Peace with Islamists

On the day that the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met in Delhi last week, I had a personal cross-border encounter that left me worried about whether there can ever be peace with the Islamist republic next door. I use the word Islamist consciously because I believe we will not be able to talk to Pakistan purposefully until we first understand that the mindset of that country has gone from Islamic to Islamist. I say this with sadness because as a proud Punjabi, whose origins lie on that side of the border, I have always believed that the innate pragmatism and sense of humour of the average Punjabi would eventually vanquish the militant mullahs and military men who have poisoned the air of Pakistan. I believe this less today.

My cross-border encounter happened on Nidhi Razdan's show. I was in the NDTV studio in Delhi with two Indian panelists and from Pakistan she invited a former air vice marshal called Shahzad Choudhury and a former diplomat called Akram Zaki. When Nidhi asked my view on the talks between the foreign secretaries held that morning I told her truthfully that I believed 26/11 was an act of war, and should not be discussed as mere terrorism, since we have confirmation that Pakistani military men were involved in planning it.

On the Indian side we agreed about the need for justice to be done to bring closure to 26/11. The Pakistani panelists disagreed belligerently. The former air vice marshal said 'how long will you continue milking 26/11' which was so offensive a remark that it left little room for sweet talk. I said I was disgusted but in a polite tone but it was not polite enough for the Pakistani diplomat. He started yelling that they wanted only to talk about the future and not the past and had not come to talk to people 'stuck in 2008'. One of them then accused the Indian Home Minister of deliberately sabotaging the talks by bringing up Abu Jundal.

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