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Published: June 6, 2013
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Mr Aiyar’s statement must be welcomed on both sides of the border. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

Mr Aiyar’s statement must be welcomed on both sides of the border. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

The seasoned Congress leader and India’s well-known dove Mani Shankar Aiyarhas made some bold remarks at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. He has reminded his countrymen that it is time to change how they view Pakistan. Citing the recent developments in Pakistan, he has rightly pointed out that Pakistani public opinion and its political discourse does not view India as an enemy. More importantly, the generations, which witnessed the horrors of the 1947 Partition, have given way to a younger population, which has a different set of aspirations.

Mr Aiyar’s statement must be welcomed on both sides of the border. Such voices of sanity must be heard and especially his correct perception that the “visceral anti-Indianism of a previous generation is almost out of the picture now”. He also challenged the orthodox perceptions in India that  “since the Pakistanis have been hostile in the past, they are necessarily hostile now.” While Aiyar’s detractors will refute these assertions, the objective conditions in Pakistan lend much credence to his point of view.

During the May 2013 elections, India and the Kashmir issue barely figured in the electoral campaigns. Not a single political party raised India as a bogey, as Pakistan has witnessed a rare consensus on moving ahead with the peace process. Even the right-wing political parties are committed to this goal. Similarly, most of Pakistan’s business lobbies are also tilted in favour of extending trade ties with their Indian counterparts. Last year’s progress has already impacted the trade volume as the recent figures record a noticeable surge. Lastly, Pakistan’s powerful military has prodded along this civilian consensus and appears to be on board in terms of improving ties with India.

Aiyar also spoke of the challenges that Nawaz Sharif may face and cited his previous record in office. His prognosis on the way forward once again is spot-on. The best way forward is to ensure that there is “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” dialogue between India and Pakistan.

We hope that Mr Aiyar’s remarks are also heard in India and the democratic impulses of its citizens are noted. It is time to shed the stereotypes about Pakistan as India’s enemy.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2013.                                                                                          

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Toticalling
    Jun 6, 2013 - 10:41PM

    That is a good news. In my view majority of Pakistanis want good relations with India. WE must, however, make sure that these feelings are converted into reality. I know majority of Indians have a very negative image about Pakistan, particularly after Bombay attacks in 2008. But we have to try harder to win their hearts. Alternative is bleak

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  • Manju
    Jun 6, 2013 - 11:57PM

    Lastly, Pakistan’s powerful military has prodded along this civilian consensus and appears to be on board in terms of improving ties with India.
    And there lies the exact problem…. The editorial’s wishful thinking that the Pakistani military’s opinion coincides with that of the civilian leadership is far from reality… Just to remind the editorial – Mumbai carnage happened even when Pakistan was ‘suffering’ from its ‘strategic assets’.
    Please don’t misread me and i am all for friendship between my nation and Pakistan but we Indians simply don’t think Pakistan’s powerful ( now i need to reread the definition of powerful) military is in any way near being trusted in India… Due thanks – 1947, 1965, 1971, 1992, 1999, 2008… No sir, Pakistan is yet to give us a reason to trust her…. What Mr. Menon basically meant was the people and ordinary citizens of Pakistan understand that animosity with India wont benefit Pakistan but the actual question is – Does the Pakistani military leadership appreciate the importance of not escalating the situation with India???? Does it really really appreciate it??

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  • Vikrant
    Jun 7, 2013 - 1:00AM

    Going further from what @Manju said, It will take (at the very least) a few generations more for there to be any real trust (forget “friendship”) to develop between the two countries. And during that time, there can NOT (repeat: cannot) be any of the likes of Mumbai 26/11 etc etc. But can that sort of a thing ever happen? We are talking about a period of at least a good 30 years or so. Each time such a thing would happen, we are back to ZERO and then, add yet another 30-40 years!! — I am sorry to say this, but I think the word “pipe-dream” comes to mind right now!

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    Jun 7, 2013 - 1:47AM

    In taking note of Mr. Aiyar’s statement, ET’s Editorial rightly termed him a dove & there are many in Pakistan, but we on the both sides of the LoC should neutralize the hawks & there are innumerable over there. Yes,Kashmir was not even rarely mentioned during elections campaign,which gives clear indication that Pakistan is desirous of settling all lingering issues through peaceful dialogue, sitting across the table with Bharat.The boggy of terrorism, time & again raised by Bharat is now a hackneyed cliche to create a smoke screen to avoid counter allegations by Pakistan what is happening in Balochistan & FATA in the form of proxy war.While discussing peace overtures one would not like to open the wounds of “East Pakistan” tragedy which will always remain a thorn in the heart of Pakistan.As if it was not enough,the second round was planned & started in Blochistan & FATA.Bharat must come out of the clutches of their hawks & let us first resolve our issues & start living like good friends,though not so simple as it sounds, & mutual trade & much more will follow.Imagine the benefits both the neighboring countries will enjoy.Lastly,Mr. Aariya ,please keep up what you have embarked on & one day both the countries will jointly reap the harvest of your sincere efforts!!

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  • abc
    Jun 7, 2013 - 4:15AM

    Mani Shankar Aiyar, Pakistan’s Ambassador to India. Whole India on one side and Mr Aiyar on another side. We all will love to see a normal relations between two countries. However, can this happen with Hafiz Saeeds, Zaid Hamids , Seikh Rashids and Hamid Guls ? How about starting by respecting our common freedom struggle heros like Bhagat Singh, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan etc ? I will mention Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan in particular. he was one of the greatest Muslims world has ever produced. His teachings have more relevance today than ever. He deserves better treatment in Pakistan’s history. Pakistan needs more and more people like Mahmood Achakzei.

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    Jun 7, 2013 - 5:24AM

    Bharat needs more people like Mani Shankar Aiyar & peace will be guaranteed.Pakistan have many, such as Hafiz Saeed,Zaid Hamid, Sheikh Rashid & Hamid Gul to walk hand in hand with him………But,there is a BIG……………….” IF”………………HOPE AGAINST HOPE!!!

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  • vasan
    Jun 7, 2013 - 6:58AM

    Trust but verify. Is Pak army included in Aiyer’s opinion about the current thinking among pakistanis. Can any one in Pakistan vouch for that ??

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  • Mirza
    Jun 7, 2013 - 8:52AM

    With the baggage of partition and even the 65 war is gone, the younger generation is ready to have good relations with neighbors. There is a lot more in common between the young people of India and Pakistan and they know full well that it is progress, peace and modernity that is their future not wars and hate. Let us keep home alive.

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  • F
    Jun 7, 2013 - 9:50AM

    Unless the country makes a basic change in its orientation from religion and sees itself as Pakistan first, peace within and without will remain a challenge. Despite Mani Aiyar’s hopes, poll after poll shows that vast majority of Pakistanis see India as their supreme enemy (including the US). Add to this the visceral hatred of the “strategic assets” created and exported by the powerful armed forces. When the religious impulse to dominate India subsides, long term peace will prevail. Until then the romantic and the young in India are free to learn the bitter lessons of history the hard way.

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  • Jayant M
    Jun 7, 2013 - 10:52AM

    Friendship between India and Pakistan is a pipe dream after 65 years and will continue to remain so in the future. And that is how things should be. I d rather we reduced the diplomatic relations between the two countries and the best to hope for is studied neglect in our relations and strengthening of the electrified fence between the two countries.

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  • antanu
    Jun 7, 2013 - 12:44PM

    The problem in India is that unless we blame Pakistan for every wrongs, we can not be treated as PATRIOTIC. Otherwise there have been so many positive developments in Pakistan which could be strengthen through our positive response.Despite all our ranting about religious extremism been seeped into Pakistani Society, election results present an entirely different picture. Religious parties were routed by the people. In fact religious parties were never strong in Pak Parliament.Then how we can blame an entire nation to be religiously extremist? .Instead through our pre-set concept, we always try to antagonize and subsequently send wrong signals to Pakistanis that we really hate Pakistan. Mr.Iyer must be congratulated for his thinking.Though he is aware of the perils….of being perceived as anti-national.

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  • abc
    Jun 7, 2013 - 4:22PM

    @antanu: Do you think Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) is not a religious party? Did you hear Mr Sharrif taking oath how being a Muslim was emphasized so much in oath taking?

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  • Rashid
    Jun 7, 2013 - 6:23PM

    @abc

    Talking about Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, he was not liked or approved by Quaid-e-Azam.
    And that’s good enough for us.

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  • ramanan
    Jun 7, 2013 - 8:52PM

    Let Pakistan change the syllabus in their schools where in the name of Islamiat , fabricated history and anti-hindu pedagogy is taught.

    Let a new generation brought up on a truthful account of history come up, we can then have better relations. People like aiyer are a curse on India.

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  • Nero
    Jun 7, 2013 - 9:31PM

    @ k. Salim Jahangir: Just yesterday an Indian soldier was killed in firing on the LoC in Kashmir. Pakistan army has categorically said it was not involved in any firing. So who was involved? Mountain goats? Here goes your “hackneyed cliché”. Do you expect us to believe that firing went on for over an hour at the most militarized border in the world, including mortar firing, and Pakistan army didn’t even know who is involved. Please spare us the clichés!

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  • gp65
    Jun 8, 2013 - 1:49AM

    Mani Shankar Iyer lost his last election and is not even taken seriously by Congress these days. India wants peace based on mutual give and take but not appeasement based on unilateral give-aways.

    Mr. Aiyar’s opinion does not match with facts however. Such as
    – a resolution by Pakistan’s parliament supporting a convicted Indian terrorist involved in trying to attack Indian parliament while in session.
    – deliberately spreading lies that India is stealing water when India has won all disputes taken to the arbitration panel by Pakistan
    – establishment support for organizations like DPC
    – no action against 26/11 pepetrators
    – no reciprocation of India’s MFN and visa liberalisation initiatives by Pakistan

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  • truthbetold
    Jun 8, 2013 - 3:29AM

    @Rashid:

    “Talking about Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, he was not liked or approved by Quaid-e-Azam.
    And that’s good enough for us.”

    The only reason Jinnah did not “like” Ghaffer Kahn was because, Khan opposed the Partition. Due to his opposition, most Paktoons boycotted the referendum, rendering it a farce. Once the partition was decided, Khan wanted self-determination for the Paktoons.

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    Jun 8, 2013 - 3:40AM

    Some people wake up very late to delve into certain sordid affairs which one would not like to reopen. The Samjhota Express is one such tragedy of recent times which is still fresh in the minds of people & how many should one retrace.Can any one deny that a serving officer of their army was involved & supervised the operation.Such are the hawks who don’t let friendship to flourish between the two neighbors.Since one had embarked on tracing the passage of friendship,let us bury the hatchet here & keep marching towards the ray of hope & the light in the tunnel which to one is visible,unless put off by the hawks from the other side……..Tragic.

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  • Jun 8, 2013 - 7:20AM

    samjhauta express was a reactionary step. But the difference is that perpetrators of samjhauta express have been caught and punished ( behind bars). Blame game never helps to resolve the issue. Trade ties( beneficial to both) will help improve the .relations.

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  • Komal S
    Jun 8, 2013 - 9:22AM

    Mr. Iyer has been talking about normalization even the day after Mumbai incident. Not saying his intentions are bad but it is not realistic. Every nation needs people who think different and he brings that perspective on Pakistan. The common people in both India and Pakistan would like normal relationship. But their respective Governments should take steps that responds to this need. Common Indians would like to see Pakistan take action against terrorists targeting India. treat it’s minorities better, Most Indians have no problem with Pakistani ambitions on nuclear parity with India, working with China to check India, raising water issues, focus on Kashmir issue. As a sovereign nation it has every right to take care of it’s interest and it’s people. India will do everything to counter/co-operate on these initiatives as it sees appropriate from it’s perspective.

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  • truthbetold
    Jun 8, 2013 - 12:00PM

    While peace should be the ultimate goal, one can’t lose sight of reality. A country has to base its geopolitical decisions, based not on emotionalism and dovish attitude but on the historical action of the “adversaries”. Nehru, like Manishankar, did his “Indi-chini bhai bhai” euphoria. What the Chinese did right after that is known history. Dovish attitude without a big stick is liable to be mistake for cowardice and weakness.

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