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'Mood is changing in Pakistan'

May 07, 2003 01:59 IST
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For the first time, nearly 12 Pakistani members of parliaments are coming to India. They will arrive on May 18 and visit New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

The head of the Hind-Pakistan Dosti Manch [Indo-Pak Friendship Forum], Kuldip Nayar, says: 'This will help us to understand each other.'

Nayar, an eminent journalist and a Rajya Sabha member, was in Pakistan two months ago, and feels that the mood there is changing and Pakistanis want to give peace a chance.

He spoke to Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf about the Pakistani delegation's visit.

Can you tell us why the Pakistani parliamentarians are coming?

There are some 12 to 15 MPs. They are coming to create a goodwill feeling in our country. They are coming to melt the frozen situation between the two countries. I had gone to Pakistan two months ago and it was decided that a delegation of Indian MPs must visit Pakistan. However, due to some reason it could not be finalised. So we decided that Pakistani MPs could come to India. However, we were not sure that [Prime Minister Atal Bihari] Vajpayee would give this kind of statement at that time.

So this has got nothing to do with the PM's statement in Srinagar, where he extended his hand of friendship to Pakistan.

No, this has got nothing to do with the PM's statement in Srinagar. It is a separate attempt to bring peace in the continent.

What will this achieve?

It is only people-to-people contact. And we will reciprocate by sending our MPs to Pakistan at the end of May.

There has been people-to-people contact for the last 55 years, but still nothing concrete has been achieved, isn't it?

Earlier, when the conditions were normal, we started a bus service to Pakistan. Women students and many different people used to travel both the countries. It was started but had to be stopped later. Now, we started with parliament members because they don't need visas to travel to SAARC [South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation] countries. These MPs don't need to take visas for India. SAARC agreement says that all the MPs and judges of SAARC countries don't need visas to travel within SAARC countries.

But can we trust Pakistanis considering that we have had very bad experiences with them?

It is difficult to say now. In Pakistan, today there is a military rule in spite of the fact that [Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan] Jamali is there. But you cannot say that we must not talk to each other because that is not the solution. Fifty-five years have passed and some solution must come. I was in the House when the PM talked about peace efforts. He was very honest and emotional in his statement. And you never know. Some solution might come this time.

Isn't it true that India always wants friendship but Pakistanis backstab us?

I don't think it is right to say this way. In Tashkent, when [then prime minister of India] Lal Bahadur Shastri told [then Pakistan army chief] General Ayub [Khan] that there should be no violence, it didn't happen for the next six years. It was accepted. But it is a different matter that the Bangladesh war began after six years.

How hopeful are you this time?

Let me tell you that I am a very optimistic man. I feel that if we don't succeed completely this time, we will reach somewhere further to break the ice. I am not afraid of failure this time. The whole world wants peace between us. We have seen what a superpower can do in a country like Iraq. So it is better that we stay together and live in peace forever.

In your opinion what was the reason for Vajpayee to extend his hand of friendship?

I feel Vajpayee really wants to go down in history. He said, 'This is my last attempt in life'. He said in Lahore that he wants to go down in history. I think he didn't even consult his party before taking this decision.

You have tried enough to fill the gap between India and Pakistan, but you have never succeeded. So why do you go on pursuing with peace efforts when the fact is that they are always creating trouble in Jammu and Kashmir?

I do that because when there is an anti-Pakistan feeling in India, it turns out to be anti-Muslim... In our country we have a secular polity. We cannot say it is a success but it is still there. I don't want to hurt that polity. I feel that if we have good equation with Pakistan then we will be able to solve the problems in maintaining that secular polity in our country.

In Pakistan the power is with army. So what will these MPs do?

I believe that if these MPs are elected then there must be some support of the army. But we want to start and begin something. Let us see where we will head.

Can we really be friends?

I think we should learn to live with them. There is a difference in the minds of the people of Pakistan this time. They feel that their economic problems can be solved if they have better relations with India. And therefore the foreign minister of Pakistan [Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri] also said that we will start with trade and then later on we can discuss with Kashmir.

But he denied that statement next day, isn't it?

When I went there people told me that they should start with trade with India.

They have not changed their stance on Jammu and Kashmir, isn't it?

As far as J&K is concerned, I feel people are tired of that. Even [deposed prime minister] Nawaz Sharief told me that Pakistan cannot take Kashmir by force and therefore the solution must be found by talks.

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