Fostering India Pakistan Amity

An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 05 February 2004

In the aftermath of the India Pakistan détente, if Indian military leaders at this stage were to meet their Pakistani counterparts, we are convinced that the process of reconciliation will move faster. Such a dialogue should form part of the Agenda when the two nations' reps meet on Feb 16.

Gen NC Vij while commissioning INS Karmuk at GSRE confirmed that all was quiet on the western front and today’s TOI middle tells of how Army mules, which had strayed across the LOC were sent back.

Gen Padmanabhan was asked if the military leaders of the two sides should meet and he confirmed they should at mid level first and said the talks at DGMO level are more serious –– but even golf handicaps are discussed these days.

The article that follows, ‘An Indian in Islamabad'  is a revealing piece. It was penned by the daughter-in-law of Gen K Sundarji –– who in 1987 nearly took India to war with Pakistan in 'Op Brasstacks', when he planned a theoretical thrust into Rahimyar Khan salient in a surprise move and Pakistan retaliated by moving its North and South reserves and checkmated India.

India as the bigger power recently got passed in the 'Vote on Account' a standing Defence Reserve Fund of $6 billion for new acquisitions and with a $15 billion Defence Budget can afford to wage peace and yet be ready for war.

An Indian in Pakistan

Padma Rao Sundarji

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

ISLAMABAD. For the first time in my life of over four decades, I am visiting the "official enemy." I am an Indian in Pakistan. 

I am the only "German reporter" on board a chartered plane full of Indian journalists, but I join my countrymen in peering skeptically from the windows, almost as though a surface-to-air missile would welcome us in Pakistani air space, out-of-bounds to Indians for the past two years. Given the Indian blue of my passport, I know that my work for a German publication will mean little in Pakistan. Here, I am the Ugly Indian. 

Racial commonality is small comfort. My name is a dead giveaway. I could only be a Hindu Brahmin, an arrogant, rich, loud, Kashmir-snatching, Muslim-hating, river-water-hogging, cow protector. The highest and worst caste, from which the crème de la crème of India's current Hindu nationalist leadership happens to be drawn. An avid supporter of the megalomaniacal vision of a "Greater India" (Akhand Bharat) that would gulp up both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I want to place faith in President Pervez Musharraf's "modern Islamic state" and its promise of a professional reception for Indian journalists of both sexes in Islamabad. I am dressed in a regulation black business suit. In my suitcase are plenty of long scarves and shalwar kameezes, the baggy trousers and tunics common even in India.

My fashion statement misfires. The Holiday Inn's lobby teems with security personnel meant to guard us, and they're all dressed in shalwar kameez, chests draped with long white beards and guns. But there's also a young policewoman in a black business suit. "It gladdens the heart to meet an Indian," she says in our mutual and lyrical language, Urdu, as she searches me. "I hope you'll wear an Indian sari sometime during your stay here."

The hotel is under Indian and Pakistani "joint occupation": the media centers of the nuclear archenemies of the Subcontinent are up on the roof and in the basement. Hamid Mir, author of an unfinished biography of Osama bin Laden and star reporter of Pakistan's uninhibited Geo TV, wards off questions about his project in the Indian camp. Indian TV stars indulge young Pakistani reporters in the "enemy" newsroom with their wordy analyses, almost invariably on Kashmir.

Outside on the wintry street, flags of both the foes flutter in rare unison. My young taxi driver, Shahid, grins from ear to ear when I tell him I am Indian and want to shop: for the Sufi music of his country, for its hand-embroidered "tarkashi" muslin, for its dates and figs and apricots.

He takes me to the Super Jinnah market and curls up on his back seat to wait. I admire a shawl, but the shopkeeper sets it aside dismissively. "That one's Cashmere (Kashmir), you can get that in India too," he says in all innocence, pulling out another.  A kabab maker places my lunch on the table. It does not resemble my order and I protest. "Beewi," he mutters, wringing his hands in embarassment. "You cannot eat that one –– its beef, and you're a Hindu. You must take chicken instead."

It's 8 p.m. when Shahid takes me to the Pakistan Foreign Office where I want to achieve the impossible by changing my visa to include travel outside Islamabad. As we turn into the parking lot, I expect a "tail" to pull up behind us and a posse of security men to crowd around our taxi. Neither happens.

Over rose-petalled tea and a detailed analysis of the Indian betel leaf –– a digestive rage in Pakistan –– my visa is altered in exactly the way I want. After two hours in the freezing parking lot, Shahid drives me on to a reunion with a Pakistani friend I last saw in Europe 18 years ago. Inside the drawing room, I am the center of attention and overwhelming hospitality. There is an open, unabashed admiration for booming India; there is good-humored envy among the women for my so-called liberatedness, there is sharp criticism of the dreadful pogroms on minority Muslims in India's Gujarat, but there is also an acknowledgement of the democratic credentials of the big neighbor and the fairness of its judiciary. 

My glass is never empty, nor does the humor wane as the conversation invariably shifts to Kashmir. "Give us Aishwarya Rai (a top Bollywood star and India's former Miss World) and take Kashmir," roar the Pakistanis jovially. "No, no, Kashmir is yours, but on one condition," cry the Indians, "Bihar (considered India's most lawless state) comes with it."

A drunken guest, embittered by the peace moves between the two countries, sways to his feet. "To hell with Kashmir, to hell with Musharraf, to hell with India!" he shouts, waving his fist. "This whole thing's a bloody sell-out!" 

Deeply embarassed, a group of Pakistanis encircle the few Indians present in a giant embrace, while someone carries the man to his car.

(The writer is South Asia bureau chief for the German magazine Der Spiegel in New Delhi.)

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