The seasoned Congress leader and India’s well-known dove Mani Shankar Aiyar has made some bold remarks at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. He has reminded his countrymen that it is time to change how they view Pakistan. Citing the recent developments in Pakistan, he has rightly pointed out that Pakistani public opinion and its political discourse does not view India as an enemy. More importantly, the generations, which witnessed the horrors of the 1947 Partition, have given way to a younger population, which has a different set of aspirations.
Mr Aiyar’s statement must be welcomed on both sides of the border. Such voices of sanity must be heard and especially his correct perception that the “visceral anti-Indianism of a previous generation is almost out of the picture now”. He also challenged the orthodox perceptions in India that “since the Pakistanis have been hostile in the past, they are necessarily hostile now”. While Aiyar’s detractors will refute these assertions, the objective conditions in Pakistan lend much credence to his point of view.
During the May 2013 elections, India and the Kashmir issue barely figured in the electoral campaigns. Not a single political party raised India as a bogey, as Pakistan has witnessed a rare consensus on moving ahead with the peace process. Even the right-wing political parties are committed to this goal. Similarly, most of Pakistan’s business lobbies are also tilted in favour of extending trade ties with their Indian counterparts. Last year’s progress has already impacted the trade volume as the recent figures record a noticeable surge. Lastly, Pakistan’s powerful military has prodded along this civilian consensus and appears to be on board in terms of improving ties with India.
Aiyar also spoke of the challenges that Nawaz Sharif may face and cited his previous record in office. His prognosis on the way forward once again is spot-on. The best way forward is to ensure that there is ‘‘uninterrupted and uninterruptible’ dialogue between India and Pakistan.
We hope that Mr Aiyar’s remarks are also heard in India and the democratic impulses of its citizens are noted. It is time to shed the stereotypes about Pakistan as India’s enemy.