Shehla Rashid: Inviting Imran Khan to Modi's swearing-in would help peace. Hasn't India got terror accused like Sadhvi Pragya too?
Shehla Rashid, Kashmiri political leader and activist, spoke with Rohit E David on why she thinks PM Narendra Modi should have invited Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan to his swearing-in.
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In my view, inviting Imran Khan to tonight's swearing-in ceremony would have been good for peace in the region.
There should be one policy to deal with Pakistan — at times, the Prime Minister of India goes uninvited to Pakistan, he makes surprise visits — then, all of a sudden, we are not talking.
There should be some sort of consistent policy to deal with Pakistan, given the gesture which Imran Khan showed over Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. If he would have been called today, it would have led to peace in the region. International diplomacy is all about gestures — I would again say that releasing Abhinandan was a good gesture on Pakistan’s part and India should also have made a good gesture.
It’s difficult to guarantee in the end if there will be peace, or if this or that measure will work — but what will eventually lead to peace is constant engagement with Pakistan and also with other neighbouring nations.
The one party he can't attend: What? Not invited? (Source: Reuters)
Imran also rang up the PM to extend his congratulations. What transpired? It was quite routine, just like a formality. I think when a handshake is extended from one side, we should also extend it from this side. In fact, Imran Khan had said during the elections that Narendra Modi would make for a good Prime Minister — he backed Modi’s second term as PM.
If the two nations could talk with each other after all that happened at the Agra summit between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf, which looked quite unlikely back then, why not now?
I don’t think that harping on what they can do about this (the issue of India's concerns on terrorism) is helpful because ultimately, violence is not a solution to anything. Talking with one another and constant engagement is the solution.
Both nations will have to deal with a lot to curb terrorism — that includes both Pakistan and India. For many, there are concerns over Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and possibly, she will be part of the cabinet also.
So, I think India will need to send a strong message against terrorism too because now they have a terror accused in a important position.
Both nations need to fight terrorism as it ought to be fought — but, on the contrary, we see double standards. They should equally prosecute everyone who is accused of war crimes or violence. All such persons should be brought to book.
This includes right-wing terror outfits in India and Pakistan. They should all be brought to justice.
Aren't there concerns about her which many people have? (Photo: PTI)
The fact is, we are neighbours. We cannot wish one another away — if there is an earthquake which hits Pakistan, the tremors are felt in India too. In a nuclear future, we certainly cannot ignore one another’s stake or presence. What we need to do is to invest in peace. It has happened, there are examples in international history — Germany was a very aggressive nation and now, they have denuclearised. Even for peaceful purposes (like energy generation), they are not using nuclear energy. Germany and France have established peace.
Especially for refugees, migrants, Pakistani migrants, having porous borders (a country which is open to welcoming foreigners through official channels) is something we should also aspire for. A lot of human tragedies have occurred as boundaries have been drawn. A lot of people have also been rendered nation-less.
For traders, students, migrants, people who want to go across the border for art, medical care, religious pilgrimages, there needs to be more movement of people and of goods across these lines. When we had gone to Kargil, people were saying there is a masjid across the border where they should be allowed to meet their relatives — those demands are everywhere.
Extending a hand should not be so hard.
(As told to Rohit E David)