Objectives of Progress
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