Military collaboration could transform the relationship between India and Pakistan, former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor said at the Kovalam Literary Festival in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.
"When 26/11 happened, there was a spasm of hope after the president and prime minister of India announced that the director general of ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) would fly to India to cooperate in the investigation. But the information was leaked (in the form of a press statement from the Pakistan PM's house). Had that (the visit) happened, it would have led to serious cooperation," said Tharoor, a former minister of state for external affairs.
"Military cooperation could indeed transform the relationship between India and Pakistan," Tharoor told a packed house at the Kanakakunnu Palace.
He was participating in a debate, "Indo-Pak: Is There A Way Ahead", featuring a panel comprising Pakistani author Mohammed Hanif, writer Deborah Baker-Ghosh and veteran journalist Satish Jacob. The debate was anchored by BBC journalist Amit Baruah.
Tharoor, the MP from Thiruvananthapuram, said the three things that either country should do to better ties was "better understanding of each other, get out of the sense of denial and stop exporting terror".
Commenting on the popular perceptions about India and Pakistan that prevail among people in both the countries, he said: "Perceptions can be changed."
Textbooks in Pakistan that talk about a "5,000-year war between Hindus and Muslims" have poisoned some minds - especially those of children in school, Tharoor said. "Perceptions can be altered by reading each other's books," he said.
When Baruah asked, "What would you do if a neighbour's house was on fire" in the context of the ongoing violence in Pakistan, Tharoor shot back: "What if the kerosene was spilt while trying to put fire to my house?"
"The situation is like the horror of Frankenstein (the scientist who created a demon). You create a monster and cannot control it. It (terrorism) was trained, financed and equipped by the Pakistan military. And now a portion of it has come back to bite in its butt," Tharoor said.
The former minister expressed strident views on Kashmir.
"The rest of India is concerned about Kashmir," he said when asked to express his opinion on whether Kashmir was receiving the kind of attention it deserved.
The amount of space devoted to Kashmir in newspapers and television shows that the government has a steady objective, he said.
"It is the number one issue in the country now. What has happened is very tragic. There has been a lot of breast-beating about it. Kashmir actually enjoys more autonomy than any other state in India. But there is a great deal we need to do," he said.
An all-party delegation recently went to Kashmir, met everyone and "prepared an eight - point programme" to solve the problem, he said. "Kashmir has had its share of ups and down," he said.
Reacting to the relevance of Kashmir as an issue in Pakistan, Mohammed Hanif - the author of "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" - said Kashmir was not really on the mind of the average Pakistani.
"While our army is killing its own citizens, Indian army is killing kids. I have a 12-year-old son. When I see 12-year-olds dying, I feel Indians and Pakistanis should care about it. The indifference is real," Hanif said.
Referring to the controversy over flood relief by India, Hanif said, "even Indian money was welcome".
The debate capped two-days of stimulating literary sessions at the Kovalam Literary Festival that ended on Sunday evening with a cultural programme.