It’s encouraging that India and Pakistan continue to talk. But while they engage, they’d have to be careful about each other’s sensitivities on issues influencing popular support for peace between the two sub-continental rivals.
The cautionary note is in order in the context of Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s rather “insensitive” advice that India view the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai ‘unemotionally’ even as Islamabad drags its feet on bringing the culprits to book. She made the remark during interactions with journalists accompanying Krishna to Pakistan.
Indeed, there is no scope for generosity and emotion in diplomacy and statecraft. But such tactics are deployed behind closed doors, not in the glare of television cameras. Khar’s recourse to the discordant formulation in a broadly cordial exchange showed a certain lack of maturity. Or was it her way of placating fringe Pakistani elements bent upon inflicting a thousand cuts on India?
The Pakistani leadership, be it on the army or civilian side, should know that without tangible results in the 26/11 case in Pakistani courts, New Delhi cannot — despite best intentions — move forcefully on other pending issues such as Siachen and Sir Creek. Popular backing for the Indo-Pak dialogue has diminished in India in recent years, with Islamabad citing violence on its own territory to show itself as a bigger victim of terrorism. That it’s a case of Frankenstein’s monster devouring its creator does not form a part of the contemporary Pakistani narrative.
Rather than engaging in competitive victimhood, Krishna’s hosts should appreciate the fact that the terrorist threat has to be tackled through creative cooperation, not the duplicity of patronising anti-India marauders such as the Haqqani Network and “banning” the anti-Pakistan Tehrik-e-Taliban.
As for sensitivities, the 2008 assault on India’s financial capital wasn’t merely aimed at crippling the Indian economy. Its other prong tore into common and well-heeled Indians who, till then, were at the core of the constituency keen on burying the hatchet and building peace with Pakistan.
Khar telling India to be unemotional about the 26/11 attack is almost akin to Pervez Musharraf telling the Pakistan Peoples Party to be unemotional about Benazir’s assassination.