Pakistan's diplomacy is often said to have the cutting edge which India lacks, but clearly this does not apply to interior minister Rehman Malik. The Indians, in hindsight, were right in being reluctant to host Mr Malik at a time when there has been no tangible progress on the 26/11
investigations. But it is quite clear that no one quite expected the kind of remarks Mr Malik made, none of them conducive to helping along peace, the ostensible reason for his visit. While there is now a more liberalised visa regime in place, Mr Malik appeared to be playing to an audience back home first by raising the Babri Masjid issue in the same context as 26/11. But what was most annoying to the Indians was his repeated assertions that there was no evidence against the Laskhar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, widely considered the mastermind behind the 26/11 attacks. Charges, said the redoubtable Mr Malik, do not amount to evidence. Seeing that Saeed is roaming around Pakistan with his poisonous propaganda against India, it is a little odd that Mr Malik expects India to provide the smoking gun.
Unmindful of any sense of propriety, Mr Malik waded into the sensitive issue of the death of Captain Saurabh Kalia, allegedly at the hands of Pakistani troops during the Kargil war to suggest that he may have died of bad weather. What the Indians should have told Mr Malik, but were too polite to, was that New Delhi has no interest in going round and round the mulberry bush on the 26/11 episode. What Mr Malik assumed that the Indians did not know while he was grandstanding is that he does not count for much in Pakistan's domestic politics. It is clear that he probably thought that the best way to win brownie points at home would be to raise contentious issues which were bound to annoy the Indians. Many may criticise the government for not having come up with a forceful enough response to some of his more absurd pronouncements. But by not going over the top, India has rightly shown that it is not prepared to take him more seriously than he warrants.
If Mr Malik's visit was meant to soothe feelings in India, he has succeeded in just the opposite. Perhaps it is time to be a little more discerning about whom we should open the doors to in the future. Certainly, those trying to play to the galleries should be firmly discouraged.
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