`Confrontation with Pak threat to Indian secularism`

Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar called for having strategic relations with Islamabad.

Updated: Mar 29, 2012, 18:42 PM IST

New Delhi: Claiming that confrontation with
Pakistan is the "single most serious threat" to secularism in
India, Rajya Sabha MP Mani Shankar Aiyar on Thursday called for
having strategic relations with Islamabad.

"We have strategic partnership with everyone who doesn`t
matter, and none with the one country which really does matter
in terms of the strategic partnership and that is Pakistan,"
Aiyar said at an event here.

Speaking at a 3-day conference "India-Pakistan: Civil
Society Review of Strategic Relations" organised by `Centre
for Policy Analysis`, Aiyar said, "It (absence of strategic
partnership with Pakistan) renders us extremely vulnerable."

"Secularism is the bonding adhesive of our nation. But
there is a section of Indian society amounting to about 15-16
per cent which does not feel emotionally fully integrated into
our country because of the semblance that many Indians make
between being a Muslim and being a Pakistani," he said.

"Many Indian Muslims suffer from fear whenever they visit
Pakistan, thinking they would be treated with suspicion back
home," he said.

Making a light-hearted comment on the controversy
surrounding the Army Chief`s letter to Prime Minister
regarding shortage of ammunition, Aiyar said, "Our newspapers
today welcomed our Pakistani guests by informing them that we
are unable to defend ourselves against a Pakistani fly, let
alone the Pakistani defence forces."

"But," he said, "the fact of the matter is that we need
to go beyond the considerations of whether we have, how we
call it `armour-piercing` weapons or not to see whether we
could fundamentally restructure the relationship between the
two countries."

On the situation in Pakistan, he said, "There is greater
promise of democracy in Pakistan today than ever. And there is
a desire in Pakistan to question the necessity of a
confrontational attitude towards India, which is of course a
rationale for not only having an army to defend but also
having an army to rule Pakistan."

Cautioning Pakistan that incidents like 26/11 could
derail the peace process, he said, "If similar incidents
happen, it would be impossible for any democratically elected
government in India to persist on the path of peace."

Calling for a common mechanism to fight terror, he said,
"Terrorism is a menace not only for India, but for Pakistan as
well, so there should be a common, cooperative relationship
among the anti-terrorism organisations in both the nations to
work to eliminate the threat."

He added that "the attempt by us to ask Pakistan to stand
in the dock and confess that it is a terrorist state is one
which is never going to work, and has never worked."