India's cold shoulder

Published: May 24, 2009 –The Nation
DR Manmohan Singh, who took oath of office as India's Prime Minister on Friday for a second five-year term on the Congress coalition's victory in the recently concluded general elections, observed, "I have no immediate plans to talk to Pakistan leaders." His concern, it appears, was "terrorism" about which he expressed the hope that Pakistan would cooperate with India and not allow its territory to be used against it. New Delhi had already been dragging its feet on the core issue of Kashmir while holding composite dialogue with Islamabad but the Mumbai incident provided it an excuse to stall the whole process of negotiation and point a finger at Pakistan. It asks for punishing the culprits but at the same time ignores the demand for furnishing credible evidence against the Pakistanis it accuses of committing the terrorist act.
India, unlike most countries of the world, is home to numerous insurgencies that successive governments have failed to put down and there is little doubt that the ruthless scourge of terrorism should be a nagging worry for him. One would expect that the highly intelligent, cool-headed and reflective Prime Minister understands that the remedy lies with removing the causes of disaffection that compel the people to take on the might of the state. Denial of their legitimate rights with the use of force would make matters worse.
Somehow, the Indian leadership refuses to recognise that the settlement of disputes with neighbours on the basis of justice and fair play entails an attractive dividend in the form peace in the Subcontinent, opening the door for cooperative efforts among them to ensure progress and prosperity of the teeming millions. One can only hope that Dr Singh gives a positive response to the overtures of friendship and goodwill from President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani on the Congress victory and his assumption of office. Policies based on ego would turn out to be self-defeating among nuclear armed neighbours.