Pak-India ties: Too fast, too dramatic, too good to be true

IT HAS now become too difficult to keep up with the pace with which India and Pakistan are hurtling along the road to peace. The pace is so dizzying that one cannot even say with any degree of certainty whether all this rushing over and dashing around is leading the two countries anywhere; or it is all perhaps a matter of running in circles. Or still, the two governments have perhaps gone so far ahead on the road to peace that the media and the public at large have lost sight of them.

By A Masroor

Published: Mon 13 Jun 2005, 10:17 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:16 PM

In the last ten days or so, too many dramatic developments bordering on the unbelievable have taken place on the peace front. These developments defy analysis and interpretation. One is still at a loss to fathom India’s leader of parliamentary opposition, Lal Krishan Advani’s motive behind his sensational declarations and admissions when he was in Pakistan earlier this month. And what is even more incomprehensible to most Pakistanis, who have very little idea about the Hindutva ideology based on Akhand Bharat (indivisible greater India stretching from Afghanistan up to Myanmar and including present Pakistan and Bangladesh) is the hostile response he has invited from his own party and larger Sangh Parivar by praising Quaid-e-Azam and regretting the demolition of Babri Mosque.

More stunning are the developments on Kashmir front. While the launching of bus service was considered to be historic and a real precursor to genuine peace in the region, the arrival of Hurriyat leaders in Pakistan can only be regarded as a bolt out of the blue. Something for which one was not prepared at all or which one did not expect to happen so soon. However, the fact that it did happen should be regarded as an unprecedented goodwill gesture on the part of India. A magnanimous gesture, to be sure.

And to hear these Hurriyat leaders say on the soil of Pakistan that their land should not be partitioned on the basis of religion and that there was need to explore other options as well for a permanent solution of the Kashmir dispute, rather than sticking to the demand for the implementation of UN resolutions is as staggeringly heartening as listening to Advani praise Quaid-e- Azam for his September 11, 1947 speech to Pakistan’s first constituent assembly and asking India and Bangladesh to model their secularism on the lines drawn up by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Though the visit of Indian Petroleum Minister, Mani Shanker Aiyar to Pakistan earlier last week was a scheduled one, his presence here at a time when Hurriyat leaders and Advani were also touring Pakistan had lent a sense of whirlwind to the peace process. Not only this. His visit had seemingly taken the negotiations on the gas pipeline project, which is still to be okayed by the US, and signed by Iran, Pakistan, and India to a noticeably advanced stage.

And Aiyar also seems to have succeeded in tempting Pakistan into taking a closer look at New Delhi’s offer to sell 325,000 tones of diesel from its Panipat refinery from October this year. And there was not even an indirect mention of making these projects conditional to Pakistan offering India the MFN status.

What is going on? Are the two countries moving forward according to a mutually agreed and well-rehearsed script? It is difficult to answer this question at this juncture when history is being made. History is also being defied —a history of a millennium of hatred and hostility between two great communities of South Asia. Now all of a sudden they seem to have decided to leave behind the past, full of acrimony and animosity and build a future of peace and prosperity. Indeed, all this appears to be too dramatic, too sudden and too good to be true. But perhaps that is how history is made.

A large part of the credit for these inconceivable developments in South Asia and for the fast pace with which they are happening must go to the hard liners on the two sides of the divide. Both have softened their long held hard positions. When the Advanis of India talk to Pakistanis in the language of Arundhati Roys and when Pervez Musharrafs of Pakistan talk like Asma Jehangirs while negotiating with the Indians, then it is time to be optimistic.

And to be sure, it was the hardline Indians led by BJP who first sent their then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1999 to Lahore to break the 57-year-old ice and sign the Lahore declaration and then announce at the Minar-e-Pakistan that the partition was irreversible. And then despite Kargil in the following February and the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar in December the same year, the BJP government displayed a rare degree of self confidence by inviting Musharraf to Agra in July 2001 and then it once again reopened on its own in April 2003 the doors for talks which the BJP government itself had closed down following the attack on Indian parliament in December 2001. And finally the BJP government sent prime minister Vajpayee once again on peace yatra to Pakistan in January 2004.

On this side of the border, it was Musharraf who, in the joint statement of January 2004 repudiated the very jihad which the Army he leads had designed and sustained in Kashmir over the past decade. And again it was the Pak leader who after having insisted for almost three years that Confidence Building Measures without resolving Kashmir would not work and that composite dialogue of 1997 and Shimla accord of 1972 did not tackle the core Kashmir issue, withdrew his opposition to all three of them when he signed the Islamabad joint statement. And since then things are moving too fast for comprehension. Let’s hope all this leads to enduring peace and prosperity in the subcontinent.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad

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