I am much disappointed (Note: I write this before news of what happened at the Retreat on the second day of the Summit in Kathmandu) as one who believes that Pakistan and India simply have to move to a better place for the sake of obviating any chances of a conflagration between the two nuclear armed adversaries. Indeed, so that both countries spend less on the weapons of war and destruction and more on development, and on the uplift of the poor people of the subcontinent.
The disappointment comes from seeing the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers staying away from each other, and not even exchanging pleasantries; but little wonder given the angry, almost rancorous rhetoric coming out of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Little wonder again, considering that the fiery Ms Sushma Swaraj is the foreign minister of India.
In my piece in The News of July 21, 2001, trying to recap what happened during the Agra Summit and why it just simply imploded, I quoted from Dr Aijaz Ahmad in Frontline, the excellent English newspaper The Hindu’s magazine, as follows: “What had gone wrong? First of all, the utter lack of preparation especially on India’s part … when Musharraf started demonstrating his flexibility we were bewildered. He could do so (we were told) … because he was absolute ruler whereas a democratically elected prime minister could not take any such steps without consultations. But virtually the whole government was there in Agra: Home, Defence, External Affairs, Finance, Commerce, Information, what have you. Why was a situation allowed to develop in which Pakistanis were briefing the media … while Indian officials gave no briefings, except the wilfully disastrous one by Sushma Swaraj who simply hijacked the prerogatives of the MEA?”
I concluded: “The fact is that we came within a whisker of an agreement. How then can Agra be negated so completely? It is heartening of course, to note that Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and his foreign minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, are repeatedly saying that the summit was not ‘unsuccessful’, meaning what else but that it can be built upon later. We can only pray that that happens.” Well, as it happens, Ms Swaraj is the foreign minister today while Mr Singh is out in the wilderness having been hounded out of his own party.
Peacenik though I am, I have to say I agree with our prime minister that, after needlessly and arbitrarily cancelling the foreign secretary-level talks scheduled to be held as a result of Mr Sharif’s meeting with Mr Modi on the occasion of Mr Modi’s swearing-in as India’s prime minister, it is now up to India to take the first step in initiating fresh steps towards trying to resolve the differences between the two countries.
I can only hope that this happens sooner rather than later, and that both countries address that most frequent cause of conflict: violations along the Line of Control (LoC). I repeat myself here: the fact is that there exists an international body put in place by the United Nations called the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which is physically present in India and Pakistan, for precisely this purpose.
We have to note of course, that whilst we allow members of the UNMOGIP to go where they please along the LoC, India does not. Indeed, it has asked the UNMOGIP to move out from a house provided to the observers in Delhi under the pretext that its role has been “overtaken by the Simla Agreement and the establishment of the LoC”. What could be further from the truth? Repeating myself again, the Simla Agreement in no way bars either country from seeking third-party arbitration.
Let me add, and I have said this in the past too, several times on Indian television channels: in cases of LoC violations, let both countries have flag meetings at the appropriate level at the scene of the violations and form joint inquiry boards to investigate the incidents. I am sure the officers of both armies are honourable enough to say it like it is. Both countries have to grow up and act in mature fashion, not merely strike attitudes.
Let me add here and now, that the Mumbai terrorist attacks must be brought to closure by speeding up the court proceedings here in Pakistan. If people are found to be guilty let them be punished; if they are innocent let them be released, but for God’s sake let us leave the acrimonious past behind and move on.
To end, it was amusing to read the other day a Pakistani ‘security official’ saying that the Islamic State (IS) was not present in Pakistan because it hadn’t yet announced the name of its representative in Pakistan. Meaning what, good sir? That the IS had not yet gone to the Securities and Exchange Commission in Islamabad and filed the Articles and Memorandum of Association? That it hadn’t yet got itself an NTN (National Tax Number) from the Federal Board of Revenue?
If multifarious ‘groups’ of murderers and savages can kill people of other religious persuasions and sects with the impunity with which Christians and Hindus and Sikhs and Ahmadis and Shias are being killed in our country, merely for the reason that they do not subscribe to a particular faith or denomination, then the IS in all its (in the words of our FO) ‘forms and manifestations’: ISIL; ISIS; Daesh, has been around for too long now.
All it really needs to do is to gather all of the above-mentioned murderers and savages under one flag by pumping in the money it is making selling captured oil on the black market; dress them all in black; and with the added strength go all out doing what they do: killing and murdering all who come in their way.
Incidentally, a report has it that a person named Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost was behind the wall-chalking and posters and bumper-stickers announcing the arrival of the IS/Daesh in Pakistan. Could he be the ‘representative’ of the IS in Pakistan? What more incentive is needed for us to be more than prepared for the coming mayhem if the murderous organisation does set up office here?
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2014.