Indian Yatra: Meeting the other side
Ironically, we, the critics of the Pakistan government at home were defending its policies. I think this is what really took us by surprise. India is still suffering from trauma because of the Mumbai attack. Their sense of outrage as a nation has not subsided. And they expect us, as paroosis to do something about it.
We, eleven journalists from Pakistan, have been brought here not as tourists but as a sounding board for the Indian government and public. Our itinerary on the surface looked balanced. We have been given access to the top diplomats and policy implementers in the Indian government, as well as opinion makers and former members of their military and diplomatic corps.
Our 5 hours on the diplomatic treadmill began with their spokesman Vishnu Prakash, External Affairs Secretary Nirupama Rao and Exteral Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. Followed by lunch with media representatives at the Taj Man Singh and a call on Home Minister P. Chidambaram. This was followed by a lively discourse with the Observers Research Foundation (a forum of retired diplomats, military men and other bureaucrats conducting research on foreign policy, military and strategic relations etc.) India uses the corporate knowledge of her public servants and servicemen even after they retire.
The message and purpose was quite clear - Indian Prime Minister Singh has a vision for the region which cannot be achieved unless Pakistan is on board and for that it is key to engage with stakeholders at all levels, including journalists. The motivation at least on the surface is economic trade routes and trade benefits.
I think what we have all appreciated their frankness and one got a sense that our perspectives were vital. And ironically we, the critics of the Pakistan government at home were defending its policies. I think this is what really took us by surprise.
Another interesting observation: there were no barriers and we drove right up to the ministry building. A three star and a two star general's cavalcade consisting of two Ambassador cars with tinted windows and a rider were parked at the front. Gentlemen in white gloves appeared and served us fresh jamun juice, followed by delicious pastries and samosas, paneer tikkas and kebabs served on white and red China (all made in India because I checked). Indians walk everywhere. Public transport is used by the elite.
India is suffering from trauma because of the Mumbai attack. Their sense of outrage as a nation has not subsided. And they expect us as paroosis to do something about it. The delays are seen as reluctance.