By B. Raman
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Casse-croute is a French word meaning a frugal bite —generally of a baguette sandwich— taken in between work. Nothing elaborate or ostentatious about it.
When you have genuine friendship with someone, you don’t feel the need to offer an elaborate sumptuous meal. You just say: “Come and have a casse-croute with me.” He or she accepts it with pleasure. A casse-croute binds friendships stronger which no State lunches or dinners can do.
I want to compliment you for inviting President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan to stop over in Delhi and have a casse-croute with you while on his way to Ajmer Sharif on April 8. It is a remarkable gesture with more significance than any State honour can have.
It is a recognition of the fact that things are changing in Pakistan—ever so slowly, but ever so surely. Like a moving glacier.
The negatives are still there—their obsession with Kashmir, the terrorist training camps in their territory, and an Army which continues to be suspicious of India.
But there are signs of emerging positives—- a small flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. There is less and less venom in their rhetoric towards India. There is a willingness to consider new options such as delinking trade from the Kashmir issue. We have had no evidence of the involvement of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in any of the post-26/11 terrorist strikes in our territory.
In our reservations over the continuing negatives, let us not be chary of hailing the positives. If we allow the negatives to blind our vision, we may not get another moment like this to try a new road together— a road of greater goodwill and greater comfort.
As you bite your casse-croute with Mr.Zardari, please don’t look for or expect any spectacular result. Expectations of a spectacular outcome will be unwise. Look for or try for a little more goodwill, a little less venom.
I have been advocating for more than a year a visit by you to Pakistan without expectations. I have also been advocating a beginning of interactions between senior Army officers of the two countries so that they know each other in flesh and blood instead of through characterisations in the media or source reports. Nothing like personal interactions to dissipate misperceptions.
Let the New Delhi casse-croute be followed by a casse-croute between you and the Pakistani leaders in Islamabad. Propose to Mr.Zardari that the Army chiefs of the two countries should start exchanging informal visits.
What we need in Indo-Pakistani relations is not the big and spectacular, but the small and significant.
With warm regards,