Despite hesitant overtures by both countries, lasting peace between Pakistan and India now seems as distant as ever. On August 27, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signalled his willingness to continue talks despite Pakistan’s alleged involvement in attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan. The prime minister is right to worry about Pakistan’s actions and sensible to use negotiations rather than just rhetoric to express these concerns. While Dr Singh’s pursuit of diplomacy is laudable, the outstanding issues between the two countries will require action. And much of the groundwork will have to be done by Pakistan. For instance, there is no progress on the case against seven members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba arrested in Pakistan for alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
Furthermore, allegations on the continued link between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban remain and that the latter are being used as some kind of asset to ward off India’s perceived ‘evil designs’ on Afghanistan seem to be surfacing too often and many important people in foreign capitals tend to at least partially believe them. At the very least, the perception that Islamabad turns a blind eye to the activities and presence of the Afghan Taliban inside its territory is quite strong. Whether active aid or malign neglect, this has to change, if peace with India is our ultimate aim. Dr Singh has been quoted as saying that India faces three barriers in its quest to become a world power: energy, education and Pakistan. Pakistan, meanwhile, will need to import food for years to come because of the devastating floods, and India would be the cheapest country from which to get these imports. Everything else aside, self-interest alone calls for fraternal relations between India and Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2010.
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