For anyone familiar with the world of pre-video cassette entertainment for post-pubescents, you may recall the curious phenomenon of going to cinemas to see something other than what was officially on offer. In the censorious 80s, I may have found myself inside a dodgy theatre watching, say, The Gypsy Camp Vanishes Into the Blue, when suddenly, for about a full minute or two there would be a ‘Swedish’ sequence on the screen. I realised that most cinema-goers would wake up the moment this ‘film within a film’ started and left the hall immediately after it was over.
Some smart aleck at Sharm el-Sheikh must have, in the manner in which those naughty bits would be spliced into a harmless reel of film, snuck in a single-sentence paragraph in an otherwise ‘ho-hum, what friendly fun’ India-Pakistan joint statement. Between the line that read, “Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats” (yawn) and another that read, “Both Prime Ministers recognised that dialogue is the only way forward” (zzz), there was the sleeper fifth paragraph: “Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.” It turns out that this line was the equivalent of a porn segment stitched on to a Disney movie.
But is the mention of Balochistan in the joint statement really a diplomatic coup for Pakistan? Do India and its Kashmir-hugging politicians really have to rail against Manmohan Singh and his coffee-denied team for selling out by accepting India’s role in decades-old Balochi insurgencies? Was Pakistan pointing a finger at us at all? Or are we behaving like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader Baitullah Mehsud, who very optimistically wanted the world to believe that the Taliban was behind a 42-year-old Vietnamese ex-IBM employee named Wong opening fire and killing 13 people in an immigration office in Binghampton, New York, in April this year?
Okay. So we could have had a line: “Prime Minister Singh mentioned that India has some information on threats in Chhattisgarh and other areas.” But if anything, we could see — or, as Sun Tzu would have advised, be seen to see — the Balochistan line as a Pakistani admission that the insurgency there is real, with the people of Pakistan’s largest province (some 45 per cent of whom live below the poverty line) still up in arms against Islamabad even three years after Sardar Akbar Bugti, leader of the Balochistan Liberation Army, was killed by Pervez Musharraf’s army.
What makes us Brahminical paranoids insist on behalf of the Pakistanis that we — and not the Afghans (in their war against the Taliban), or the Iranians (who supposedly provide training camps along the Iran-Balochistan border), or the Americans (who could use some Balochi help against the Chinese naval presence in the province’s Gwadar port) — are behind the “threats in Balochistan”? All these countries have better reasons to support the insurgency than us — and a better chance of success.
So I say to those tearing their hair about India’s shame at Sharm el-Sheikh: Relax. Reflect. Rebound. Go for a nice meal at the restaurant in Hauz Khas, Delhi, outside which the proud sign reads: ‘Winner: National tourism award for best restaurant in India for two years and regional tourism award of excellence for five years in succession by Ministry of Tourism (Govt. of India).” You’ll then see that it’s not so easy for those hungry Pakistanis to sneak up on your fridge and steal your ready-to-be-microwaved goshtaba while you’re munching away here at the Park Balluchi.