July 08, 2011

INDIA-PAKISTAN: LEARNING TO LIKE EACH OTHER

B.RAMAN

( To be read in continuation of my earlier article of June 27,2011, titled “Introspection in Pakistan: Will it Endure?” athttp://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers46/paper4572.html )

After 64 years of hating, distrusting and wishing ill of each other, have India and Pakistan started learning to like each other?

Things seem to be changing.

Glacially, bien sur.But changing all the same.

If you concentrate intensely, you can feel the change under your feet.

We are still harsh to each other, but not as harsh as before.

We still distrust each other, but not as intensely as before.

We still talk ill of each other, but not with asmuch venom as before.

We still hail the discomfiture of each other, but not with as much glee as before.

We still demonise each other, but not with as much pleasure as before.

The lingo is changing for the better, though one is not certain how long this would last.

Read the recent remarks of Smt.NirupamaRao, our outgoing Foreign Secretary, on Pakistan and terrorism.

As forthright as always, but not as rudely condemnatory as in the past.There is a willingness to look at terrorism in a broader sub-continental perspective than in a purely national perspective.

Read the recent remarks of Prime Minister YousefRazaGilani of Pakistan at a seminar. “India is our most important neighbour.”

No Pakistani leader would have had the courage to say so in public in the past, even if he felt so in his heart of hearts. The fear that one might stir up the hornet’s nest of anti-India fundamentalists would have inhibited the open expression of any such feeling.

One could now sense a feeling of confidence in the Pakistani political leadership that less negative statements about India might have greater public support than in the past.

Pakistan post-Abbottabad is not the same as Pakistanpre Abbottabad. There is an intense introspection regarding Pakistan’s relations with the US. India has been a conceptual beneficiary of this introspection

Questions not asked in the past are being asked now. Is the US a dependable friend? Is it wise to develop a dependence on the US?

Has the time come to have a re-look at Pakistan’s relations with India in order to reduce its dependence on the US?

Is it possible for India and Pakistan to get along with each other? Should one allow persisting differences over individual issues such as Kashmir and terrorism come in the way of a greater comfort level in the over-all bilateral relations?

Keep discussing the differences over individual issues, but do not allow the persisting differences to continue to add venom to the over-all relations.

There is a willingness to project the bilateral relations in benign than in compulsively malign terms as in the past.

Is it for real or is it chimerical?

Is it durable or will it end like past rays of hope leading to even greater bitterness than earlier?

These are valid questions. One should not hesitate to pose them, but one should not allow these questions to continue to make us prisoners of the past.

It is time to think in terms of getting out of the clutches of the past and moving into the welcoming arms of the future.

Is this possible? Yes, if we continue to travel on the road of learning to like each other.

There are incipient signs of new thinking in both India and Pakistan. These signs must not be allowed to wither away. ( 10-7-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75)

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