India and Pakistan relations have always been mired with controversies, preventing friendly relations with our neighbour, who in 'popular perception' is seen as an enemy. It is this reason that while all members of SAARC countries have been invited, the one to draw maximum popular attention has been the coming of Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. In a deft move India's the then Prime Minister designate sent an invite to all the heads of SAARC countries for his swearing in ceremony, (16 May 2014)which was held with great pomp and show.
Nawaz Sharif faced lots of obstacles in accepting this invitation. His family, his daughter included, tweeted and called for acceptance of the invite, she argued as to why India and Pakistan are living in a hostile situation like North and South Korea, why can't they live like the countries of European Union. She was actually echoing the sentiments of most of the Pakistanis who want the strengthening of democracy in Pakistan and good relations with India; she articulated the aspirations of Pakistan's majority for whom peace with India is synonymous with the path of good democracy and development. In my own visit to Pakistan a couple of years ago I was overwhelmed with expression of longings of Pakistanis for friendship with India. This also gets reflected in their warm gestures in welcoming you, and showering the best of hospitality on you.
The major obstacles in Pakistan to the peace with India come from the strong army and the Mullah alliance. This time also as the Modi invite was in the pipeline, the terrorist attack took place on Indian Consulate in Afghanistan, in Herat. The Hafiz Sayeeds of Pakistan raised their eyebrows and dished out the usual threats. One also recalls that the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai on 26/11 2008 took place when the process of peace between India and Pakistan was to pick up. The correlation between the steps of Indo-Pak peace process and attacks of terror, in which the hand of terrorist groups, who have their support from some army quarters, is unmistakable.
One also recalls during previous NDA regime when Atal Behari Vajpayee wanted to initiate the peace with Pakistan and took the friendship bus to Lahore, the then Pakistan army did not welcome it and expressed its reaction by occupying Kargil. Pervez Musharraf was the army Chief at that time. This Kargil occupation by Pakistan army had to be fought by Indian army supported by Clinton's reprimand to Pakistan to withdraw from Kargil. During my trip I also happened to meet the civic activists who are committed to friendship with India. These activists along with their counter parts in India have been promoting forums like Pak India People's Forum. They are also promoting peace and are campaigning amongst other issues, for the release of innocent fishermen who get arrested here and there. Currently Nawaz Sharif's releasing of the fishermen before his visit to India is a positive gesture towards better relations with India and in turn peaceful South Asia. One also had a chance meeting with those working for and identifying with the work of 'Aman Ki Asha', (Hope for Peace) a joint platform of the major Indian daily along with a Pakistan daily.
Here in India the major rhetoric against Pakistan is indulged in mainly by the BJP, when it is not in power. The BJP has a contradictory attitude vis a vis Pakistan. When not in power, the BJP has been using Pakistan bashing to polarise the Indian society along religious lines. When in power, it offers an olive branch and releases pigeons of peace. One recalls that our current Prime Minister had brought in polarisation in Gujarat after the Godhra tragedy and Gujarat carnage by primarily attacking Pakistan and its President Pervez Musharraf. In the Assembly elections of 2002 the hoardings were having Modi on the one side, and a Musharraf on the other side, as if Modi was fighting elections against Pervez Musharraf. Even during the election campaign of 2014, Modi did resort to menacing gestures towards Pakistan. His party colleague Giriraj Singh was very abusive to Pakistan. Here the 'social-communal common sense' is so constructed as if Indian Muslim is loyal to Pakistan, the Indo-Pak cricket matches are seen more as India Pakistan war rather than a sport which should act as a bridge between the countries in a sportsman's spirit. Irrespective of the fact that it was Madhu Gupta who was caught spying for Pakistan, the major feeling is to suspect every Muslim as a potential Pakistan spy. Our legendary film star, Peshawar born, Dilip Kumar (Yusuf Khan) was humiliated times and over again for his accepting the Pakistan's highest civilian Award Nishan-e-Pakistan. Rumors against Dilip Kumar were circulating on regular basis. Every skirmish on the border is used to denigrate Pakistan and at the same time criticising the Congress for its 'soft' approach to the issues. The anti-Pakistan rhetoric is one of the major tools in the hands of BJP, when it is not in power.
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