INTERACTING WITH social activists and journalists in Chandigarh about Indo-Pak relations on Friday, Pakistan-based journalist and foreign policy expert Mariana Baabar said that for India and Pakistan to co-exist, India should help in strengthening the democratic set-up in Pakistan.
In a discussion over the state of affairs in India and Pakistan, Baabar added that for building strategic ties between the two countries, it was important for the military forces to come forward and have a dialogue.
Also present during the talk was Pakistani strategic affairs columnist Dr Ayesha Siddiqa. “Since the 1990s, the political leadership in Pakistan has understood the importance of improving ties with India. Not just for external purposes, but primarily for internal reasons, Pakistan needs to make its peace with India,” she said.
Discussing the latest course of events in the two countries, Baabar criticised anti-Pakistan statements under the tenure of the BJP-led government. “India has been a non-issue during elections in Pakistan; there are other issues like its ties with Afghanistan and US that feature. However, in India, since the time of Modi’s election campaign, the idea being floated in the general public has been that if you have to be punished, you must be sent to Pakistan. Eat beef, and you’ll be sent to Pakistan. If you’re anti-national, you will be sent to Pakistan. These kinds of ideas poison mindsets of people in both the countries. People of India and Pakistan have a lot of made-up notions about one another that need to be absolved.”
Dr Siddiqa added that Indians and Pakistanis do not know enough about one another which must serve as another reason for the citizens, judiciary, parliamentarians and people from all fields from the two countries to establish contact. “If you travel from Wagah to Attari, you realise how seamless the transition between the two countries is, and we must build up on that.”
Commenting on the ongoing investigations into the Pathnkot attack, Baabar said that the revelations that the investigations would make would also play a key role in the Kashmir issue between the two countries.
On the arrest of an alleged Indian spy in Pakistan, she said the ball was in India’s court and it must come clean on the issue. “It is very evident that games are being played on both sides. It is no coincidence that Pakistan got hold of the alleged Indian spy at the same time that cross-border investigations began in the Pathankot attack. The people of India and Pakistan deserve better than the antics that have been ongoing between the two nations,” said Baabar.
“We must understand that there are bigger threats like the Islamic State that both the countries are now facing, and the two countries must work together. Not only this, it’s time for the two countries to go back to the drawing board and realise terrorism is not the only problem, and start with the basics once again,” Baabar added.