16 June, 2021

A Heretical Question

Both Prime Ministers have commiited themselves to better ties; if either falters,both lose.

A Heretical Question
FIVE Punjabi labourers are sitting in the shade of the Minar-e-Pakistan. One speaks halting English and interprets for a visitor curious about the impact of prime minister Vajpayee's visit, two weeks ago. Five men, five opinions: A victory for Sharif, says one. It was all about "drama", says another, approvingly. Vajpayee was not welcome, says a third. The fourth argues that the time has come for better relations with India. The fifth says Kashmir is the core issue.

This highly unscientific, random and minimalist sample suggests that the glacial ice of India-Pakistan hostility is finally cracking. Other meetings in Pakistan leave the impression that the brilliant use of symbolism and gracious remarks by the two prime ministers have tapped into a latent public readiness to improve relations. The continued, skilful use of symbolic gestures and empathetic language, backed up by substantive steps, now has the potential to shape mass opinion in favour of reconciliation and a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

A sense of optimism is rare among Pakistanis. Negativity comes easily,...

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