India-Pakistan relations have always oscillated between the ridiculous and the absurd. Several attempts made by the Indian leaders in establishing normalcy have always met with failure -- despite positive signals from the civil government in Pakistan, the Army and ISI appear to have different plans.
There are several instances when the Pakistani army has put a spoke in the wheel when the two countries tried to improve ties. The Lahore Declaration signed by Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif was followed by the Kargil War, a brainchild of former President Pervez Musharraf. The recent agreement between Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Ufa to improve the bilateral relations between the two neighbours was followed by an escalation at the border. There is a clear pattern of such escalations at the border whenever an attempt is made to improve relations between the two neighbours.
However, two unrelated events in Pakistan have given some hope that the civil society there wants cordial relations with India.
"One of the reasons for the Pakistani establishment's inability to act firmly is its inability to distinguish between "good" (those who target India) and "bad" terrorists."
The first incident relates to a young Indian girl "Geeta" who had inadvertently strayed into Pakistan, was rescued by security agencies and taken to a destitute shelter run by Bilquis Edhi foundation (now a family from Amritsar is claiming that she is their daughter Pooja). What is heart-warming is that the security forces, in order to save the girl from legal hassles, decided to take the girl to the destitute centre. Bilquis not only took care of the mute child, but also ensured that she retained her religious identity. This gesture has generated a lot of goodwill in India.
The second incident relates to the extraordinary courage shown by a leading Pakistani newspaper, Dawn in publishing an article by Tariq Khosa, former director general with Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, where he has candidly admitted that he had gathered incontrovertible evidence that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack were trained by LeT. His admission that Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani citizen demolished claims to the contrary by the Pakistani establishment.
Pakistan's inability to reign in terrorists on its soil has lead to serious ramifications in their own country. The brutal massacre of more than 140 students and teachers of the Army Public School in Peshawar and a series of bomb attacks in Shia mosques at Karachi and Lahore are the results of the failure in taking action against terrorists. One of the reasons for the Pakistani establishment's inability to act firmly is its inability to distinguish between "good" (those who target India) and "bad" terrorists.
The establishment, mainly the ISI, is believed to encourage fringe elements who have directed their attacks on India. It is alleged that both Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, masterminds of the Mumbai attack, were receiving covert support from the ISI and the army. Unless both countries stop looking at each other through a narrow prism of long-standing enmity, the relations between the neighbours can never be normal. Pakistan should also take action against Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi. Unfortunately, the Pakistani government has not pursued the case seriously by adducing clinching evidence against them in the Pakistani courts. India, on the other should bring the perpetrators of the Samjhauta Express bombing to book.
Meanwhile in India, the chasm between Hindus and Muslims has been widening since the demolition of the Babri Masjid and then the Gujarat riots. Many Muslims no longer feel safe in India, especially with programmes such as "ghar wapsi" and incendiary speeches made by various BJP leaders. In Yakub Memon, one of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack, they found a hero who sacrificed his life to defend their honour. That thousands of Muslims came to attend Yakub Memon's funeral in Mumbai is a testimony to this.
As India's home minister eloquently put it, "Many religions with their various sects coexist in India. Inclusiveness and the spirit of peaceful coexistence is the most outstanding feature of our cultural heritage." If India wants to preserve its secular fabric, incidents of religious intolerance should be nipped in the bud. It should be remembered that no economic development can take place, where there is a lack of social cohesiveness and religious harmony.
The need of the hour is that the leaders of India and Pakistan should avoid political grandstanding and should show political maturity and resolve in addressing all issues in a spirit of mutual accommodation. It is against this backdrop the agreement between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in Ufa will augur well for both the countries.