The controversial joint statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh has created a huge furore. Some critics have even suggested that the PM signed the declaration in one of his…ahem...shall we say sub-prime minister moments. Others, more charitable, have said that perhaps Singh, true to his economics background, was distracted by the sight of a shapely yield curve. Some free-market economists at the finance ministry believe the PM had little to do with the final declaration, the entire document being written by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand.
Yet it could hardly have been more lucid. This is what it says, in black and white: ‘Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed.’ This obviously means, as Singh explained in Parliament, that “we can have a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan only if they fulfil their commitments in letter and spirit not to allow their territory to be used for terrorist attacks against India”. It’s crystal clear, especially since Congress MPs thumped their desks 23 times when Singh read out his statement.
The other great triumph that we have achieved is in avoiding the ‘K’ word in the joint statement. Some people say that when somebody wanted to mention the ‘K’ word, Singh said no because he thought it referred to Kashmir, while Gilani said no because he thought it referred to the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. In any case, Gilani thought he was on solid ground because President Asif Zardari has banned the mention of the ‘K’ word in Pakistan, under the impression it referred to ‘kickbacks’.
But these foul canards cannot diminish our achievement. Consider what the document says: “Prime Minister Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues”. Notice there’s not one single word in that statement that begins with a ‘K’. Just to drive the point home, “All Outstanding Issues”, start with an A, an O and an I.
And finally, there’s that little mention about “Balochistan and other areas”, about which the PM has clarified we have nothing to hide. It’s very clear: we agreed to mention Balochistan because we have nothing to hide, Gilani agreed to mention the Mumbai attack because he has something to hide and we both didn’t mention Kashmir because we both have plenty to hide.
Did the US pressure Singh to sign that document? That’s ridiculous, considering that the US didn’t even talk to the Taliban before invading their country. Nor did it ever trust Saddam. And it doesn’t verify anything before bombing Pakistan’s tribal areas. But we, despite losing so many lives to Pakistani-sponsored terrorism, still believe that we must trust Pakistan. Naturally, the US is hugely impressed, which helps our deep-seated urge to get patted on the back by them.
Actually, there’s nothing new in all this. George Orwell pointed out a long while back: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint