In a letter to newly sworn-in Pak prime minister, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that it is India's wish to have cordial relations with Pakistan. He also reminded his Pakistani counterpart that for establishing peace, security and prosperity in South Asia, what both countries should develop is good friendly relations between neighbours, and assured that India's commitment to that.
Modi pointed out bilateral relations should be marked by meaningful and constructive dialogue between the two countries. What the new Pakistani foreign minister Mahmood Qureshi said while extending hands of friendship, is that a solution to all problems lies in continuing bilateral discussions. Qureshi added that his country was trying to rebuild the relations with neighbours on the west and east, and re-establish peace through dialogue.
Every one knows that India-Pak relations are at their lowest ebb now. The Jammu-Kashmir border region is tense. Pakistan does not approve of the military action taken by India against the extremists and secessionists in Kashmir. But the Pak allegation is that all such actions are human rights violations. Our response to this is that it is Pakistan that makes encroachments without any provocation, and torpedoes every attempt made by India to restore peace in Kashmir. All the bilateral talks and negotiations held at diffferrent levels, have come to a halt. The transport links by rail and bus have also been suspended. The lack of confidence and hatred between two neighbours, both possessing nuclear arms, is a serious threat to peace in South Asia, which is also the main issue highlighted by Modi in his letter to Imran.
Our government has never failed to emphasize that India has always been in search of peace and cordial neighbourly relations. Negotiations also have been held at different levels between the two countries for restorations of peace. History hitherto is sufficient proof that war has never been instrumental in bringing solution to problems, or peace in any region. When there is a change of guard in Pakistan, and the responsible figures of that new regime claim that they are seeking good relations with India, Modi's response in a friendly message sees that as a positive step. When the basic problems of 150 crore people continue unsolved, it is upto the two countries to realize the loss and agony of having to allocate a major chunk of their treasury for arms race and war preparations.
But on both sides there are bunches of extremists waiting to dislodge any move towards peace and friendship. Therefore, any attempts to bring relations to normal should be made keeping away such elements and ignoring them. The latest example is the hullabaloo on our side, against Navjot Singh Siddhu, a member of Punjab's Congress cabinet, and a celebrated former cricketer of India, after he attended the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan - also Pakistan's former cricket captain - and thereafter Siddhu hugged Pakistan's military chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. Siddhu had in fact gone over to Islamabad to attend the ceremony, in response of repeated invitations by Imran Khan based on their long-term friendly relations. And Siddhu clarifies that before making the trip he had got the approval of foreign affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, and also asserts that he went to attend Imran's oath-taking ceremony as India's goodwill ambassador, and that he does not consider it wrong to have hugged Pak military chief, who was present there, at an emotional moment. But Siddhu's reply does not seem to satisfy parties like the BJP and Akali Dal. The tone of the propaganda is that it was an unforgivable wrong to hug a military leader of an enemy country who had killed large number of Indian soldiers. At the same time, Siddhu cites facts such as that when Narendra Modi took oath as prime minister, Pak prime minister Nawaz Sharif was invited to the event, that Modi had given a saree as gift to his mother and Modi had stayed in Lahore on his way back from foreign tour. But the controversy does not seem to end. If this kind of inimical attitude is going to continue, the rhetoric about peace and friendship will have to be treated as mere boasts.