Jaipur: In an era wrought with geo-political conflicts, the Zee Jaipur lit fest brought together diplomatic veterans representing India’s key allies and nemesis on to a single platform in what turned out to be a liberating exchange of dialogue.
Hussain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, and Robert Blackwill, former United States ambassador to India, along with Indian diplomat Shyam Saran delved into the erroneous past and some victories, whilst also considering alternate histories of the three nations. “Being born well after the partition, I was born a Pakistani and I don’t need a raison d`être for why I am a Pakistani. I don’t need an ideology for being a Pakistani,” starts Haqqani. “I see Pakistan faced with a number of problems; lowest school enrolment for one. We also have nuclear weapons, which we assume would be a guarantee of our security, but it has only made us more insecure, if anything.”
“I trace part of the dysfunction to the US Pakistan relationship. For instance, I believe the 1965 war would certainly not have happened, as Pakistan didn’t have the resources except those it received from the US,” he reveals. He admits that Pakistan’s military is its most powerful institution instead of people’s representatives, blaming the US for this, referring it as a “relationship of delusions”.
Further criticising the US policies towards Pakistan, he points out how US, too, never got anything substantial out of this collaboration. Blackwill, in response, accused Paksitan of having lied systematically and comprehensively about its support for terrorism, policies in Afghanistan and nuclear programmes. “I think over the years, from being Chinese intermediaries to the recent capture of Osama Bin Laden, US has taught Pakistan leadership that it could lie to the US without penalty.”
Taking about the relationship shared between the nations three decades ago, Haqqani also revealed, “Nixon really liked Pakistan and he disliked Indira Gandhi. I have it verbatim in book, from Oval office recordings, in language that I would not use in front of my daughter.”
The conversation further trailed into the present touching upon issues of ongoing conflict within Pakistan, the Taliban problem, India-Pakistan relationship, and of most, the diplomatic row between India and US.
Haqqani, openly criticised the Hafiz Sayeed, whilst applauding, with much pride, Malala Yousafzai. “Malala is 40 years younger than I am, from a small village in the Swat valley, but she instinctively stood up against the Taliban; and that kind of instinctive response against the obscurantist vision for Pakistan, is the hope for the country.”
On the questions of Indian political delusions, both diplomats, in the most diplomatically manner, refused to answer, echoing, “We’re not suicidal!”
Addressing the questions of US-India diplomatic relations, and recent furrow, Blackwill said Indians are extremely popular in the US, “But India was the only large democracy that US failed to ally with during the cold war. A troubled episode has now reflected the confidence in either governments. I think the Indian diplomat should have never been arrested. However, she was judged by our legal system for having committed a crime, but of course, India would not have preferred for their representative to go before our jury.” Recommending a much low key solution to the problem, he says, “I think, the matter could have been handle more quietly by simply US requesting India to reassign her.”
Another question from the audience to Haqqani on possible reunification of India-Pakistan drew strong emotions. In response, he pointed, “The situation is not like east-west Germany, but much more complex. Both nations have developed independent identities over the last six decades since independence.”
The session, that was attended over capacity, drew intense emotions, applauds, and some good humoured laughs from all representatives. It marked a progressive attempt at constructive political between nations who have vested interest in peaceful relations.