India and Pakistan are two children who share the same mother. Good leaders always think about the well-being of their own countries. They want peace. Building relationship always helps. India and Pakistan have fought wars against each other. Did anybody gain anything? Did anybody manage to reach a conclusion? Whatever happened only added to the negatives.
The World Wars left behind a scorched-earth. Millions of innocent civilians died. War can never be a solution. India and Pakistan are now neighbours. So, forget about what had happened in the past. The conflicts notwithstanding, the two countries for the time being have managed to build good relations. The Indians and the Pakistanis, our ancestors, used to live together. India is home to a huge Muslim population, who are Indian nationals. Pakistan, too, counts many Hindus as its citizens, those who carry the Pakistani passport.
Being neighbours has its own obligations. Neighbours live together and they need to understand each other. Imran Khan has taken a big step by releasing the Indian fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. I don’t think any other Pakistan prime minister could have even thought about doing that. There was no point in keeping the Indian pilot captive in Pakistan. It’s heartening that he has returned home. And I don’t believe that it was the result of any diplomatic pressure. The message was that there’s no point in fighting against each other. Fighting only has a negative side to it, no positives.
It’s wrong to say Imran Khan is a puppet of the Pakistan Army. We need to understand that everyone is a part of the country. In any country, decisions are not taken by an individual. But a prime minister is a prime minister. At the top, everybody is taken on board. One person gets nominated/elected as the captain. Like in cricket, everybody follows the captain’s command. We always have team meetings. Even the juniors get a chance to speak there. At the top level, everybody sits down and collectively takes the decision.
Ahead of the 1992 World Cup final, Imran Khan had said he would be the captain of the whole Subcontinent for the match, not just of Pakistan. People from the West don’t make a difference between us. They call us all Asians. We shouldn’t have a negative mindset. Both countries are nuclear powers. War can lead to destruction. India is big country. But they shouldn’t think that Pakistan is a piece of cake. Pakistan is also a nuclear power. Bado ko toh choton ko sambhalna chahiye… (The bigger/elder should be the one to handle the situation, take care of the younger). We should have mutual exchanges. We should trade with each other. Issues like shelling at the Line of Control shouldn’t come in here. This happened earlier as well.
Sport brings peace. It builds bridges. Between the common people of the two countries, there’s nothing wrong. The Indian cricketers are still admired in Pakistan. At the same time, when Pakistan went to Calcutta for the 2016 World T20, they played in front of a full house. Locals admired their cricket.
So, it’s time to shake hands. The two prime ministers, Narendra Modi and Imran Khan, should meet and call a truce. We must think about our future generations. What legacy are we leaving behind for our children? What will you do standing amid the ruin that wars bring? And I believe the two prime ministers, if they meet, shouldn’t do so in a neutral country. It’s our own issue. The Wagah border could be a good place for the meeting.
The writer is a former captain of the Pakistan cricket team
— This article first appeared in the March 7, 2019 print edition under the title ‘There are no winners’