Bold steps needed to re-set India-Pakistan ties - GulfToday

Bold steps needed to re-set India-Pakistan ties

BRP Bhaskar

@brpbhaskar

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Shahbaz Sharif, Narendra Modi

Shahbaz Sharif, Narendra Modi

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s speech at the UN General Assembly session last week and the Indian delegation’s response to it indicate that, while professing a desire to build good-neighbourly relations, the two sides are trapped in a cul-de-sac and unable to move forward to that goal.

Sharif, who said Pakistan wanted friendly relations with India, began with a reference to the recent floods in his country, caused by global climate change, and urged world leaders to come together and act before it’s too late.

Climate change is affecting the entire India-Pakistan subcontinent. How sad that the countries of the region are bogged down in old, divisive issues and are unable even to discuss such common threats, let alone formulate plans to address them jointly.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, which can play a useful role in such tasks, is in a state of freeze due to the short-sighted approach of political leaderships.

Like his predecessors, Sharif devoted considerable attention to Jammu and Kashmir. He described the changes India made recently in the status of the state as part of a plant to turn it into a Hindu-majority region.

He reiterated the Pakistani people’s solidarity with the people of Kashmir and demanded that India should demonstrate its sincerity and willingness to walk the path of peace and dialogue by reversing the changes it had made.

Sharif spoke out against terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan, including Al-Qaeda, and said the international community must deal with them comprehensively, with the cooperation of the Afghan authorities.

He claimed that Pakistan, which suffered more than 80,000 casualties in two decades and incurred an economic loss of $150 billion, was the principal victim of terrorism.

He said the Pakistani army had broken the back of terrorism within the country but continued to suffer terrorist attacks from across the borders, “sponsored and financed by our regional adversary.”

Responding to Sharif’s remarks, Mijito Vinito, First Secretary of the Indian Mission to the UN, said his claims over the Kashmir issue were false. He further accused Sharif of using the UN forum to make false accusations against India to obfuscate misdeeds in his own country and justify actions against India that the world considers unacceptable.

He said a country that claims to seek peace with its neighbours, would never shelter conspirators of 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts.

Also, such a country would not make unjustified and untenable territorial claims or sponsor cross border terrorism.

Vinito reiterated India’s desire for normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. Jammu and Kashmir was, is and shall forever remain an integral part of India, he added.

Referring to the recent incidents of abduction and forced marriages of girls from Hindu, Sikh and Christian families in Pakistan, Vinito said it was ironic that the country which had committed grave violation of minority rights, was speaking about minorities on a global platform.

He said desire for peace, security and progress in the subcontinent was real and widely shared. It would happen when cross-border terrorism ceased, governments came clean with the international community and their own people, minorities were not persecuted and realities were recognised.

Sharif’s speech and the Indian riposte stand out as examples of diplomatic one-upmanship rather than assertions of a genuine desire for good neighbourliness.

Good relationships are rarely chance occurrences. Often, they are the result of hard, patient work over long periods.

Three-quarters of a century has elapsed since the colonial power which was in occupation of the subcontinent divided it and quit. Two or three generations which had no role in the dreadful events of the Partition period have grown up on either side of the border in this period. The continuing influence of political and communal interests with a vested interest in perpetuating past bitterness have not let them lead their countries to a new path of friendship and cooperation.

The countries of the subcontinent, home to 1.8 billion out of the word total of 7.9 billion, need leaderships capable of initiating bold action to promote peace and development in the region so that it can play its legitimate part in global affairs in the critical years ahead.

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