Shahid M Amin
PAKISTAN made a good humanitarian gesture on December 25, 2017 by allowing a meeting, held in Islamabad, of convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav with his mother and wife. The two Foreign Ministries held prior consultations about arrangements for the meeting. Security was a paramount consideration for the Pakistani side, since any lapse could have led to unpredictable consequences. According to Islamabad, the Indian side had not raised any objection to these arrangements. However, a meeting that should have generated goodwill has instead become one more issue of contention between India and Pakistan. Though seventy years have passed independence, the two neighbours continue to display a woeful lack of maturity in handling their bilateral relations through surliness and ill-will even when an opportunity comes for an improvement in relations.
In this particular case, the main blame must be placed on India, though perhaps the Pakistani side could also have shown greater sensitivity. It is not clear as to what was the security need in asking these women to take off their bindi and mangal sutra. The bindi is a red dot on the forehead, whereas mangal sutra is a thread in necklace worn by a Hindu wife as symbol of her marriage. But this particular controversy seems trivial, since the real point of the exercise was Pakistan’s gesture to allow Jadhav’s meeting with his wife and mother in the expectation that this would be appreciated as a gesture of goodwill. Pakistan was not obliged to arrange such a meeting for a convicted spy and terrorist. There has never been a reported case when India allowed the wife or mother of a Pakistani prisoner in India to have such a meeting.
Even while the meeting with Jadhav was taking place, the Indian media was already decrying it as a ‘public relations ploy’ by Pakistan. After details of the meeting emerged, following return of the two women to India, the Indian government and media launched an all-out venomous attack on Pakistan. Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj accused Pakistan of violating the terms of understanding regarding arrangements for this meeting. She could not find ‘enough words to condemn the obnoxious behaviour of Pakistan.’ The Indian media, true to form, found fresh ammunition to stir hatred against Pakistan. The most shocking statement came from ruling BJP party leader Subramanian Swamy who said that ‘India should go to war with Pakistan and tear it into four parts to teach it a lesson.’ He added that only splitting Pakistan into four pieces was the ‘permanent solution’ to the problem. He wanted India to ‘avenge the removal of mangal sutra from Jadhav’s wife.’
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif later defended the security procedures which he said had been bilaterally agreed with India. He noted that the meeting initially scheduled for 30 minutes was extended to 40 minutes on request of the family. Asif said that Pakistan had been ‘open and transparent throughout the meeting.’ He added that ‘we do not wish to indulge in fallacious accusations and blame game and should focus on the bigger positive outcome that the meeting happened, despite immense challenges and impediments, instead of distortion of facts and baseless propaganda, which vitiates the atmosphere and is counter-productive.’ Asif said that Jadhav’s family members were treated with ‘respect and dignity’ and the change of clothes and removal of jewellery and ornaments was purely for security considerations. Shoes of Jadhav’s wife were retained because a metal chip was found in one of them, which was being analysed. A Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman also said that ‘the visit has become more about the show and less about the meeting.’ It was notable that Jadhav’s mother thanked Pakistan after the meeting. Jadhav also said the same thing in a video recording in which he again confessed his guilt in carrying out subversion and terrorism in Pakistan over a period of several years.
This latest episode has shown once again that the present ruling party in India has no interest in improving Indo-Pakistan relations. It is an ideologically-driven party which is anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim. This stance has won it support in election after election, making Pakistan-bashing a useful tool in electoral politics. It follows, therefore, that Pakistan need not waste its energy in making any peaceful gestures towards India till some new thinking emerges in that country or a new leadership takes over. That might not happen anytime soon, but diplomacy is a long-term process in which patience is a virtue.
However, it does seem necessary to make people like Subramanian Swamy aware that ‘tearing Pakistan into four pieces’ and any war with Pakistan would be a prescription for India’s own nuclear destruction, with losses running into millions. No doubt, such a war would be mutually-suicidal and Pakistan has no intention to start such a war. But it seems that there are circles in India, in government and in media, which are unaware of the hard reality that Pakistan is a nuclear power with missile capability. In case of war, it can destroy each major city in India, within hours. While sabre-rattling is not a desirable thing for any state, there are times when a display of power can help ensure peace by removing primeval war-mongering instincts and serious misconceptions. It needs to be recalled that, since independence, India has repeatedly used force as an instrument of state policy, be it in Kashmir, Hyderabad, Goa or East Pakistan. Countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh should also understand that it is Pakistan alone that stands in the way of Indian hegemonic instincts towards its smaller neighbours.
— The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.