Handling Pakistan

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was keen on establishing a rapport with Pakistan which would be better than the usual quarrelsome relationship that India had with it. He began this process when he was Foreign Minister and continued when he became Prime Minister. Manmohan Singh was passionate about settling all differences with Pakistan in as amiable fashion as possible. Indeed, he took considerable risks with his parliamentary colleagues in the way he did his diplomacy at Sharm-el-Sheikh and later.

The result of the effort of these 15 years is hard to see. No doubt we have better a trade relationship, but annoyances like the most recent LoC incursions and total denial of 26/11 involvement by Pakistan continue to irk. Even during Vajpayee's tenure, Kargil was a rude shock from which India recovered thanks only to some immensely brave fighting by the jawans.

Why does this pattern of reconciliation punctured by violent incidents continue in India's relations with Pakistan? Is it just a normal pattern of the younger brother always cocking a snook at the older brother and getting away with it because older brothers have to display forbearance? Is there no end to this schizophrenic behaviour pattern in sight?

The answer has to be no. It is difficult for Indians to realise the deep sense of inferiority and consequent resentment that Pakistanis feel about their larger neighbour. I learned this when, during a month-long stay in Islamabad, the inevitable second question everyone in Pakistan asked me was, 'Why don't you give up Kashmir?' My feeble answer was that I had a UK passport and even otherwise, countries do not give up what they think is legitimately theirs. I did not thereby stop the argument. Each of my interlocutors went on with a litany of complaints about how unjust the international system was to allow the Kashmir question to remain unsettled, about India's moral hypocrisy etc. I had a distinct feeling that Pakistanis felt their country was incomplete without Kashmir.

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