By: Ali Hussain
Former Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday asserted that constructive and meaningful dialogue was possible only when Pakistan is ruled by the powerful military and India by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Speaking at Jinnah Institute’s distinguished speaker series here, the senior leader of the opposition Indian National Congress lamented that Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not responded to Pakistan’s overtures for peace in South Asia the way it should have.
“If I am not wrong, the best opportunity for constructive dialogue between the two countries would be when Pakistan is ruled by the army and India by the BJP,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the first civilian Pakistan leader to take the courageous initiative by visiting India on Modi’s oath-taking ceremony. “It was courage, bravery and far-sightedness of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend Prime Minister Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in May 2013,” he said, adding that the BJP led-government in India, however, failed to adequately reciprocate Islamabad’s peace overtures.
He also stated that the two countries should openly discuss all issues including the issue of terrorism instead of indulging in blame game. Since 1947, he pointed out that the world had found solutions to several intractable disputes and conflicts, while the India-Pakistan confrontation remained largely unchanged. He said that the BJP government has no clue and a clear cut policy as far as relation with Pakistan is concerned and an agenda to discuss the issue of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. On Kashmir issue, he stated that Pakistan should keep in view the consequences for a larger Muslim population in India while dealing the issue on religious grounds.
The former Indian Minister was of the opinion that Prime Minister Modi was still learning how to be a statesman, and if India wanted to move forward in its dialogue with Pakistan, it would have to take care not to unsettle the democratic political dispensation in Islamabad. “A stable and successful Pakistan was in India’s interest, and vice-versa…India has a stake in the success of Pakistan far greater than the usefulness of a counterargument against its initial conception,” he added.
While terrorism against any country was completely unacceptable, Pakistan itself had not been spared from this scourge. Salman Khurshid also praised Pakistan’s fight against terrorism, and acknowledged Pakistan’s role in fighting a difficult war in its tribal areas.
He suggested that leaders and opinion makers from both countries should write in each other’s newspapers more often. He was also of the opinion that divided families from either side of the border should be allowed multiple entry visas to facilitate travel. He also maintained that Pakistan should not view India as just a Hindu country, adding that India is a secular country with a large population of people belonging to other religious communities including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and etc. By 2020, India would have a larger Muslim population than either Indonesia or Pakistan, and India was proud of its secular ethos, he added.
He also praised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his remarks to the Hindus of Pakistan on the occasion of Diwali, and referenced to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speech on secularism. Speaking on the occasion, Jinnah Institute’s president and former Ambassador to the US Senator Sherry Rehman noted that there were as many roads to peace and stability as there were to war and conflict in South Asia.
She underscored that Pakistan was presently fighting one of the biggest inland wars ever fought, with little international help. On the foreign policy front, she stated that it still remained to be seen whether New Delhi had a clear policy on Pakistan. In contrast, political parties across-the-board in Pakistan were unequivocal and on the same page when it came to making peace with India. She warned, however, that the strong public consensus in Pakistan for improved relations with India was breaking down due to conditionality and stark messaging by New Delhi.
Speaking on the panel, former Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar said that the past year had seen a number of setbacks for India-Pakistan relations. Jinnah Institute vice-president and former ambassador Aziz Ahmed Khan maintained that the BJP government in New Delhi had already wasted too much time, and now it seriously needs to move forward on all bilateral issues with Pakistan including connectivity.
Source: Business Recorder