Why Sushma Swaraj's visit to Pakistan gives Indians hope

Kishwar Desai
Kishwar DesaiDec 12, 2015 | 11:30

Why Sushma Swaraj's visit to Pakistan gives Indians hope

At a recent function in Delhi, we met with our minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, on the eve of her historic trip to Pakistan. It was with great anticipation that we wished her good luck, as undoubtedly, this could be a breakthrough moment. And for many of us, visiting our neighbours, talking to them is an essential part of life in the subcontinent. How can life be normal when you are flinging abuse at each other? And where is the need to do so, if the governments begin cooperating on trade and terrorism? The "K" question remains, but most of our youthful population in both countries are hungry for cooperation.


Just a few months ago, we drove through Pakistan on a road trip from the Wagah border to Islamabad. Along the way, we spent a few days in Lahore, and then crossed via Gujranwala to Islamabad. We ate out, shopped, were invited for talks to colleges and universities. It was a book tour cum holiday, exploring a land just like ours (and there is no surprise in that!). The journey culminated with my husband's latest book on economics being launched by Sartaj Aziz, the advisor on foreign affairs.

By the way, on our road trip were just my husband and me, and the driver. There was no security, and we were not nervous.

Everywhere we went, we were treated with courtesy and warmth. No one discussed Kashmir, as everyone was more concerned with the "new" prime minister Narendra Modi. In fact, this was the question we were asked most frequently. Again there was curiosity rather than any animosity. And yes, despite it being more than a decade since 2002, many were concerned about that.  

In answer, we already knew from his gesture of inviting the Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif for his oath taking ceremony, that Mr Modi was keen on dialogue. And following that, undoubtedly, a lot has been managed even within the last few months.


In fact, in Pakistan, too there was a recognition that there are larger gains when a perceptibly right-wing government is reaching out. This came through clearly in our conversations there. Regarding the sorry events of 2002, we were also able to point out about the long judicial process which had cleared Modi.

In any case, what was also clear, recently, when some friends from Pakistan were visiting, was that the two countries are beginning to cooperate much more openly. In fact, the Indian side, according to our friends, showed a marked, positive change in attitude even in the simple process of visa application.

Just by showing simple courtesies to one another, we can definitely deal with the long pending problems in an easy and swift fashion. And, of course, sports should be kept out of this debate - and so let's hope the India-Pakistan cricket match takes place, soon!

We should welcome the fact that Swaraj's visit comes within the early days of the Modi government. And if the Indian PM visits Pakistan next year, there will be far fewer questions to answer about him, when we go there next!  

Last updated: December 13, 2015 | 21:05
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