ISLAMABAD: Senior Indian journalist Ashok Malik, speaking at a talk organised by think tank Jinnah Institute on Friday, said most ordinary Indians want peace with Pakistan.
“However, it appears that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is not a priority for the Modi government,” he said.
Referring to a survey carried out in India, Mr Malik said 89 per cent Indians want peace with Pakistan and 72 per cent believe in the restoration of trading ties.
He said that 20 years ago, if there was shelling at the borders, the media would not give it much importance. Today, however, it is a major issue which is highlighted in the media.
“There are 500 news channels in India which debate important issues and play a major role in shaping public opinion,” he said.
Indian visitors discuss relations with Pakistan
Mr Malik explained that over the last 10 years, discussion on Pakistan does not feature prominently in the media.
India has trading and other kinds of relationships with Nepal, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Bhutan and other countries but not with Pakistan. So, the younger generation does not give importance to Pakistan,” he said.
“However this situation can be used as an opportunity to resolve the issues between the two countries,” he said.
Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public Affairs and Critical Theory Siddharth Varadarajan said that the Indian leadership realised that little engagement with Pakistan was better than no engagement and the Indian foreign secretary’s visit to Islamabad this week has set the stage for an improved relationship between India and Pakistan.
Sharing his views on the performance of the Modi government since 2014, Mr Siddharth said Prime Minister Modi should be appreciated for increasing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) electoral vote share from 18 per cent in 2009 to 32 per cent in 2014.
“India’s recent election has not been fought along communal lines. The support and backing of corporate India was also a key element in Prime Minister Modi’s rise to power, however one of Modi’s greatest challenges in proceeding ahead was mitigating social tensions in diverse constituencies. The more Mr. Modi’s supporters pursue hardliner policies, the greater would be the chances of social disharmony in Indian society,” he said.
“In the past, the corporate sector used to support Congress but after the 2G, 3G scams and a number of scandals, they were disappointed. Moreover Modi, during election campaign, hardly discussed cultural issues and mostly used the slogan of ‘development’. The youth was attracted by this slogan,” he said.
He said that in India, there was a general impression that Modi was only making announcements.
Moreover, he is not utilising the power of the media.
Discussing recent transformations in Indian politics, the speakers noted that while it was true the ‘Modi surge’ beginning in November 2013 had pushed the Congress to the sidelines of Indian politics, the Delhi election symbolised a huge loss for the BJP.
Published in Dawn March 7th, 2015