Pakistan and boorishness in the guise of diplomacy for peace
By Shankkar Aiyar | Published: 15th December 2012 11:44 PM |
It was Benjamin Franklin who famously said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Some guests, it would seem, stink on arrival. Rehman Malik, the Minister for Interior from Pakistan visiting India, transcended levels and created a new low in this dialogue of the deaf with his utterances.
On Friday, he declared on arrival the level of his intellect and the honesty of his intent with a string of statements. Captain Saurabh Kalia, who died of torture by the Pakistani Army during the Kargil War, he said may have died of a bullet or the weather. The evidence delivered by India against LeT chief Hafiz Saeed was dismissed as mere “information”. Malik then went on to say “we want no 26/11, no Samjhauta blast, no Bombay blasts, no Babri Masjid demolition” and advised India to “forget the dark days of the past and move ahead”. His brief was clear: obfuscate the facts of what was done to the war hero, deny the role of the arms of the Pakistani state in sponsoring terrorism repeatedly and persist with the artifice of non-state actors to shirk responsibility. To ask India to forget— while Pakistan will remember at will—is nothing but barbarism in the guise of diplomacy for peace.
Imagine this. Malik goes to Washington. In a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he says, “We don’t want another 9/11” and in the same sentence justifies the attack by alluding to US foreign policy position on the Israeli-Palestine dispute casually as the causative of a horrific consequence of terrorism. Imagine Malik telling the Americans to “forget the past and move ahead” and drop the drone campaign to hunt for terrorists. Would he have got away with it?
Every diverse democracy in the world has issues and that these issues are out in the open is vindication of the strength of democracy. But to present a crass construct of innuendo to justify an act of war sponsored by the arms of the Pakistani state is sheer depravity. And look who is sermonising! India is being hectored by a country where democracy has been an occasional tourist, where the governor of Punjab province is killed for his views on blasphemy laws, where the government is a mute spectator to the anointment of the killer as a hero, where thousands of girls are converted forcibly and where the State is silent while a child is attacked for her campaign on educating girls!
The harsh truth is that the bizarre utterances of Malik went uncontested—from the podium and off the podium. Surely, the least that could have been done was to downgrade the visit and cancel the appointment with the prime minister. That didn’t happen. Malik met with the prime minister and in a perverse and blasé display denied having ever equated domestic issues with the 26/11 terror attacks. Perhaps the government believes the utterances of Malik are beneath contempt, unworthy of an official response. But what about the political arm of the government? Where indeed were all those ministers who robustly exercise their vocal chords on matters immaterial? Is silence their only riposte?
In typical escapism, some commentators wonder why, and if at all, India should pay any attention to what Malik said. Some even observed that he is not taken seriously in his own country. That is neither here nor there. It is a facetious argument. Malik didn’t come as part of a music troupe nor was he a participant in Big Boss! Malik sat on an inter-government meeting with India’s home minister with the national flags in attendance. If this is not serious, then pray what is.
The larger question is why is India talking to such people? Can A Man Ki Asha prevail to the exclusion of all else, derail the inclusive quest of a people for justice? Malik would have India believe that he has come with a message of peace and love! Is this the language of peace? Yes, Malik did say that the plotters and perpetrators of the 26/11 attack will be brought to justice. But just how credible is that claim, considering this has been made only so many times since 2008. Is this the man who the government of India is trusting to deliver the perpetrators of the 26/11 terror attacks? Much has been made out of the need for India to talk to the democratically elected government in Pakistan. Is Malik speaking the words of his masters in mufti or in uniform?
Yes, India must sue for peace. To do so effectively, it must stop confusing between Pakistanis and Pakistan. Pakistanis are victims, not Pakistan. It must also know who to talk to and who not to talk to, who to invite and who to disinvite. After all, some guests are best left in their own homes.
Shankkar Aiyar is the author of Accidental India: A History of the Nation’s Passage through Crisis and Change