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Improving ties


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IN an interview with an Indian news channel a day after presenting his credentials to the Indian president, Salman Bashir, the new high commissioner to India, has said that “the atmospherics have witnessed a sea change” in the relationship between Pakistan and India. Mr Bashir may well be right and in a relationship as fraught and contentious as the one between the two South Asian neighbours ‘atmospherics’ are nothing to be scoffed at. However, there is a sense that rather than Mr Bashir’s upbeat assessment, the relationship is drifting again. Trade negotiations have been bogged down in minutiae, a more liberal visa regime has seemingly been stalled and there’s next to nothing to show on the fiendishly more difficult fronts: Kashmir, Siachen and terrorism.

Perhaps what can reinvigorate the push for normalisation of ties between India and Pakistan is the much talked about but never quite near enough visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan. Intransigence and stubbornness of the security and foreign-policy establishments on both sides is almost a given, so it comes down to finding someone who can rise about the calcified and ossified positions of old and drag ties forward. Throughout his tenure as prime minister, Mr Singh has appeared to be the man who could possibly make it happen — but time is running out. Weakened domestically and unable to find a partner in Pakistan who is willing to meet him half way, the space for Prime Minister Singh to manoeuvre on Pakistan has certainly diminished a great deal. Here on the Pakistani side, the demand for ‘progress on all fronts’ has been wielded as a soft veto by the army-led security establishment on improving trade and visa relations. The thought behind that may well be that when Pakistan first signalled its intention to move ahead on certain subjects, it hoped that India would reciprocate by offering talks and the hope of stepping back from rigid Indian positions on other subjects. But then the Indian side appeared to want to keep the focus of the talks narrow and Pakistan’s interest diminished.

Certainly, from the Indian side, the shadow of the Mumbai attacks still lingers and a significant gesture from Pakistan — expediting the trial of the suspects here perhaps — is yet to come. The weight of history means that both sides have a thousand and one reasons to not genuinely seek a full peace with one another. So officials like Prime Minister Singh, so obviously and so genuinely interested in peace with Pakistan, do not come about often. He should follow his instinct. Roll the dice: visit Pakistan. Of such gestures is history sometimes made.

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Comments (15) Closed

shouvik Jul 17, 2012 05:13pm
As long as Pakistani military is controlling its Foreign policy, nothing will happen.
antony Jul 17, 2012 10:36am
Editor saab , Do you know the latest news of ATC rejecting the collective efforts of Pakistan and Indian investigating agencies report on mumbai attack with kasab confession report + youtube clips of kasab and co firing on indians? .. If Pakistani key people reject a responsibile human approach ,then I as a young South Indian who knows not much about pakistan will only be sucked into negative views of pakistan ..Lets keep a distance and forget we are neighbhours and continue for a decade .No meddling and follow pure tribal mindset against each other.
NORI Jul 17, 2012 03:41pm
The main problem in the Indo-Pak relations is the lack of trust. Interestingly, thanks to its various moves in the past, Pakistan is increasingly viewed with mistrust by the nations around the world. Pakistan should take up an image building exercise. It can do this by controlling leaders who spit hatred publicly and checking the increasing extremism in the Pakistani society. If Pakistan fails to do so, I don't see any reason for improvement in ties, after all, it's the "give and take policy" that works.
Irshad Ali Sanjrani Jul 17, 2012 01:17pm
I met with Indian company employees who they came to participate in "My Karachi" exhibition here in karachi from 13to15july, 2012. They were warm welcome and ask them about Pakistan even I also love them and they have invited me to visit mumbai. I believe in people to people contact, both parts people can pressurised the govt, officials. Dialogue on trade must be given priority. Both parts nation love each other just need a people to people contact thats the key to overcome on all the issues mutually.
Partha Jul 17, 2012 11:58am
How ever the sane minded people from both sides wants peaceful co existence,prosperity in this region,only Pakistan army can make this happen. As long as they think they have strategic depth using J ihadis to armtwist Indian establishment, nothing will happen. It will be a wild dream.
NASAH (USA) Jul 17, 2012 03:51pm
If it is not the government it is the judiciary -- judicial Pakistan seems to have no interest in curbing terrorism -- sometimes it makes the world feel it is on the side of the Taliban -- if not by commission - by omission.
MKB Jul 17, 2012 05:45am
"The weight of history means that both sides have a thousand and one reasons to not genuinely seek a full peace with one another." This is the reality, and it is better to live with it instead of making falls pressumsion of peace & freindship.
shankar Jul 17, 2012 05:53am
Quite a few in India, especially in Congress, want good relationship with Pakistan. But I am afraid the wounds of Mumbai are going to take a long time to heal. Mr. Manmohan Singh heads a coaling government and has his hands tied behind him. He can only go so far. There is a mood swell in India against even cricketing ties with Pakistan. The major reason seems to be the inaction on the part of Pakistan against the Mumbai attackers. This is seen in India as providing immunity to the perpetrators and encouraging such future attacks. India is finding it difficult to transition from the people who got butchered by a Pakistani team in Mumbai to a team that is willing to play friendly cricket matches with a Pakistani team. Unfortunately, most Indians have written off any chances of friendly ties with Pakistan in the near future..
Komal S Jul 17, 2012 06:39am
So Vajpayee visited pakistan what was the final outcome. Let us not over emphasize the Manmohan Singh visit to pakistan. I would rather have them make progress on visa issues, mumbai probe, trade issues, siachen and sir creek. Visits are just PR and india/pakistan need a lot more than PR.
razzmazz Jul 17, 2012 08:00am
I am an Indian and I fully second the comment above - no matter which side it came from.
@PaxTolerans Jul 17, 2012 11:13am
Pettiness must give way to sense & maturity. Sanguine attempts at it will definitely not be realistic but if Europe and the Americas can find excuses for peace then why can't we? Where theres will, theres always a way.
Indian Jul 17, 2012 09:22am
Trade relations that are most easy to accomplish could not be done by Pakistan. When DPC resents ANTO suppy openieing so much how could Pakistan more forward with India on anything. I think Indians because of maubai and Pakistanis because of " everything" are so polarised now that there is no way any middle path can be taken. Even if PM singh visits Pakistan , his own authority is so much weakened that it would not mean anyting.
(Dr.) B.N. Anand Jul 17, 2012 08:24pm
Sir, your editorial is a clear introspection of the recent efforts made and The progress made in certain areas of Indo-Pak relations. You would agree that Pakistan developed, for some reasons, cold feet when the time came to initial the agreements. So lot of time wasted, whether it was visa, trade or cricket. All these agreements have been put on the shelf for the time being. All that Pakistan wants is cricket, Siachen and Kashmir. There is no response to any Indian priority. This one way traffic can not take place. So better freeze the relations and put them in deep freezer. Thaw these relations at an opportune time. I think nothing good will come out of MMS visit. Look what happened after Vajpayee visited Pakistan. The Minar-e-Pakistan was washed with milk by a section of Pakistan society, as they thought that the monument has been soiled by his visit. MMS will not like to be snubbed. BNA BNA
PNP Jul 17, 2012 10:00pm
I think as long as there is no stable civilian govt. in Pakistan, and ALA there is no effective control of the army apparatus by the civilian govt. there, any interactions by the two nations will not succuseed. For, no civiianl govt in Pakistan can assure that the real power-holders of the country, i.e., the army, will honor whatever agreed upon by the two parties. The real gainer will be if they agree to leave each other alone, and go their own merry way. A complete absence of interaction or dialogue, for say 25 years, between the two will hopefully eventually help the current animosity to evaporate with the coming of a new generation.
Imran Jul 17, 2012 10:15pm
I agree. We dont want to mix with you either.