Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar advocates resuming dialogue with Pakistantext_fields
New Delhi: Diplomat-turned-politician Mani Shankar Aiyar, a prominent figure in the Indian National Congress, has advocated the resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, asserting that India's global standing will remain incomplete until its western neighbour is no longer perceived as a burden.
Aiyar, who served as India's consul general in Karachi from December 1978 to January 1982, has extensively detailed his Pakistan tenure in his autobiography titled "Memoirs of a Maverick -- The First Fifty Years (1941-1991)," which was released on Monday.
Aiyar highlighted that one of India's "biggest assets" in Pakistan is the population, asserting that they do not regard India as an enemy country. He recalled an incident during his time in Karachi when his wife questioned whether Pakistan was indeed an enemy nation. This question lingered throughout his stay and subsequent years, leading him to conclude that the people of Pakistan do not view India as an adversary.
While addressing the media, Aiyar emphasised the untapped potential of leveraging the goodwill of the Pakistani people as a fundamental aspect of India's diplomatic approach. He lamented the ongoing freeze in dialogue between the two nations for the past nine years, asserting that the absence of engagement harms the Pakistani populace, a substantial number of whom have relatives living in India and wish to visit the country.
During his diplomatic tenure in Karachi, Aiyar issued a significant number of visas and encountered no cases of misuse.
He noted that targeting the Pakistani people is counterproductive and emphasised the importance of engaging with the establishment, even while critiquing it. Aiyar cited the efforts of former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who demonstrated that sustained and private dialogue could lead to resolution, even in contentious matters such as the Kashmir issue.
Aiyar stressed that patience and persistence are vital in establishing a meaningful relationship with Pakistan. He critiqued the perception that India holds the position of a "vishwaguru" (world leader) while struggling to manage its relationship with its neighbour.
In his book, Aiyar highlighted the cultural similarities between Indians and Pakistanis, including shared language and "tehzeeb" (culture), as well as a mutual appreciation for Bollywood and its music. He underscored the positive interactions that common Pakistanis have with Indians outside the subcontinent.
Aiyar's call for renewed dialogue comes at a time when bilateral relations between India and Pakistan have been characterised by a prolonged stalemate. While Aiyar acknowledges the challenges and setbacks that such dialogue might entail, he believes that establishing a meaningful rapport with Pakistan is crucial for both nations' progress and stability.