ISLAMABAD: Former Indian minister and senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Thursday said Pakistan and India can find common ground in their suffering in the hands of terrorism.

“We may have common ground in our pain and suffering, something which we have not explored earlier,” Mr Khurshid, who held the external affairs portfolio in the last Congress government, said while speaking at Jinnah Institute’s distinguished speaker series.

Terrorism has since 9/11 emerged as a major irritant in the perpetually strained Pakistan-India ties. Both the countries accuse each other of sponsoring terrorism.

The two sides had at the meeting of their prime ministers in Ufa (Russia) on July 10 agreed to hold dialogue on terrorist threats but the meeting could not be held because of differences over the issues that could be included in the agenda and Islamabad’s insistence on a meeting with Kashmiri leaders.

Mr Khurshid said terrorism was a common enemy and the sense of victimhood could bring the two countries closer.

He recalled that Pakistan itself had suffered a lot due to terrorism in which it lost tens of thousands of citizens besides billions of rupees in economic losses.

He praised Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts at home. The former Indian minister also asked New Delhi to support Pakistan in its quest for stability.

“The answer for our (India’s) future lies in a stable successful Pakistan. We will be the biggest beneficiary,” he said, adding India would have to ensure that it did not weaken the democratic leadership in Pakistan.

Mr Khurshid regretted that the BJP government had done little to engage Pakistan despite Islamabad’s overtures.

He noted that the bilateral dialogue on contentious issues had the best opportunity when BJP was in power because then there was no opposition to peace with Pakistan.

The Indian leader criticised BJP for not having any policy, including on Kashmir.

“Had BJP got a policy on Kashmir it would not have made an alliance with PDP (People’s Democratic Party) because the two do not have anything in common,” he maintained.

Mr Khurshid quipped that Prime Minister Modi was still learning how to be a statesman and that he was not only holding back the region but India as well.

He hoped that the Bihar defeat would force a rethink in the BJP government about the way it was being run.

The former Indian foreign minister said both the countries should review and reflect on all issues.

“Given the histories etched deep in our psyches, it is imperative that we re-imagine this strained relationship,” he said.

Former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar said the past year had seen a number of setbacks for India-Pakistan relations. He said trade between Pakistan and India would be favourable for both the sides, but it was an unfortunate reality that the economic and regional connectivity in South Asia continued to be held hostage to political stalemate.

Jinnah Institute’s president and former ambassador to the United States Senator Sherry Rehman warned that the strong public consensus in Pakistan for improved relations with India was breaking down due to conditionality and stark messaging by New Delhi.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2015

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