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A place in history - an editorial - Indian Express

Editorial ()
4 July 1996


Title : A place in history
Author : Editorial
Publication : Indian Express
Date : July 4, 1996

AN occupational hazard of becoming Foreign Minister is
that it breeds a romantic desire to make history. Inder
Kumar Gujral is no exception to this starry-eyed
temptation. His unilateral gesture, to , Pakistan -
replete with photo opportunities with a, beatific High
Commissioner Riaz Khokhar in,the Minister's South Block
office-epitonmises all that is naive and ad hoc in
India's policy towards its troublesome neighbour. Quite
unmindful of the fact that there has been no discernible
dilution in Pakistan's aggressive hostility towards this
country, particularly its involvement in cross-border
terrorism, Gujral has instructed the Indian High
Commission in Islamabad to issue a maximum number
visas to those wishing to visit India. In a move that is
likely to win him some brownie points across the
Radcliffe Line, Gujral has also targeted the Pakistani
intelligentsia and mediafor a show of exceptional
generosity. He has, of course, not insisted on
reciprocity, maybe on the assumption that Track-H
diplomacy has its own momentum. But neither has he
thought fit to simultaneously press home India's profound
concern over Pakistan's brazen sponsorship of terrorism
in the Kashmir valley and outside, nor protest at the
unseemly harassment of Indian diplomats and journalists
posted in Islamabad. These disconcerting facets of Indo-
Pakistan relationship have been conveniently glossed,
over because they do not fit the mythical picture of a
groundswell for peace, harmony and reconciliation on both
sides of the international divide.

In assuming that a large dose of people-to-people contact
and a generous measure of cultural exchange will nullify
the existing tensions between the two countries, Gujral
is being willfully myopic. His perception does not take
into account the awkward fact of India-baiting being the
ideological leitmotif of the Pakistani politico-military
establishment. As long as Kashmir remains the stated
"unfinished agenda" of partition and as long as
opposition to India constitutes the definition of
Pakistani nationhood, piecemeal gestures of goodwill will
have no effect. On the contrary, they will be
misinterpreted as evidence of India's lack of resolve.
During his first stint as Foreign Minister, Gujral
dialled a wrong number in the Gulf war. This time too he
should beware of allowing mushy sentiment to prevail over
diplomatic caution.

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