Saturday, March 10, 2012

Meira Kumar's Pak visit: Seed of a Great Expectation

Vision, ambition and necessity are the three basic elements those essentially shape relations between two countries. But there is yet another vital element called the “goodwill” between the common population in both the countries – that also ought to be given due weight. This was amplified in the recent visit of Indian parliamentary delegation led by the Speaker Lok Sabha, Ms Meira Kumar to Pakistan. In one of her reactions from Pakistani soil, the Lok Sabha Speaker candidly admitted that she was “pleasantly shocked” to see the love that Pakistanis have for Indians. Stating that she would never forget the love she received in Pakistan, Ms Kumar was frank in stating that she felt as if her five-day trip had gone by in "five seconds". "There should be a relationship of peace and friendship between the two countries. Both countries should resolve their outstanding issues through dialogue," she had rightly summed up. India has been always keen for a peaceful atmosphere in the region and thus it would continue to strongly bat for a situation where in “all outstanding issues” between the two countries are settled across the table at the earliest. In the words of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, New Delhi wants peace and thereby a situation is created in the region which will be conducive for development and prosperity. This visit of the Indian parliamentary delegation was at the invitation of the Pakistan National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza and during her stay in Pakistan, the Speaker of the lower house of Indian Parliament had important deliberations including with the Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. This was first ever official visit by a Speaker of the Lok Sabha to Pakistan and during her interaction with the Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani, Ms Kumar rightly highlighted among other things that there was consensus in the Indian Parliament on building a relationship of trust and mutually beneficial co-operation between India and Pakistan. New Delhi wished Islamabad a stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan and a relation with India in an atmosphere free of terror and violence, she told the Pakistani leader. Such a relationship, she rightly underlined, would be to the benefit of people of both countries and will also contribute to prosperity in the region. Peace with Pakistan is among the top cherished wishes of Indian diplomatic leadership. In fact, New Delhi has never hesitated from taking the first step or running the important extra mile in its efforts to establish peace with that country braving several hurdles. It was this spirit which saw in the 1990s, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee making a bus trip across the border to Lahore. The similar gesture has been shown even recently when the present incumbent Dr Manmohan Singh described his Pakistani counterpart Gilani as a ‘man of peace’. The Prime Minister of Pakistan noted during his interaction that bilateral dialogue, which was resumed last year, had entered its second round. He welcomed enhanced interaction between Parliamentarians of the two countries saying as representatives of people, the elected MPs had an important role to play in strengthening relationship. The Lok Sabha Speaker also interacted with the Women Caucus in the Parliament of Pakistan. The interaction focused on the role of women Parliamentarians in addressing issues pertaining to development, welfare of women and strengthening of democracy. Both sides agreed that it is not only the culture and music which formed the basis of strong commonness between the people of these two countries, but also their challenges confronting the welfare of common people, especially women, vis-à-vis crucial parameters like health were also similar. It goes without saying that in the ultimate enough hopes have been rekindled about efforts to be made sincerely for improved Indo-Pak relations. Ms Kumar had led a multi-party delegation including from major opposition party, BJP. Her chaste Urdu knowledge only came in handy as she left the Pakistanis impressed and convinced that ‘Urdu’ is not a dieing language in India. Ms Kumar has been a former diplomat herself; therefore it is understandable that she could achieve the purpose her delegation was expected of --- that is to underline the message that there should be peace and cordial relations between the two neighbours. The visit of a multi-party parliamentary delegation to Pakistan can be described as something in between the hardcore diplomacy and what is known as track-2 diplomacy. Clearly, just as in India, there is a strong desire in Pakistan too that people in both the sides are able to live in peace and harmony. Well, the diplomacy should now get ready for a bigger test --- that is to live up to the great expectations. (ends)