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Mainstream, VOL L, No 17, April 14, 2012

A Meaningful Proposal


Saturday 14 April 2012, by SC

The outcome of the India-Pakistan summit meeting in New Delhi on April 8 has offered a new ray of hope in restoring the bilateral cooperative relationship.

PM Manmohan Singh needs to be complimented for seizing the opportunity when Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari conveyed his desire for a private visit to Ajmer Sharif and hosting a luncheon meeting with the Pakistani leader in the Capital last Sunday. Although detailed discussions were not to be expected in so short a trip, the meeting proved to be of considerable success. The Pakistan head of state and head of the Indian Government not only frankly exchanged views on critical and contentious issues but also came up with innovative ideas to lend a real impetus to the peace process. Predictably, the PM raised the issue of terror “upfront” and asked about concrete steps against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai assault while calling for action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba founder, Hafiz Moham-mad Saeed. Zardari, on his part, highlighted the legal issues involved in the exercise but did not baulk at the suggestion; instead he agreed that the Home/Interior Secretaries of both sides should discuss the issue in depth. He also raised the subjects of Sir Creek and Siachen while pointing to the Kashmir question as well. But more than that, he had a meaningful proposal to make.

According to Zardari, the India-China model needs to be followed to improve India-Pakistan relations. This has been greeted as an excellent idea in the Indian press. For example, The Times of India has pointed out:

Despite differences, booming trade ties between New Delhi and Beijing have seen the two put in place several confidence-building measures to address contentious issues. Similarly, greater business-to-business and people-to-people exchanges between Indians and Pakistanis would help reduce mutual suspicion and pave the way for political solutions to disputes.

In this context immediate attention must be given to the concept of a liberalised visa regime. This would go a long way in consolidating the moves made by Islamabad to enhance bilateral trade. It is good that Dr Manmohan Singh accepted Zardari’s invitation for a reciprocal visit to Pakistan. However, New Delhi wants Islamabad taking measures to satisfy India’s insistence on concrete steps to curb the export of terror from Pakistani soil before such a visit can be undertaken. But for that to happen it would be necessary to hold direct dialogue between military personnel and civilian administrators of both countries so as to help reduce the trust deficit plaguing India-Pakistan ties for long years.

Meanwhile, a special court in Anand pronounced 23 suspects guilty of murder and conspiracy in the Ode massacre case—23 persons were set ablaze there as part of the post-Godhra pogrom in 2002, the victims being mostly women and children; this was one of the nine sensitive Gujarat riot cases being probed by the SIT.

Ten long years have passed since those horren-dous incidents that were a blot on secular India as a whole, not just Gujarat. But this latest development reinforces the belief that in democratic India justice will not eventually elude the victims of communal carnage.

April 11 S.C.

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