The rap­proche­ment

Southasia - - COMMENT -

Are things look­ing up be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan? Is a new light of hope just about to per­vade the sub­con­ti­nent af­ter many dark days of des­per­a­tion, de­spair and cold dis­tance? Looks like the sun is at last emerg­ing from the clouds. There have been at least four high pro­file meet­ings be­tween lead­ers of the two coun­tries and it is be­ing hoped that, very soon, more good news will hit the head­lines.

The story un­til the meet­ing in Ufa, Rus­sia, be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif and his In­dian coun­ter­part, Naren­dar Modi, had been a dis­mal one. Things started to look up for the two ma­jor South Asian na­tions when Naren­dra Modi and Nawaz Sharif met in Paris on the side­lines of the Paris Cli­mate sum­mit, though only for a mere two min­utes. It was an im­promptu meet­ing on the face of it and by his ac­count, the Pak­istani Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor, Sar­taj Aziz later said that he quickly moved to a dis­tance, when he re­al­ized that the In­dian and Pak­istani lead­ers wished to have a few mo­ments to them­selves. It is not ex­actly known as to what tran­spired in the brief ex­change be­tween the two prime min­is­ters but it is cer­tain that the brush led to fur­ther doors of re­newed ties open­ing. The Pak­istani political leader Imran Khan’s trip to New Delhi also served to brighten the at­mos­phere. Among his other en­gage­ments, he was in­vited by PM Modi for a brief meet at the lat­ter’s res­i­dence. The ice­berg that had ex­isted be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan seemed to be fur­ther melt­ing. The na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sors of In­dia and Pak­istan, namely Ajit Do­val and Lt. Gen. (R) Nasir Jan­jua met in Bangkok and were ac­com­pa­nied by the re­spec­tive for­eign sec­re­taries of both coun­tries. The de­tails of their talks have not been di­vulged but this much is clear that the Bangkok jun­ket too was an ice thaw­ing mis­sion.

The Bangkok episode en­cour­aged both sides that things were go­ing in the de­sired di­rec­tion. The re­newed good spirit drew the In­dian for­eign min­is­ter, Sushma Swaraj to make a trip to Pak­istan and re­ceive the hos­pi­tal­ity of the Pak­ista­nis, par­tic­u­larly that of Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif and his fam­ily. When Ms. Swaraj re­turned to New Delhi, she had to face some un­pleas­ant mu­sic in terms of tough ques­tions put to her by In­dian par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, even to the ex­tent of the colour of sa­ree she chose to wear one day while in Pak­istan and why she spoke in Urdu? It needs to be re­mem­bered that Sushma Swaraj’s Pak­istan visit had come about at just the time when the anti-Mus­lim (read anti-Pak­istan) fever was at a high pitch in In­dia and those Hindu ex­trem­ists who find fault with ev­ery­thing Pak­istani, had had good times, spit­ing prom­i­nent Pak­ista­nis vis­it­ing In­dia, from not let­ting ghazal mae­stro Ghu­lam Ali present his art to show­ing an un­wel­com­ing at­ti­tude to­wards the Pak­istan cricket board chair­man Sha­har­yar Khan and from paint­ing the face of a prom­i­nent In­dian black just be­cause he was host­ing the launch of Mah­mud Ka­suri’s book to the tar­get­ing of Mahira Khan, a Pak­istani ac­tress ap­pear­ing in an In­dian film.

It was there­fore quite a pleas­ant sur­prise when one af­ter­noon in late De­cem­ber, the Lahoris found In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­der Modi vis­it­ing their city to at­tend the wed­ding of Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif’s grand­daugh­ter. An In­dian prime min­is­ter had come to Pak­istan af­ter a long time. That the visit came about with­out much hype and hoopla is what fur­ther added to the sur­prise and it was ob­vi­ous that the ice­berg had by now dis­ap­peared. It was said that Modi came over merely to par­tic­i­pate in the wed­ding cel­e­bra­tions and that there was noth­ing on the agenda in terms of a political tete-a-tete. That may have been the of­fi­cial line be­cause a con­grat­u­la­tory phone call could also have been just ap­pro­pri­ate in­stead of Mr. Modi fly­ing over in per­son. Be­sides, what was Sajjan Jin­dal do­ing in La­hore on the same day? It is known that Jin­dal has spe­cial ties with Naren­dar Modi and has been fund­ing the BJP. He found it con­ve­nient to visit La­hore si­mul­ta­ne­ously with Modi and es­tab­lish links with Nawaz Sharif and his fam­ily. Jin­dal has global in­ter­ests in steel, a sub­ject also close to the hearts of Nawaz Sharif’s sons, who were present in La­hore for the wed­ding. Jin­dal is one of In­dia’s rich­est in­di­vid­u­als and his mother is said to be the world’s rich­est woman. All th­ese fac­tors must have com­bined to cre­ate an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for Nawaz and Modi to come closer and pick up the pieces from there. It is also be­ing said that, on the lines of the quadri­lat­eral talks that are be­ing ini­ti­ated be­tween Pak­istan, Afghanistan, the USA and China, to find a so­lu­tion to the Tal­iban jug­ger­naut, ma­jor global pow­ers are also be­hind the In­dia-Pak­istan rap­proche­ment.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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