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From terror to trade: Eight reasons Pakistanis now want a peace process from Modi and Sharif

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The carefully staged “surprise diplomacy” by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his warm reception by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif break a logjam in bilateral relations.

Modi’s short visit to Lahore on Dec. 25 was welcomed by almost all the mainstream political parties in Pakistan. That betrays a consensus within the political elites there, unlike in India where the opposition parties are playing politics over bilateral diplomacy. The truth is that it was Modi who took the initiative, even if driven by the need for good optics. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, for all his goodwill, could not take the decision to visit Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign policy, however, is not the sole domain of its civilian governments. They have to take the security establishment on board. No one knows this better than Sharif. Given this home truth, the diplomatic efforts are not likely to proceed without a nod from the powerful military. The key to this is largely related to Afghanistan.

In sync with the US and other Western powers as well as China, Pakistan is engaged in a tough effort to help facilitate a settlement between the Afghan Taliban and the Ashraf Ghani administration. The process has been far from smooth. It broke down many times. Infighting within the Afghan Taliban also impinges upon the peace efforts.

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Manmohan Singh’s ignorance

Manmohan Singh whom I have always held in high regard, disappointed millions in South Asia with his distastefully ill-timed hard talk during his Independence day address. As if Pakistan’s current misery was a time to blow India’s trumpet. He surely was also unaware of what his patriotic Indian poet, Ali Sardar Jafri had written years ago –Dialogue Souldn’t Cease. Here is an Urdu version with a full translation. Perhaps, someone should pass a copy of this poem to the exalted Prime Minister of India.

GUFTGOO BAnD NA HO
BAAT SE BAAT CHALEY
SUBH TAK SHAAM-E-MULAAQAAT CHALEY
HUM PE HAnSTI HUEE
YE TAAROn BHARI RAAT CHALEY […]

Redefining national interest

There is simply no alternative to information flow and dismantling the iron curtain. Let the disputes remain, but allow media access across the borders. Let the legislators take the lead and ask the Foreign Office mandarins to take a backseat. Trade and political compacts shall take care of the peace process. History teaches us that the pursuit of rational self interest is the key to progress. Annihilation is the fate of irrational states.