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Home » Islamabad

India Pakistan peace process must be uninterrupted and uninterruptable: Aiyer

February 2, 2012

ISLAMABAD: History may have divided us, but geography binds us, and a shared inheritance holds as much potential to keep India and Pakistan apart as it has in keeping them apart, Mani Shankar Aiyer, Member of Rajya Sabha and former Indian Union Minister, said here at the Islamabad Club on Thursday.

Aiyer was speaking at a policy discussion seminar titled ‘India and Pakistan: Retrospect and Prospect?’ organized by the Jinnah Institute. Aiyer asserted that it is not communal animosity, but national hostility, that keeps India and Pakistan apart. Despite this, Aiyer saluted the present government of Pakistan for making decisive moves towards normalizing Indo-Pakistan trade, and hoped that both countries could realistically become each other’s most favoured nation.

Aiyer, who was a Minister in the Union Cabinet for Petroleum and Natural Gas 2004-2006, for Youth Affairs and Sports 2006-2008 and for Development of the Northern Region 2006-2009, has served in the Indian Foreign Service for 26 years. He has also served as Consul General of India in Karachi 1978-1982. Aiyer is also credited with coining the now officially used term ‘uninterrupted and uninterruptable dialogue process’.

“Pakistan is a modern nation-state, now under serious threat from armed religious fanatics, but it is not about to succumb as a society or as a state to elements who, even in a moderate garb, have rarely managed to win more than a tiny handful of seats in any election”, Mani Shankar Aiyer said. He said that any strategy built on the presumption that Pakistan cannot survive is misconceived, misplaced, and dangerously misleading. Aiyer also regretted the widely accepted view in Indian circles that Pakistan is a ‘failed’ state or ‘failing’ state, and said that such views needed to be countered.

Aiyer called for engagement with a Pakistan that will last, not a Pakistan on its last legs, because engagement leads to solutions. “No state has suffered as much from terrorism as Pakistan itself”, Aiyer said. “I do believe that a joint strategy to counter terrorism will enable both India and Pakistan to overcome what is, in effect , a joint threat to our people”, he said. Aiyer concluded by saying, “let us give peace a chance; we have nothing to lose but our chains, and we have a world to gain”.

Aiyer’s lecture was preceded by opening remarks from Mr. Aziz Ahmed Khan, Honorary Vice President Jinnah Institute and former Ambassador, who said that Indo-Pakistan relations have experienced many highs and lows, but a leap of faith is needed in order to find a solution.

Ejaz Haider, Executive Director of Jinnah Institute, said that modern experiences are crucial in forming individual identities, and urged India to recognize Pakistan as a reality that will not go away.

During the question and answer session, the audience asked what effect opposing mindsets had on the India Pakistan peace process. Aiyer said that mindsets can change, and there is a symbiotic relationship between mindsets and ground realities, and that the narrative of hate must definitely be countered. A comment was also made regarding the Joint Anti-Terror mechanism established in 1997 by India and Pakistan, and that it should be implemented in letter and spirit.

Mani Shankar Aiyer is the second Distinguished Speaker, as part of JI’s ongoing Indo-Pakistan Track-II engagement named the Chaophraya Dialogue. Previously, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Member of Lok Sabha and former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, lectured at Islamabad Club under the aegis of the Distinguished Speaker Series in January 2012. Among future invitees of the Distinguished Speaker Series is Prof. Najib Jung, Vice Chancellor Jamia Millia Islamia Delhi and a former IAS officer.

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