Strictly speaking, diplomatic propriety demanded that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid desisted from commenting on the Pakistani political scene. But he did — and he will get away with it.
For, these are patently friendly remarks — under the circumstances — and the minister made them in a positive forward-looking spirit, and indeed there is no gainsaying the fact that India is a ‘stakeholder’, so to speak, on the outcome of the Pakistani elections and to pretend otherwise will be dissimulation of the highest grade.
Khurshid is cautiously optimistic. How do we pick his mind? Alas, MEA is yet to develop a common practice in the chancelleries of most serious countries to transmit authoritative versions of their foreign minister’s remarks on ALL occasions, including media interactions. Thus, we are left with no choice to agonise over agency reports.
This would be risky, but Khurshid’s remarks, here, seem to suggest Delhi is very much cognisant of what I underlined earlier in my blog, namely, that something has changed significantly in the Pakistani mindset — at the level of politicians and public opinion — regarding ties with India.
Khurshid calls it the ‘peace constituency’, meaning, perhaps, that it is one amongst other bodies of opinion in Pakistan, but then, he also noted that it is a ‘growing’ constituency.
Evidently, Delhi anticipates a coalition government taking shape in islamabad after the parliamentary election in May, but what matters is whether it will be a coalition of like-minded constituents that subscribe to the ‘peace constituency.’ But Khurshid is being deliberately cautious here.
Any coalition government in Pakistan will bear striking resemblance to our own — a big national party cobbling together a coalition but remaining more equal than its partners in policymaking. Thus, Samajwadi Party and National Conference leaderships might have asked for a summary rollback of India-China ties, but the government has no intentions to adopt such gibberish as policy.
These are still early days, but Pakistan will probably have a government built around the Pakistan Muslim League (N) led by Nawaz Sharif. To my mind, such a government will want to do business with India and the challenge facing us is that the hurlyburly of our domestic politics should not be allowed to come in the way of responding to overtures.
With a cerebral minister heading MEA after a long time, this is a good time for South Block to do some power games. For a start, what are the options to demonstrate good intentions toward Pakistan by revisiting any of the ‘doable issues’ — without losing sight of vital national interests, of course — at a most difficult period in India’s current history when chaotic domestic politics and an anaemic economy combine to make the bar of realism seem improbably high to clear?
The point is, India also needs a leap of faith to jettison the entrenched belief that the relations with Pakistan can at best be managed, and just getting by is the best we can do. All problems can be solved and if they aren’t we need to introspect and find the reason why. Is it weakness, diffidence, incompetence or plain malfeasance to blame?
Posted in Diplomacy.
– April 27, 2013