A sitting member of the Rajya Sabha has a simple advice for Pakistan and India: talk. Otherwise, Mani Shankar Aiyar said here on Thursday, relations between the two countries cannot improve.
“Let us give peace a chance and continue talking to each other because I guarantee that not talking will lead us nowhere,” said Aiyar while speaking at a seminar “India and Pakistan: Retrospect and Prospect” organised by the Jinnah Institute.
Aiyar, who is also a former diplomat and is credited with coining the now officially used term “uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue process”, gave reasons why India and Pakistan cannot afford a confrontation.
Aiyar has served as a minister in the union cabinet for petroleum and natural gas, youth affairs and sports, and development of the northern region. He served in the Indian Foreign Service for 26 years, during which he was the consul general of India in Karachi from 1978 to 1982.
The veteran Indian politician said terrorism remains an impediment towards establishing sustainable peace. However, he said, the two countries need to talk and formalise a joint strategy to fight the menace.
“India needs to cooperate with Pakistan to fight terrorism at both regional and international level. Public perception in India is changing; people have started realizing that Pakistan suffers more from terrorism than they do.” Aiyar said India has moved on from the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and is ready for talks on all issues.
He disagreed with President Zardari’s decision of not sending Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief to India for investigations into the Mumbai attacks, saying that it could have served as a big confidence-building step.
He said the confrontation between Pakistan’s presidency and judiciary in 2007 put the then ongoing constructive dialogue on all political issues between the two countries on a backburner; and then the Mumbai attacks extinguished the burner.
However, Aiyar expressed hope in the upcoming visit of Pakistan’s judicial commission to India. He praised the present Pakistani government for making decisive moves towards normalising Indo-Pak trade, and hoped that both countries could realistically become each other’s most favoured nation.
He regretted that many potential breakthroughs in the past to establish long-term peaceful relations have been wasted by both countries. He referred to India pulling out of the India-Pakistan-Iran (IPI) gas pipeline project and Pakistan’s failure to open its consulate in Bombay in the early 1980s while India established one in Karachi.
Answering questions from the audience which comprised retired army generals, diplomats and academics, Aiyar said Pakistanis often complain of India not talking to civilian governments in Pakistan. “Frankly, you do not leave us with many options,” he said, adding that India talks to civilian governments whenever they are in power in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2012.