Why PM must visit Pakistan

Which is why I am disappointed by reports that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who has accepted Islamabad's invitation to visit Pakistan, is unlikely to undertake the journey soon. Reason: New Delhi thinks that Islamabad has not yet delivered on India's demand for action against the masterminds of 26/11. This makes no sense. Let's be realistic. While India and the international community must continue to press Pakistan to take decisive action for dismantling the terrorist infrastructure on its territory, the fact is that its governance and political institutions are in no position to do enough. Hence, right-thinking Pakistanis are increasingly looking upon friendship with India as a dependable way to bolster their own efforts to not only secure democratic governance in their country, but also to create conditions for religious tolerance and pluralism, based on our shared civilisational heritage and spiritual values. Strengthening this heritage is the best long-term antidote to both terrorist violence and communal violence.

A single example would suffice to illustrate this point. Kasab hailed from Faridkot, which is named after Baba Farid, the highly revered 13th century Sufi saint from Chishti order, which emphasises love, peace, tolerance and Hindu-Muslim amity. Guru Granth Sahib has immortalised Baba Farid's poetry. Dr Manmohan Singh, when he visits his ancestral village Gah in Pakistan's Punjab province, and Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, should underscore the abiding relevance of this common heritage for peace and progress in South Asia. Following the footsteps of his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he should make a sincere appeal to the people and rulers of Pakistan to hold India's extended hand of friendship and cooperation.

This is not the time for timidity, but for mutually building confidence on a broad range of issues, without letting provocations like 26/11 undermine the mission. Let's learn a lesson or two from Europe. The continent that fought two horrendous world wars in the last century (total deaths: 76 million) has now transformed itself into a voluntary union of peaceful cooperation. What began very modestly as the 'European Coal and Steel Community' in 1950—thanks to the bold initiatives of visionaries like Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, whose aim was to make "war ... not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible"—has now become the European Union with an expansive agenda, a well-deserved winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

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