India is no more a bête noire in Pakistan. Elite in Islamabad and Karachi no more count it as an ‘enemy country’ instead they look upon it not only as a role model for democracy and development but also as neighbor to be ‘trusted’. Now ‘India votary club’ in the neighboring country is not just confined to journalists like Najam Sethi and activists like Asma Jahangir and Beena Sarwar only but if opinion pages in Pakistan English language newspaper more particularly those published in Islamabad and Karachi and talk shows on various private television channels are mirrors the number has multiplied. Moreover, their voices are louder than those that have been accusing India of playing ‘mischief’ along southern border of the country with Afghanistan or speaking against putting Kashmir on the backburner.
How many of these journalists and anchors are genuinely looking upon India as a friend and calling for forging of ties. And how many have been doing it at the bidding of some big business houses who have been eager for establishing commercial relations with India and have worked for granting of MFN status to it, are posers that engage attention.
Some top Pakistan columnists, journalist and anchors were recently in the dock for receiving huge bribes from some businesspersons for furthering agenda of the PPP led government. List of twenty top media men who have been regular recipients of favors from a top executive closely connected with Pakistan President Asaf Ali Zardari were carried by newspapers and posted on social media networks. Some of these top media men have built huge properties not only in Pakistan but also in international cities like New York. Leaking recording of an off-air conversation between a businessman and Meher Bokhari and Mubasher Lucman two anchors of Lahore based Dunya TV channel during an interview has not only substantiated the reports but also put question marks on the integrity of some big names sitting on a higher moral pedestal.
Journalists and activists with foggy integrity apart, there has been some progress in people-to-people contacts. Top Indian doctors have been holding free medical camps in Pakistan cities. Many patients with cardiac and liver ailments are receiving treatment in New Delhi hospitals. In Pakistan’s social fabric, Bollywood stars and actors have got woven more intricately than in Indian society. The increased exchange of business delegation has given boost to minor business like import of export of onions and other merchandise. The two countries however are yet to enter into a big symbiotic economic partnership.
Is it a smokescreen or genuine forward movement? Some recent developments in the relations between the two countries have cast doubts on the genuineness of the media orchestrated ‘forward movement.’ In her bid to win favor with India Pakistan Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani in a television, interview towards end of March this year stated that ‘Pakistan were equally responsible as India for building animosity and hostility’. This was for the first that a Pakistan Foreign Minister made such an admission. A former Pakistan diplomat in an article had described her remarks as “reflection of diplomatic naivety and historical inexactitude.’ She had ‘categorically denied of putting Kashmir on backburner and asserted of having changed the ‘road that leads to resolution of Kashmir dispute.’ Stating that the two countries were in a ‘negative territory so far trust deficit was concerned; it had been brought to zero level,’ she subtly admitted that Kashmir was ‘intractable’. She had indicated that Pakistan was interested in ‘solving the solvable issues like Sir Creak and Siachen then moving to serious issues. Pakistan leaders including opposition leadership Nawaz Sharif had proposed unilateral withdrawal of troops from Siachin. In Mid June Defence Secretaries of the two countries met for two days without making any headway.
The deadlock was a foregone conclusion after Defence Minister Antony had made it amply clear that India wants Pakistan to authenticate the 110 KM Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) which passes through the Saltoro Ridge and Siachen Glacier both on the maps and on the ground. So far, there has been no progress on Sir Creak and other issue that Pakistan Foreign Minister had called as solvable, instead it seems that the gains made in terms of various CBMs since 2004 are being done away with.
In the embittered relations of the countries, restoration of travel and trade between two parts of Jammu and Kashmir with all its bottlenecks and constraints were considered as a diplomatic marvel. Moreover, described as ‘mother’ of Kashmir related Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). A weak earlier after exchange of fire at a couple of places in the Poonch Sector both trade, travel was suspended in Rawlakot-Poonch sector, and impediments in smooth conducting of travel and trade across the Srinagar-Muzafarabad were created. These impediments had provoked statements and commentaries in Srinagar newspapers. Number of initiatives were announced in the July 27, 2011, India and Pakistan Foreign Ministers meeting for making these CBMs more effective and meaningful. These CBMs had withstood the vagaries of 26/11, 2008 happenings that almost had brought Indo-Pak relations to a naught. Compared to Mumbai terrorist attack that had seen over hundred sixty people dead the exchange of fire across the line is not of much consequence, it is genuine question why trade and travel across LOC has been suspended indefinitely.
These developments have taken place ahead of July 5, Foreign Secretary meeting in New Delhi. The question haunting the public mind is that if there is more than what meets the eye in the suspension of trade across the line—If the developments during the month do not suggest initiating yet another phase of uncertainty in the region ahead of 2014, US drawdown from Afghanistan.
(Feedback at email@example.com)