Ob­jec­tives of Progress

Southasia - - COMMENT -

The prime min­is­ters of both In­dia and Pak­istan took time out to ad­dress the 69th ses­sion of the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly this year. The Pak­istani prime min­is­ter per­formed to a set piece and said all the right things. It is another mat­ter that many of his coun­try­men wanted him to do other things, like leave the prime min­is­ter­ship al­to­gether. That was one rea­son why they did not pay much at­ten­tion to what­ever he said at the UN. Nev­er­the­less, Nawaz Sharif set at rest many of the fears that Pak­istan’s stance may have cre­ated in the world com­mu­nity in re­cent months con­cern­ing var­i­ous is­sues such as Syria, Iraq, the Is­rael-Pales­tine con­flict, the Kashmir dis­pute and In­dia, Afghanistan, ter­ror­ism, nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion and dis­ar­ma­ment. The prime min­is­ter re­it­er­ated Pak­istan’s stance on Kashmir and made an em­phatic call for the res­o­lu­tion of the Jammu and Kashmir dis­pute as be­ing im­per­a­tive for peace and se­cu­rity and the eco­nomic up­lift of South Asia. He said the re­gion needed to pro­ceed with more di­a­logue and diplo­macy fol­low­ing missed op­por­tu­ni­ties such as can­cel­la­tion of talks be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia re­cently.

The Pak­istani prime min­is­ter also un­der­scored his coun­try’s com­mit­ment to the high­est stan­dards of nu­clear safety and said Pak­istan fol­lowed a pol­icy of re­li­able de­ter­rence but could not be obliv­i­ous to the emerg­ing se­cu­rity sce­nar­ios and buildup of ar­ma­ments in the re­gion. Nawaz Sharif high­lighted the cost that Pak­istan has paid over the years for per­form­ing as a front line state in the war on ter­ror. He com­mended the new leaf that Afghanistan was turn­ing in its po­lit­i­cal his­tory and hoped that as the Pak­istan armed forces con­tended with ter­ror­ists in North Waziris­tan and FATA, Afghanistan would also re­cip­ro­cate and act against those in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions on the other side of the bor­der that pa­tron­ized ter­ror. He hoped that in­stead of ac­cus­ing each other of shel­ter­ing ter­ror­ists, the two neigh­bours would com­bine their ef­forts to work against th­ese el­e­ments in a joint man­ner. He hoped that both coun­tries would em­pha­size on solv­ing is­sues that had con­tin­ued to sim­mer over the years.

The speech may not go a long way in im­prov­ing Nawaz Sharif’s sit­u­a­tion at home but it at least suc­ceeded in plac­ing Pak­istan’s world view be­fore the global com­mu­nity in a fo­cused man­ner. In con­trast to Nawaz Sharif’s speech, which was de­liv­ered in English, In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi spoke in his na­tional lan­guage – Hindi. His as­ser­tion that he was pre­pared to en­gage in a se­ri­ous bi­lat­eral di­a­logue with Pak­istan showed that he and his gov­ern­ment wanted to come out of the nar­row think­ing that had be­lea­guered In­dia-Pak­istan re­la­tions over more than 60 years. This was fur­ther un­der­scored when he said that he placed the high­est pri­or­ity on friend­ship and co­op­er­a­tion with all coun­tries of the re­gion, in­clud­ing Pak­istan. Un­til he was elected prime min­is­ter of In­dia, Naren­dra Modi had been de­nied a visa by the U.S. for his pur­ported role in the Gu­jarat ri­ots in which thou­sands of Mus­lims were killed. He, how­ever, seems to be much in de­mand in Amer­ica now. On the one hand, the U.S. gov­ern­ment has been woo­ing him while on the other the In­dian Di­as­pora in the U.S. has also ex­tended to him a hearty wel­come as was ob­vi­ous from the mas­sive crowds of In­di­ans that greeted him in New York. Un­for­tu­nately, this was a bad time for Nawaz Sharif to be in New York as the wel­come his com­pa­tri­ots ex­tended to him in that city and, be­fore that, in London, re­flected the gen­eral mood of the peo­ple at home who seem to have lost in­ter­est in his con­tin­u­ing as prime min­ster.

There is no doubt, how­ever, that both Pak­istan and In­dia have come to a point when they must find so­lu­tions to their long-stand­ing dis­putes or they would have been left far be­hind in the race to progress. In­dia, the big­ger coun­try in the equa­tion, has an ideal op­por­tu­nity to lead the process since its lead­er­ship is now also well aware that peace is the first pre­req­ui­site for pros­per­ity. The re­al­iza­tion also seems to be dawn­ing in Pak­istan that all avail­able op­por­tu­ni­ties must be ex­ploited to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment of friend­ship with all coun­tries. If the lead­ers of both coun­tries were to take th­ese pos­i­tive vibes for­ward in a more de­ci­sive man­ner, the ob­jec­tives of progress would be much closer for the peo­ple of In­dia and Pak­istan.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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