We posted Rajmohan Gandhi’s piece for Dawn a couple of days ago. Here’s what Coomi Kapoor wrote in the Indian Express on the same day:
Stop the obsession with Pakistan!
Out of the mouth of a babalog politician recently came words that warmed my heart. “We are giving too much importance to Pakistan. It is just a small piece of land, India can’t be compared with Pakistan” was Rahul Gandhi’s wise comment to the media in Shimla.
Rahul must be given all credit for expressing sentiments, which most seasoned politicians would have been too timid to state. The BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad predictably gave the mandatory reflex criticism, suggesting that Rahul did not know what he was talking about. Actually Rahul’s remarks struck a responsive chord with many. I suspect that the silent majority in this country agrees with Rahul that we greatly exaggerate the importance and relevance of Indo-Pakistan relations.
Pakistan occupies a disproportionate amount of time and space of our foreign policy makers. The Indian media is similarly obsessed with the subject. Government spokespersons, politicians, newspapers and TV channels feel it necessary to constantly speculate and comment on Indo-Pak relations. Whether the representatives of the two countries will meet on the sideline of whatever international meet both countries are attending. Whether there will be an agreement of any sort. Whether the subsequent joint statement released will be in our favour or theirs. We are triumphant every time we come across fresh evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in terror acts in India. We howl with anger when Pakistan refuses to accept the evidence put before it. We get frustrated when third parties like the USA do not come out unequivocally on our side. Every message we get from Pakistan is discussed and analyzed threadbare on our TV talk shows.
A regular stream of Indo-Pak experts from both sides of the border are busy shuttling between the two countries and lecturing us on what we should do or not do. One group takes the line that poor Pakistan is in such a sorry state that we should do nothing which will dislodge the sane civilian leadership, even turn the other cheek, if necessary. The opposite camp eggs the government on to rattle sabres hoping to whip up domestic jingoism for its own political ends.
In our hearts we know that despite the brouhaha and optimism, we will continue to go round and round in circles, without any appreciable change in status. They are not going to give up their claim to Kashmir, nor are we planning to cede any of our territory. They are certainly not going to acknowledge their complicity in terror attacks, no matter how much proof we present. Some voices in Pakistan may acknowledge culpability, but in the end, they are not going to put the real ringleaders behind the 26/11operation in Mumbai in jail. The USA needs Pakistan for its own strategic purposes, so it is not going to stop supplying arms and funds to Pakistan, no matter what cast iron evidence we produce. Only the very naïve would believe that foreign policy is decided on the basis of right and wrong.
A succession of Indian governments have wasted much time and energy engaging in dialogues with civilian governments in Pakistan, even when we are not sure who exactly calls the shots in that country. For instance, when the Kargil intrusions took place during then Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quick to blame the army and claim he knew nothing about it. Today, apart from the army, even Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani and President Asaf Ali Zardari speak in different voices. With the Taliban of late successfully engineering terror attacks all over Pakistan — even in the sanctum sanctorum, the army headquarters — it is difficult to predict who will be in control of this rapidly disintegrating country tomorrow.
I am certainly not advocating that we break ties with Pakistan, adopt force, stop talking or stop taking adequate measures to protect our own internal security. But why not simply treat negotiations as part of routine diplomacy, without hyping it up every time and hoping for some magical breakthrough? Rahul is perfectly right in suggesting that by constantly focusing on Pakistan in our domestic and international statements, we do ourselves more harm than good. We make the rest of the world tend to bracket us with Pakistan. Whereas, there is no comparison between the two.
Last year our GDP was $1.208 trillion; Pakistan’s a mere $170 billion. We are the twelfth largest economy in terms of market exchange rates and the fourth in terms of purchasing power. Our growth rate is a healthy 6. 5 per cent or more and we are considered one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Pakistan’s growth rate is barely 2 per cent. Literacy in Pakistan is around 55 per cent. In India our literacy rates are around 75 per cent. Today the Indian rupee is worth 1.8 Pakistani rupees.
A new generation in our country is far less bothered about Pakistan, than an older generation, including most of our politicians, who cannot de-link from the past. The same appears to be the case in Pakistan. I was heartened to read a recent survey in Pakistan which indicated that the majority regarded the USA as the country’s principal enemy, not India. True we cannot wish away our neighbours, but surely it is time we stopped being quite so obsessed with them.
[Here’s a fuller version of Rahul Gandhi’s press conference in Simla:
At a press conference in Shimla, the Gandhi scion said:” We are giving too much importance to Pakistan. It is just a small piece of land. India can’t be compared with Pakistan. Pakistan’s internal issues do affect us, but we are giving too much time and importance to Pakistan in our minds. In my opinion, it deserves not even half the importance we are giving it.”
Rahul Gandhi said: “If you see, the attitude of the world has changed towards Pakistan. It’s not a day’s job. It’s a long process. India has created pressure and the entire world is putting pressure on Pakistan. Certain issues related to Pakistan have to be managed, which is already being done. We are in a comfortable position. There is no comparison between India and Pakistan”.
Rahul further said: “I belong to the family which has never stepped back, which has never gone back on its words. You know that when any member of my family decides to do anything, he does it. Be it the freedom struggle, the division of Pakistan or taking India to the 21st century”.
On the recent controversy in BJP over the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Rahul said: “They (BJP) are just talking about Jinnah, who is history now. I can’t think about Jinnah even for five seconds.. not for one second.” – PTH]