WHENEVER ties sour between Pakistan and India, people-to-people contact is the first casualty. It is a matter of concern for all those who desire friendship and harmony between the two neighbours that the Indian government has asked PIA to vacate its offices in Delhi.
As reported on Monday, the Indian authorities have apparently caught the flag carrier out on a technicality. India’s Directorate of Enforcement has asked PIA to “dispose of” its real estate in Delhi as its purchase was “unauthorised”. Also, the carrier’s staffers in the Indian capital are facing problems in extending their visas.
If the Indian authorities feel there are genuine legal issues with PIA’s real estate purchases, it is difficult to comprehend why the issue has been raised nearly a decade after the properties were acquired.
Assuming that the Indian government is right on a point of technicality, we must nonetheless accept that when it comes to Indo-Pak relations, there are more than just legal or administrative details involved — there is always a deeper context, one that is completely political.
Whether it is the case of the reopening of Pakistan’s consulate in Mumbai, the suspension of Indian carriers’ flights to Pakistan or even the closure of the Indian consulate in Karachi, it is politics on both sides that mostly guides such decisions.
Relations between the states have of course been frosty ever since the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Yet India’s establishment has adopted a more aggressive posture after Narendra Modi’s coming to power last year.
PIA’s flights to India are now the only direct air links between the two states. Should this vital link be broken, travellers from either country wishing to visit the other by air will have to take a cumbersome, expensive detour through a third country.
Pakistan’s high commissioner in Delhi has said the issue has been taken up with the Indian authorities. We hope it is resolved at the earliest. The people of South Asia deserve a better future based on friendship; for that to happen, the communication lines must be kept open.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2015