Saturday, November 07, 2015 – IT was indeed a great occasion, a mini summit of eminent Indian and Pakistani figures, organized in Karachi earlier this week by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations. Called the Pakistan-India relations: Emerging realities”, the day– long conference was attended by such luminaries like former foreign minister, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, the ex-foreign secretaries of the two countries, Shamshad Ahmad, and Syed Salman Haider, versatile parliamentarians like opposition leader in the Senate, Barrister Aitzaz Ahasan, former diplomat, and petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyer , the veteran and courageous Socheendar Kulkarni who braved a blackened face in Mumbai and refused to give up the book launching of Khurhsheed Kasuri, former Ambassador and chairman of the KCFR Shahid Amin, while the Minister of State, and special assistant to the Prime Minister on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi delivered a keynote address.
I purposely called it a mini-summit because of the galaxy of speakers collected by Mr Ahsan Zuberi, Secretary General and the moving spirit behind the formation and progress of KCFR, as also the presence of an esteemed, and august audience, gluing to their seats for the long day —from 9 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.— to enlighten themselves with the views of expressed by the participants.
Held in a tension-free atmosphere, the significance of the event became doubly important due mainly to the fact that except for Fatemi, and the Indian High Commissioner T.A.C. Raghavan, flying for the occasion from Islamabad, all others opinions were free from official restraints.
Khurshid Kasuri, who only a day earlier had his book launched in Pakistan in presence of former President General Pervez Musharraf, and former Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid, appeared optimistic, saying his own experiences as foreign minister of the country, firmed up his belief that people on both sides of the border, believed in sharing their happiness and pleasures.
Common sense was displayed even during worst of times on both sides, striking a note of concord , and expressing hope that Prime Minister Nirender Modi will display pragmatism , for the kind of violence witnessed ( from Shiv Sena), was bound to hurt the Indian society.
The former petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyer, who also was the first consul general of his country in Karachi, after resumption of ties, broken because of the 1971 war, is known for his passionate feelings for Indo-Pakistan Amity. He had earlier said during his last visit to Karachi that he had wept when India exploded nuclear bomb in May 1998,and was saddened further when Pakistan followed suit. He had written quite a few detailed articles against closure of the Indian consulate in Karachi, saying it had hurt the feelings of divided families. He was called as “Pakistan”s ambassador in India’. Mani, a regular visitor to Pakistan, will be in Karachi again in January next year.
He narrated anecdotes and personal experiences to ask from the Indian High Commissioner as to what was the Indiangovernment policy of BJP about violence and hate-Pakistan campaign by Shiv Sena and protected through silence by the present prime minister Nirender Modi.
While Senator Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan read out a paper relying heavily on historical perspective, and emphasizing that partition must be accepted, former Indian foreign Secretary Salman Haider said governments created aritificial barriers, while conferences such as the one held last Tuesday, should provide a common meeting ground, and suggest to their respective governments to opt for dialogue.
The Indian high commissioner Raghavan, restless from long speeches, obviously disagreed with most speakers, calling the Indian foreign policy as flip-flop, saying instead that there appeared a false narrative about India. He said that since 2014 every single initiative had come from New Delhi, but forgot that it was Pakistan which had been accommodating Indian point of view in search of peace. From the term” comprehensive” used in the start of Indo-Pak dialogue, Islamabad agreed to own Indian terminology of “composite” dialogue. Even then, the Indian reluctance to accept Pakistani point of view of dialogue on Kashmir was always rejected with contempt.
Later in the afternoon two workshop sessions took place, which were inter-active nature and did help create an atmosphere of goodwill, which in future may advance the cause of peace through public pressure.
In his Keynote address Mr Tariq Fatemi reminded the people that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was keen from the beginning for permanent peace and friendship between India and Pakistan. Tension between the two countries must now go. He dwelt on the worldwide accepted reality that emerging realities were that focus was now required on eliminating poverty, hunger and squalor, affecting the 1.5 billion people of India and Pakistan. Why should not be there be a mechanism to open a new chapter, when the world, learning from their past experiences, was doing away with visa restrictions, and combining well for furthering the cause of welfare of their people.
The effort of the Ahsan Zuberi and colleagues in KCFR was bold and laudable, and may well be a precursor of peace, amity and goodwill between India and Pakistan, which was its primary and the principle aim.