In India Prime Minister Vajpayee was politically attacked for his bold steps and peace talks with Pakistan. These are darker sides and are bound to happen
In his eight years as Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has visited almost all important countries, except Pakistan, which should be most important country from the Indian point of view.
During the successful visit by Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishana to Islamabad this September, Pakistan once again extended an invitation to the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. To this and also to all past invitations, India has been haggling on the pretext of ‘let there be a significant breakthrough’ before PM’s visit to Pakistan.
In India many opinions have been expressed and suggestions have been given by the “experts” on Pakistan about the visit of Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan. Even in Pakistan, various opinions have been expressed over this issue. In both these countries, a few experts want that he should visit, many do not.
Dr. Singh himself has expressed a wish to visit Pakistan, subject to a positive breakthrough in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. No one knows what breakthrough he desires nor what sort of platform he needs, to pay his maiden visit to Pakistan. His cabinet ministers have already built up a good platform and have set up a proper stage for his visit to Islamabad. Dr. Singh must be aware about the theory that it is the responsibility of the big power to take bold steps, in order to improve bilateral ties between two asymmetrical powers.
In the past, whenever the heads of state from India and Pakistan paid a visit to the other country, they managed to achieve something significant, if not very central. Though those achievements could not resolve major conflicts between them, still such visits proved effective enough to tackle intermediate tensions. Few mutual agreements between them opened ways to move further in their relationship and till today successfully guide their bilateral relationship. Of course, many were not successful because the perpetrators of enmity successfully managed to de-rail the process and screwed-up the achievements.
For example, on 8 April 1950 Nehru–Liaqat pact was signed between Pandit Nehru and Liaqat Ali Khan, after six days talks between the two Prime Ministers in New Delhi. The two countries agreed to provide security and rights to their minorities and avert another war between them. This pact had its effect on an on-going partition related religious genocide.
Later, Pandit Nehru’s meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister, Mohammad Ali Bogra, helped advance talks over Indus Water Sharing Formula which culminated in 1960 Indus Water Treaty. Pandit Nehru went to Karachi and signed the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with General Ayub Khan.
In the 1970s, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s visit to Simla after 1971 war gave new shape to India–Pakistan relations. The two countries agreed to move away from the United Nations (UN) mediated solutions to bilateral efforts to sort out the Kashmir issue. Also, the ceasefire line of 1948 was transformed into Line of Control (LoC).
In the 1980s, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Islamabad and his meeting with Ms Benazir Bhutto made the two countries agree upon sharing information about each other’s nuclear installations.
In the 1990s, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee paid a visit to Pakistan, after the two countries conducted nuclear tests in 1998. He invited, the then Pakistani Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, for comprehensive dialogue on all pending issues. Bus service between New Delhi and Lahore was launched to strengthen people-to-people contacts.
However, the hawks scuttled the process. Unfortunately, often political leaderships had been blamed for the work carried out by hate-mongers. Ms Bhutto after her meeting and signing of pact with Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, was dubbed as a ‘security risk’ by the Pakistani Army.
After Mr. Vajpayee’s visit, Kargil was staged due to an internal power tussle between Pakistani Army and the civilian government. In India Prime Minister Vajpayee was politically attacked for his bold steps and peace talks with Pakistan. These are darker sides and are bound to happen because of sixty five years of vicious relationship between the two countries. The present leadership has to decide whether they want to move on or would like to remain stuck in past.
Post-Mumbai, step-by-step, engagement between the two countries is a sign that they want to move ahead. In his messages and speeches Dr. Singh has always expressed his hope for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan. His messages and spirit needs tangible evidence. If he thinks his visit will not achieve anything positive, he is wrong. Politics is the art of possibility. His visit may not lead to a “breakthrough” but it will certainly lead to peaceful engagement with Pakistan.