By B. Raman
The dozens of critical messages that I receive from my readers every day fall into two categories—- the downright abusive and the bewildered.
I wrote about the downright abusive ones yesterday. I will write today about the bewildered ones . To illustrate what I mean by “bewildered”, I will cite two examples:
- Some messages ask: You had in the past opposed the issue of visas to Pakistanis to come to India to watch sports events because you were afraid they may go missing and indulge in terrorism.This time, you have not opposed visas for Pakistanis to come to Mohali to watch the India-Pakistan cricket semi-finals in the World Cup tournament. Why?
- Some other messages say: We all admired you as a superhawk on Pakistan. We read you every day. We applauded you. We modelled ourselves after you. After making us into superhawks like you, you are showing signs of being less harsh towards Pakistan. You have started using expressions like a “shared future”, ” need for a vision statement”, “need for our Prime Minister to visit Pakistan” etc. What has happened to you?
Yes, there has been a transformation in my thinking since the beginning of last year. I have been suggesting in my various articles a more nuanced approach to Pakistan because I have started feeling that a policy of unrelenting hostility towards Pakistan and its total demonisation is leading us nowhere. Hostility begets hostility. Demonisation triggers counter-demonisation.. I have started feeling that the time has come for an alternative policy towards Pakistan without diluting our stand on Pakistan’s claim to Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), without giving up our right to act against terrorism emanating from Pakistan and while continuing to press ahead with our co-operation with Afghanistan.
The nuanced approach which I have been suggesting for the last one year has the following elements:
- Encouraging Police to police relationship between the two countries by inviting Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, to India, treating him well and having discussions with him on counter-terrorism.
- Reviving the past liaison contacts between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) of India. It has always been my view that such liaison contacts on a sustained basis may not lead to any substantive results, but will enable the officers of the two organisations to assess each other in flesh and blood instead of relying on source and media reports.
- Promoting interactions between other Government departments such as the Foreign Offices of the two countries to enable policy-makers such as the two Foreign Seccretaries to discuss freely and frankly how to move ahead in diluting the mutual mental resistance to each other.
- Making a gesture to Pakistan’s elected political leadership by our Primer Minister making his long overdue visit to Pakistan in order to discuss the feasibility of working on a common vision statement and to replace the present cynicism and skepticism which cloud the bilateral relations with at least some rays of hope for the future.
Nothing may come out of my ideas. But that is not an argument for not trying them out as an alternative.We have to think of ways of changing the present confrontation between two rigid mind-sets marked by mutual suspicions—some real, some imaginary—- mutual hostility and bitter memories of the past. It is in this context that I guardedly welcome the initiative taken by our Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, in inviting President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani to Mohali to watch the World Cup cricket semi-finals between India and Pakistan next week. I say guardedly because I do feel that the entire focus should have been on the players of the two teams who should have been Kings during those few hours when the match would be played. Now the players may have to share the limelight with the political leaders of the two countries. That can’t be helped now.
My only appeal to the people, journalists and analysts of the two countries is: Please, please, please don’t project the Semi-finals as another Indo-Pak war to be won or lost. Project it as a long-missing opportunity for shared fun.
Had I been the same Raman as I was last year, by now I would have dished out articles:
- Opposing visas for Pakistani spectators lest they indulge in terrorism.
- Ridiculing and criticising the Prime Minister for inviting Zardari and Gilani.
- Warning of dangers of another 26/11 by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) to derail attempts towards a thaw in bilateral relations.
- Warning of the dangers of a terrorist strike by Ilyas Kashmiri and his 313 Brigade based in North Waziristan
All these dangers are very much there. I am sure our intelligence and security agencies are aware of them and will be taking the necessary precautions. I deliberately controlled my itch to flood the public with articles on all these possible dangers because I do want Mohali to create some positive vibrations in the bilateral relations and encourage the search for an alternative approach to Indo-Pakistan relations.