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Be mature guys; there’s a lot at stake in India, Pak

nawaz modi

The much-hyped talks between the National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan have been called off.

It is clear that the recent thaw in bilateral relations was illusionary as the hardened positions of the respective states remain unchanged and a greater level of distrust was reflected in the recent days.

The major roadblock came in the wake of Pakistan’s desire to engage with Kashmiri separatist leaders in New Delhi. This was unacceptable to India, that wanted the talks to be terrorism-centric.

Issues on the table

The Ufa declaration did not preclude Kashmir, but did highlight that the talks will focus on “all issues connected with terrorism.”

Exactly a year ago the Indian government called off its Foreign Secretary’s visit to Islamabad when Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Delhi met a group of Kashmiri separatists.

This is a pattern set by the Modi administration: Look tough, act tough when it comes to Pakistan.

The Indian position on Pakistanis talking to Hurriyat and other Kashmiri representatives is intriguing as it was a routine in the past.

Even during the time of the previous BJP government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, General Musharraf met them during his 2001 India visit. […]

Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s trip to New Delhi sent multiple signals

Narendra Modi’s swearing-in as India’s prime minister coincided with a major diplomatic initiative. By inviting SAARC leaders, especially Pakistan’s prime minister, a new beginning has been made. After intense consultations and taking a strategic risk, Nawaz Sharif decided to attend the ceremony.

Pakistan’s India policy has been the exclusive preserve of its civilmilitary bureaucracy. In the past six years, there has been a gradual shift. Pakistan’s India policy has been the exclusive preserve of its civilmilitary bureaucracy. In the past six years, there has been a gradual shift.

Critics in Pakistan termed the ceremony as a continuation of Delhi Durbar — the grand assembly of local rajas and maharajas to pay homage to the British crown. Old-fashioned hawks spoke about BJP’s role in the fall of the Babri Masjid, the Gujarat riots and general anti-Muslim rhetoric that its parent organisation RSS is famous for. Sharif ignored all of this and took a gamble to remain true to his quest for a normalised relationship with India. For him, this was a pledge he had made to Pakistani electorate last year. The terrorised Pakistanis, for all the anti-India sentiment that has been drummed up, appreciate the value of peace.

He Means Business […]

Trade with India: Nawaz Sharif must fulfill his mandate

Raza Rumi

India will gain from freer mutual trade, but so will Pakistan

Trade with India: Nawaz Sharif must fulfil his mandate A paramilitary soldier stands guard as a truck crosses into Pakistan from India, at the Wagah border

It seems that the PML-N government may well be set to achieve one of its key policy goals ie bolstering trade with India. During 2013, the process of normalization was scuttled by the untoward tensions on the Line of Control (LoC) and the situation was controlled in part by the meeting of DGMOs in December 2013. That was a welcome initiative led by Nawaz Sharif himself and reportedly some quarters were not all that pleased with such a putsch from the PM’s office.

For years, the right wing and fringe extremists have abused the term Most Favoured Nation (MFN) as some kind of a ‘concession’ to India at the cost of national sovereignty. The political elites have resisted this narrative and Sharif happens to be the most consistent and clear advocate of trading with India. To bypass the constructed discourse on MFN the government is set to give India Non Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) – on a reciprocal basis – which essentially implies sorting out some of the irrational barriers erected over the years to discourage and/or block trading with the enemy. The positive list of Pakistan comprises 8000 items, but only 1967 are importable from India while the negative list includes 1209 items. In 2012, federal cabinet approved abolishing this negative list. […]

Sub-Continent’s Berlin Wall

I am posting Shivani Mohan's article where I have been quoted with reference to the recent folklore festival held under the aegis of SAARC. Another piece on the folk performances can be accessed here. This fortnight saw the 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. So liberating and decisive, when a vast multitude of people chose to see sense and forget trifles that generally incense mankind, when the similarities between two peoples became more important than the differences; when cultural affinity conquered meaningless rivalry

November 22nd, 2009|Arts & Culture, Guest Writer|0 Comments

Postcard from Agra

Published in The Friday Times

As Indian TV channels broadcast stories on Pakistan’s domestic infighting, and rumours of a new coup d’ etat, my less perturbed alter-ego is calmed by Agra – the run down city that was once the capital of the Mughal empire. I have spent three days with a delightful group of South Asian writers, poets and academics who have congregated to celebrate the SAARC writers’ festival organised by Ajeet Caur, the legendary Punjabi writer whose love for Lahore has not waned despite the iron curtain erected sixty one years ago. Caur has been managing the Foundation of South Asian Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) since 1992 and single-handedly she has challenged the many geographical and political barriers that have been erected. FOSWAL is now a platform for writers and poets on the margins of power-drama, lighting little lamps of hope. (picture above left : SAARC writers with Pakistani delegates Ustad Akhtar (middle), Parveen Atif (second from left) and Zahid Nawaz (extreme right)

I had been reading Caur’s earthy, profound stories for decades, and always wondered if I would ever meet her. Therefore, receiving an invite from her a month ago, was a long cherished wish come true. In a few, scattered and sparkling conversations she told me how she had found me through my writings urging for Indo-Pak amity which, in the words of my cynical friends, are dreamy rants asking for the impossible. This March, the gods overseeing visas and border crossings were not too cantankerous. So I made it to Delhi the day before the conference was due to start. […]
March 31st, 2009|Personal|6 Comments

Contemporary Pakistani literature in the ‘age of terror’

I am posting the synopsis of my paper entitled Silhouetted Silences – contemporary Pakistani literature in the ‘age of terror’, that I presented at the SAARC writers’ festival held in Agra, India (March 13-17, 2009). The full paper needs to be edited and referenced so that will posted a little later.

Round my neck,
from time to time, there was the hallucination
of a noose, and now and then, the weight
of chains binding my feet.
Then one fine day
love came to drag me, bound and manacled,
into the same cavalcade as the others (Faiz)

Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and the global hysteria about ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’, Pakistan has faced the greatest of existential challenges after its dismemberment in 1971. As a frontline ally of the US in the war on terror, Pakistani society and polity have been engulfed by growing militancy and acts of violence commonly branded as terrorism. Whilst there is no single definition of ‘terrorism’, the mainstream media and policymakers – in the service of imperial rhetoric aimed to justify and perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq – have established terrorism as the major threat to domestic and regional peace in South Asia. Acts of premeditated and organised violence in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have thus assumed a central place in discourse on regional cooperation or its converse: the rivalries between the constructed nation states and their irresponsible power-elites.

In this milieu, the South Asian citizens have been the victims of violence, uncertainty and acrimonies that have only led to exacerbation of poverty, inequality, ascendancy of militarism and war-mantra. All of this is taking place when globalization is relentlessly seeping into domestic economies, cultures and social systems. Where does this leave the writers and poets of the region who grapple with the complex, confusing and fast changing social and political realities? Whilst the community of South Asian writers – traditionally the forbearers of intellectual and political movements – is beleaguered by corporate media industry, it has struggled to respond to challenges that events have created. […]

March 26th, 2009|Pakistani Literature, Personal, South Asian Literature|6 Comments

In Agra – attending the SAARC writers’ moot

Finally managed to reach Agra to attend the SAARC Literature festival organised by the inimitable Ajeet Caur. It is a lovely event with people from all over the region bemoaning what has happened to the region when it should be taking off.

The news from Pakistan are disturbing to say the least and the headlines here […]

March 14th, 2009|Personal, South Asian Literature|1 Comment