‘Tashkent Declaration would not have been possible without Russian help’

Published: February 13, 2013

PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Diplomacy should always be the first item on the table when countries are deciding on ways to resolve their disputes. As the Arab world adjusts to the upheaval that it went through during the last couple of years, and superpowers battle militants in North Africa, Middle East and Afghanistan, governments all over the world would do well to remember the power of diplomacy.

Honouring the people who facilitate dialogue between warring nations and other groups, the Consulate General of the Russian Federation organised a reception for diplomats, businessmen and media personnel to mark the Diplomats’ Day on Monday. Russian diplomatic corps all over the world mark February 10 as a professional holiday. It was established by a decree by then-president Vladimir Putin in 2002, to commemorate the founding of the Russian Diplomatic Service in 1949.

A video was played during Monday’s reception that recounted Russia’s role in bringing peace to the South Asia region, when it brokered the Tashkent Declaration between India and Pakistan in January 1966. The video showed the then-chairperson of the Soviet Union, A N Kosygin, arranging meetings between Pakistan’s President Field Marshal Ayub Khan and Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, to bring about an end to the Indo-Pak War of 1965.

While the two neighbouring countries are not fighting anymore, there are several other hotspots all over the world to keep diplomats busy. “These are difficult times for the world. The only way to settle each and every dispute is through diplomacy,” observed Russian consul-general Andrey Demidov while talking to The Express Tribune. Demidov said that he and his fellow diplomats sit back on the Diplomats Day every year, and analyse their performance in the past year and recall all that they achieved through diplomacy.

The consul-general said that the Russian government was working on strengthening its diplomatic ties with Pakistan, and hoped that the countries can work together and achieve great things. “Our Senate chief, Valentina Matvienko, would visit Pakistan by the end of this month or in the first week of March. She would discuss a range of issues, including developmental projects and diplomatic relations [with Pakistani authorities.” She added that Russian President Vladimir Putin would also soon visit Pakistan.

Demidov added that the Russian government would invest $500 million on upgrading the Pakistan Steel Mill. Coincidentally, it was with Russia’s help that Pakistan had built the steel mill in the 1970s. The Russian official also hoped that the two countries could also trade in leather goods and surgical instruments. However, Demidov acknowledged that “security was a big issue which made Russian businessmen hesitant in investing in Pakistan”.

Ruslan Khayrullin, a visa officer at the consulate, told The Express Tribune that Russian authorities had set fairly easy conditions for Pakistani citizens who wanted to visit Russia on a tourist visa. “We have made the tourist visa process very easy for Pakistani citizens, and they can visit Russia more easily than other countries.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • G. Din
    Feb 13, 2013 - 5:46PM

    Tashkent is where we lost our PM Lal Bahadur Shastri through an untimely death. Some say he was murdered. Russian doctor refused to issue his death certificate. Was it because the good and honest doctor would have had to describe the cause of his death which he was not allowed to do?
    We have not forgotten!
    Earlier we had lost another great patriot, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee on Sheikh Abdullah’s surgical table! Had we listened to him and stood by him, Kashmir would not have bled us as much as it has. It might have even avoided 12-year incarceration of Abdullah!
    In both cases, it was the Nehru clan which asked us to absorb the heart-stopping pummeling we had received, ostensibly for the sake of the country, actually as it turned out for their own self-serving ends.
    We will never forget!

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  • Sanjay
    Feb 14, 2013 - 8:46PM

    @G. Din
    Completely agree. Shashtri ji was the best prime minister that we had so far. His honesty & integrity still inspires us. Following are some points on the great soul.

    . Shastri’s father died when he was only an year old. He went through hardships for studies. As a child he used to cross the Ganga river by swimming as he could not afford the boat fair.
    . He belonged to the Kayastha caste, dropped his surname Srivastava as it indicated his caste and he was against the caste system, a major principle of the Gandhian movement.
    . Kuldip Nayar, Shastriji’s media advisor from 1960 to 1964, recalls that, during the Quit India Movement, his daughter was ill and he was released on parole from jail. However, he could not save her life because doctors had prescribed costly drugs. He was already a home minister of India in earlier (Known as Police minister, then). Later on in 1963, on the day when he was dropped from the cabinet, he was sitting in his home in the dark, without a light. When asked about the reason, he said as he no longer is a minister, all expenses will have to be paid by himself and that as a MP and minister he didn’t earn enough to save for time of need.

    . While speaking on the chronic food shortages across the country, Shastri urged people to voluntarily give up one meal so that the saved food could be distributed to the affected populace. People being respectful to his honest actually did this. (This was told to me by my late grandfather that in his village when there was no roads/electricity & onle two/three radios in the whole village, they too escaped meal as per his appeal. I wish we had such leaders today. )

    . During the 22-day war with Pakistan in 1965, Shastri created the slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”), underlining the need to boost India’s food production.

    . When he died as a ruling prime minister he still had some loan installments pending against his name, which he had applied to buy a car.

    He truly was among greatest sons of India.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 15, 2013 - 1:09AM

    @Sanjay:
    Here is another vignette from his life.
    He stood at all of 5 feet 2 inches in height. And, we all know what a mountain of a man self-appointed Field marshal Ayub Khan was. At their meeting not long before 1965, the Field Marshall roared: Shastri saheb, ek ishare ki zaroorat hai (at just a signal from me) whole of GT Road (from Lahore to Amritsar) shall be lined with Pakistani tanks. Without batting an eyelid, Shastri ji replied:”Ayub Saheb, kar ke aazmaayiye (Test it by doing it)”.
    In 1965, Pakistani Army and Ayub had assumed that Indian Army would not cross the international boarder when they tried to choke the “chicken-neck” of India in Jammu and Kashmir during Operation Gibraltar. That was the blunder they could never recover from when Indian Army showed up on the outskirts of Lahore.
    As far as the “threat” of tanks, hundreds of state-of-the-art Patton tanks crossed the border only to be surrendered to the WWII vintage Shermans and Centurions of the Indian Army.

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