KARACHI: With Narendra Modi in power, Indian peace activist Mani Shankar Aiyar, who is also a former petroleum minister in India, has reasons to be pessimistic.
“I am looking forward to the Congress coming back and for good sense to prevail,” said Aiyar. He was speaking during the question-answer session at the launch of former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s new book ‘Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove’, on Monday.
He was, however, the only panellist who felt this way. Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf believed that peace talks will start eventually regardless of the fact that it is the Congress or the BJP in power. “We have dealt with both and, sooner or later, good sense will prevail with Modi,” he said.
Kasuri pointed out how crucial it is for India to seek peace with its neighbours, especially Pakistan, if it wishes to play the role of a global leader. “If Modi wishes to be successful, he needs to sit on the table with Pakistan,” he said.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, the head of the Observer Research Foundation in India, also chose to be optimistic. “Modi’s foreign policy has been in flip flops,” he said, hoping that it will flip in favour of peace talks eventually. Also in attendance was Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider.
Referring to the same success, Musharraf listed the four frameworks that India and Pakistan had nearly reached consensus on. Firstly, to graduate military presence in Kashmir, secondly, to ensure self-governance in the region, thirdly, to form an overseeing body for Kashmir and, lastly, to make the Line of Control irrelevant by opening out six routes for the movement of man and mankind.
“We were so close, yet far,” he said.
Kulkarni focused on the links that unite the two countries but also highlighted areas where India and Pakistan need to work. His views resonated with Musharraf who said the two sides need to be flexible.
When it comes to relations between India and Pakistan, you can either be a hawk or a dove. But trying to find space between the two were the panellists who agreed that dialogue should continue uninterrupted no matter what. “If we talk, [there is a chance] we may come to a conclusion. But if we don’t talk, I am certain that we may never reach a conclusion,” said Aiyar.
Message for Shiv Sena
In the presence of prominent diplomats and a former head of state, the man who received a standing ovation from the audience was Kulkarni, who recently made headlines after the Shiv Sena threw black oil paint on his face for inviting Kasuri to launch his book in Mumbai.
The audience requested Kulkarni to give a message to the party that claims to be the sole spokesperson for Hindu and Marathi rights. “I met Hindus at Swami Narayan temple [in Karachi] and I met Marathi-speaking people, and they all claimed to be proud Pakistanis,” he shared. “Shiv Sena needs to realise this.”