Suspension of Indo-Pak talks after every terror attack immature: MP

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Bangalore, November 23:  Popular narrative against neighbouring Pakistan emphasises on the fact that the country is the epicentre of terrorism without taking into account the fact that it is also the largest target of domestic terrorism, diplomat-turned-politician Mani Shankar Aiyar, MP, told his young audience at the Mount Carmel College here on Saturday.

He was delivering the first Foundation Day Lecture on ‘India-Pakistan relations: retrospect and prospects’.

Mr. Aiyar said that the everyday life of the Pakistani ‘aam aadmi’ is an unimaginable horror. “Their internal war on terror has claimed over 2,000 civilian lives, a number that is most likely an underestimation given that the government there may want to keep from the Pakistani people how many Islamic citizens have been victims of Islamic terror. Also U.S. drones continue to breach Pakistan’s sovereignty on a regular basis killing thousands of civilians on the pretext of eliminating terrorists,” he said.

Despite these circumstances, there are people like Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab who was assassinated for speaking against the fundamentalists, who take on these sectarian Islamist forces. But, our understanding of Pakistan does not recognise the courage of these people, he said.

The 90-minute lecture was interspersed with many an interesting anecdotes from his stint as the first-ever consul-general of Pakistan in the late 70s. He used these anecdotes to give his young audience insights about life in Pakistan, be it his interaction with a landed farmer or a group of Muslims in Upper Sindh who sought permission to meet a visiting Hindu seer.

Dialogue with Pakistan

Diplomacy between the two countries today, Mr. Aiyar said, was marked by “great immaturity”. While he criticised his own party, the Congress, for its approach to bilateral relations, and deciding to suspend talks every time there is a terror attack, he said that general discourse too mirrored this immaturity. He recalled that just a few months ago he was called a “Pakistani agent” in Parliament, and that reactionary leaders were always accusing him of furthering his “appeasement agendas.” “I think it is immature to stop dialogue, or demand that dialogue be stopped every time there is a terror attack in our country. We must have the courage to sit down with our Pakistani counterparts.”

Emphasising on the need for having a mature and intelligent dialogue with Pakistan, Mr. Aiyar said: “So long as hostile relationships with Pakistan extends, our secularism will be incomplete and so the idea of our nationhood will be incomplete. It is therefore imperative that we overcome our inhibitions with Pakistan.”

Mr. Aiyar said that 66 years after partition; he felt there was scope for optimism at last about India-Pakistan relations because “on both sides of the border, over 80 per cent of the population does not have any personal quarrels with the other country.”

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