Better than Nutwar
Manmohan Singh spoke on foreign relations for probably the first time since he took office; or it may be the first time people actually heard him. The most striking part of Dr Singh’s speech was that there was no striking foreign policy idea. He confirmed that India would work towards better relations with allies old and new. It is quite tempting to think that Manmohan Singh included the mention of Iraq to put a time stamp on his speech, the contents of which would have sounded ‘timely’ any time over the last decade (and would probably sound timely over the next decade too).
We desire to live in a neighbourhood of peace and prosperity. We will actively pursue the composite dialogue with Pakistan. We are sincere about discussing and resolving all issues, including Jammu & Kashmir. We recognize that resolution of major issues requires national consensus and accommodation of public sentiment in both countries. It is self-evident that terrorism and violence would cast a dark shadow over this process. With our other South Asian neighbours, it will be our sincere effort to jointly realize the vast potential for cooperation, and to ensure mutual security, stability and development. [The Hindu, Linkthanks: Kumar]
Manmohan Singh’s desire to accomodate the public sentiment in both countries seems reasonable enough, but he must not take upon himself the thankless task of accomodating something which he has no influence over. Public sentiment in Pakistan is not an easy thing to determine and the absence of an legitimate avenue for Pakistanis to express their sentiment (through democracy) makes it even more of an ethereal concept. All too often, public sentiment in Pakistan ends up being what Gen Musharraf says it must be. Accomodating that kind of a public sentiment is neither easy nor correct.
Dr Singh’s offer to talk to any Kashmiri group that shuns violence is well considered. But this policy will be fruitful only when he will resolutely refuse to talk to any group that does not.