The morning after an India-Pakistan exchange is always the most crucial period. There was every reason to suspect that the Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar would, the moment she was back on Pakistani soil, tear into the tendentious spin that was sought to be put by the excited Indian pundits on her meeting with the Hurriyet leaders in Delhi. A former Indian home secretary was noticeably unhappy that Khar didn’t meet Omar Abdullah. Another pundit fulminated that next time external affairs minister S.M.Krishna visits Pakistan, he should search out Baluchi nationalists for a pow-vow. Yet another pundit chipped in that it should be actually a colourful tribal leader from the remote Baltistan in the Northern Areas that Krishna meets.
But Khar seems to have taken these vacuous Indian remarks on her stride. She arrived back in Pakistan and chose to remember the positive outcome of the visit. She complimented India’s genuine desire to normalise ties with Pakistan. And, funnily, she “sought space from the public in general and media in particular for allowing this turn in the relationship to stay its course.” Those Indians who tried to rattle Khar and those Pakistani detractors alike who were throwing stones at her for being ineligible to be the foreign minister must be realising that a diplomatist is spearheading Pakistan’s FO at a crucial juncture.
It’s time for the Indian discourses to show greater maturity. The fact of the matter is that no harm has come to Indian interests because the Hurriyet leaders met with Khar. Equally, these bearded, garrulous Indians from J&K have been travelling on Indian passports and visiting Pakistan and other countries and regularly meeting with Pakistani politicians and civlian and military (and intelligence) officials. If Khar still wanted to meet them during her brief sojourn in Delhi, it must have been for some compulsions. Common sense would suggest that we explore those compulsions.
India’s strength has always been — and will ever be — that it is an expansive democracy where a hundred flowers can bloom. That is also what makes India a great country for most of us. The heavens are not going to come crashing down if some Indians hold contrarian views about national issues. In retrospect, the decision that the then PM Narasimha Rao took in the early 1990s after careful deliberation — and which promptly met with the full understanding of the then BJP leadership of A.B. Vajpayee and L.K.Advani — to issue passports to the Hurriyet leaders to travel wherever they wanted and to meet whosoever they wanted has only been vindicated.
Finally, although neither the Indian nor the Pakistani side speaks about the factors behind it, the fact remains that there has been a remarkable change for the better in the J&K situation and if that has been happening, it has also been against the backdrop of a more relaxed atmosphere in the India-Pakistan ties. So, who knows, Khar can eventually be a positive influence on the Hurriyet leaders, She has shown extraordinary political maturity, while the Indian ruckus over her meeting with the Hurriet leaders only shows a lack of self-confidence. Omar Abdullah’s political legitimacy is in no way diminished because Khar didn’t meet him; international community is not demanding J&K’s secession because Hurrieyt leaders met Khar; nor has an Intifada broken out in the Valley the moment the special aircraft with Khar on board crossed back into Pakistani airspace.