilateral issue and no third party will come to verify the claims of India/Pakistan against each others. what ever Pakistan says Indian will either has to accept it or live with it.
    Precisely – and the reverse is also equally true. P|s explain this to your countrymen who are pained by our refusal to accept the UN angle that Pakistan proposed.

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  • BlackJack
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:31PM

    @Naeem Siddiqui:
    *Then learn to live with it! because LoC is bilateral issue and no third party will come to verify the claims of India/Pakistan against each others. what ever Pakistan says Indian will either has to accept it or live with it.*
    Precisely – and the reverse is also equally true. P|s explain this to your countrymen who are pained by our refusal to accept the UN angle that Pakistan proposed.Recommend

  • Riaz Khan
    Jan 24, 2013 - 2:30PM

    If not today but tomorrow there would be peace between two countries! Let both countries work sincerely towards peace. I agree that India has been back stabbed by Pakistan on numerous occasions in spite of complete sincerity from India. As a Pakistani I can tell you that 99% of Pakistanis truly want a very close relations with India. After all we are same people divided in 1947.

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  • antony
    Jan 24, 2013 - 3:40PM

    Riaz khan , I am not sure you are citing facts here “As a Pakistani I can tell you that 99% of Pakistanis truly want a very close relations with India” .. 99% .. If you can convince your country men and parliamentarians and most of all your army then you can make government level agreements with India to ensure peace and LOC as international border..

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  • Feroz
    Jan 24, 2013 - 4:14PM

    @Riaz Khan:
    Excellent Post ! Your comments are always very balanced. Peace can prevail between the two countries when their are no expectations from either side as I doubt India will yield any territory. India does not covet an inch of land Pakistan occupies, which includes parts of Kashmir. Having ceded parts of Kashmir to China without the permission of Kashmiri Awan or India, Pakistani claim on Kashmir is really tenuous. Once reality is accepted things can only get better.

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  • Venkat
    Jan 24, 2013 - 4:24PM

    @Riaz Khan:
    You and I have the same wave length sir.

    Venkat

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  • G. Din
    Jan 24, 2013 - 5:41PM

    @Riaz Khan:
    ” After all we are same people divided in 1947.”
    Your views and sentiments are laudable. But, please do consider that much water has flowed down the Chenab and Gunga since. Assuming that we were the same people in 1947 or before ( emphatically not, isn’t that why Jinnah said we could not live together and quite a few of you agreed?), we certainly are not the same today. Our dreams, our aspirations, our yearnings, our visions of our destinies were never, and are not, the same.
    I bring this up because fallacious assumptions lead to unfulfilled expectations leading to more disillusionment. Your relations with US is an example. How come of all the peoples of the world, the Germans, the French, the Italians, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Taiwanese, the Chinese who were associated with the US prospered and only Pakistan floundered and continues to flounder? You Pakistanis are a “unique” people!!!!

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  • AK Murthy
    Jan 24, 2013 - 9:04PM

    I disagree most parts of what this author says specifically the part ‘ In any case, an eye for an eye is an Israeli speciality, not an Indian one. And as Mahatma Gandhi once said, that will do nothing except end up blinding both sides’

    This is not true at all in the case of Israel. They are doing very well against all odds and their economy is booming. Democracy is the answer for all crisis and as long as the Pak Army rules over Pakistan there will be no peace in Sourh Asia.

    All this charade about the peace process is only because of the pressure from the west

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  • Milestogo
    Jan 24, 2013 - 10:22PM

    Beheading is a form of punishment stated in sharia law.

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  • Riaz Khan
    Jan 24, 2013 - 10:57PM

    My Dear Indian Friends,
    Do we have any choice except to live in peace?
    How long this animosity can last?
    There is simply no choice except Peace!
    Inshallah both countries will have brotherly relations very soon.
    Honestly 99% of Pakistan have noble wishes for Indians.

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  • gp65.
    Jan 25, 2013 - 2:25AM

    @Riaz Khan: “My Dear Indian Friends,
    Do we have any choice except to live in peace?
    How long this animosity can last?
    There is simply no choice except Peace!
    Inshallah both countries will have brotherly relations very soon.
    Honestly 99% of Pakistan have noble wishes for Indians”

    Peace would be ideal but the Pakistani civilians have shwon that they cannot control “non-state actors’ or dismantle the jihadi camps or stop hate mongerers from making speeches in Inslamabad and Rawlpindi and Lahore and Karachi or preventing anti-India wall chalkings or even prevent banned groups from raising fnds or prevent hatefilled madrassas from building the jihadi infrastructure or change the textbooks that breed hate. So India will not benefit from peace no matter whatPakistani politicians agree to. Why then should India make unilateral concessions? This does not mean I advocate war. Peace and war are not the only options. Disengagement is also an option and it is the one that should be pursued until Pakistani government shows some will in implementing its commitments towards peace.

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  • Observer
    Jan 25, 2013 - 2:34AM

    @Riaz Khan:

    “My Dear Indian Friends,
    Do we have any choice except to live in peace?
    How long this animosity can last?
    There is simply no choice except Peace!
    Inshallah both countries will have brotherly relations very soon.
    Honestly 99% of Pakistan have noble wishes for Indians.”

    Great sentiments and I agree with you in principle. But the real problem has been Pakistan’s aggressive geopolitical stance against India for the past six decades. It is for Pakistan to make a choice of peace instead of constant confrontation. You ask “How long this animosity can last?”. It will last as long as Pakistan keeps up its revisionist and aggressive foreign policy against India and Afghanistan. Remember, Musharraf carried out Kargil adventure just as the Indian PM was on a peace tour to Pakistan? Then there is the Mumbai attack Recommend

  • Ali
    Jan 25, 2013 - 6:17PM

    Amazing how Indians have forgotten or deny when their own soldiers come and behead Pakistani soldiers… read reports in the Indian press… My only grievance is against the Pakistani govt. for not being hard enough on the Indian govt. and letting them get away as some sort of aggrieved party when it was them who killed our soldier first…

    Look at all the Pakistani newspaper boards full of nasty Indian trolls… peace is obviously not wanted and we should just cut our contacts with them, why do you even have Indian authors on here?

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  • John the Baptist
    Jan 25, 2013 - 10:23PM

    @gp65.:

    So tell us again that the US social security system solvent.

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  • asaad
    Jan 26, 2013 - 1:46AM

    @John the Baptist

    @gp65.:
    So tell us again that the US social security system solvent.

    Why ask for so little? Given half an opportunity she will even explain how disengaging with Pakistan by sending back Pakistani Hockey players, by shifting the venue of a cricket match (scheduled under ICC banner), by stalling visa relaxation for 65 years old Pakistanis and disallowing Pakistani authors (some of them are British citizen) to attend a literally festival will stop the jihadist elements in Pakistani establishment and their foot soldiers (non state actors) from doing the mischief they want to do.
    To her credit she talks sense most of the time. But the lady gets hyper once in a while.

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