Breaking ice

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If you’re looking for fireworks, the torturously slow Indo-Pak diplomatic dance is the wrong show to attend. Small victories, minute agreements over this mound of sand or that, go a long way in this most curious of relationships. That anything is happening is quite something, to paraphrase the foreign minister.

Already, the repercussions have started. The BJP in India have accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of an error in judgment when he declared his Pakistani counterpart to be a man of peace. A similar reaction from the leader of the opposition here, however, was missing. In fact, if anything, N-League Chief Nawaz Sharif has quite unequivocally stated his desire for better relations between the two countries. In Pakistan, the usual impediments to better relations have now been, to a large extent, weeded out of the political class (or within the major parties at any rate) and are now limited to the permanent establishment.

It is the aforementioned establishment, unfortunately, that is empowered enough to take strong, lasting decisions on this front. The Indians will not settle for anything less. Incorrect, also, is the assumption that Pakistan is going out of its way to please them. The granting of the MFN status to India is a reciprocation that is fifteen years too late; India granted us the status back in 1996. Yes, they can do more to make it all better, like ease up on non-tariff barriers and also visa restrictions but that all will take time.

There is much suspicion, also, about India’s involvement in Afghanistan but that is a crime it does not suit Pakistan to speak of. The opening up of diplomatic consulates and, yes, posting intelligence operatives there pales out in comparison to a history of treating Afghanistan as a fifth province. If we are nervous about a post-American Afghanistan, then, so would the Indians, the Chinese, Iranians and, let it never be forgotten, the Afghans.

It remains to be seen how much space either side of the subcontinental divide are willing to cede in an effort for peace. Hoping for some real progress.

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