The hostility industry

The mindset in Pakistan is changing. But India's hawks still don't get it

My friend, the cine artiste and poet, Farooque Sheikh, has summed it up better than I ever could. He describes the TRP war being whipped up by our hysterical TV anchors as "dangerously boring and boringly dangerous".

It is precisely because one had anticipated outrages of the kind that occurred on Sunday, January 6 (and have a much longer ancestry than TV anchors and their guest cohorts are willing to acknowledge — such, for example, as revealed by Praveen Swami in The Hindu) that I have for so long been advocating "uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue" as the only way for India and Pakistan to resolve their issues and normalise their relations. We need most to talk when we are on the edge of war; least when the going is, in any case, good.

The opposition to dialogue has little to do with individual incidents, however horrific. There is a large body of public opinion in India, chock-a-block with retired generals, superannuated ambassadors, and — the most dangerous of the breed — demobbed short service officers turned diplomats, who have never believed in or always had little commitment to a viable relationship with Pakistan. These incidents give them, and their Pakistan counterparts, the opportunity to regurgitate their favourite prejudices. So, it is not present anger that drives their outrage, but incidents of this kind that give passing validity to their shrill tub-thumping. Theirs is the mindset of "old, unhappy, far-off things/And battles long ago".

There is a huge mindset change occurring in Pakistan, indeed, has been evolving with increasing acceleration over the last three decades that I have stayed in and visited Pakistan. Tragically, this changing Pakistani mindset is escaping far too large a section of public opinion in our country. This is inevitable when 95-99 per cent of Indians have never met a Pakistani but have strong views about Pakistan. What is unforgivable is the honing of prejudice in the minds of those who do know Pakistan but refuse to comprehend the fundamental changes taking place in Pakistani thinking merely because that would require them to transmogrify their deeply ingrained preconceptions.

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