Peace should be India, Pakistan's strategic objective: Tharoor

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 13:20 hrs

Jaipur, Jan 24 (IANS) Diplomat-turned-politician Shashi Tharoor harked back to foreign policy - his former domain - at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival when he put the possibility of peace between India and Pakistan under the microscope at a session "Inside The Game, Outside the Game" here Thursday.

In a conversation with journalist Tarun Tejpal, Tharoor, the former minister of state of external affairs, who holds a similar position in the human resource development ministry, and the author of "Pax Indica", said the strategic objective between India and Pakistan should be peace at a time when this country was focusing on economy and social transformation.

He said the Indian government has "acted responsibly on the beheading incident on the border" because trade, investment and growth were central to its foreign policy.

Tension between India and Pakistan has simmered early January when the mutilated bodies of two Indian soldiers were found along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, triggering outrage and protests in India.

Explaining the dangers of communication in an era of multiple sources of information, Tharoor said what the foreign or the defence minister of a nation appear to be signaling to a potential hostile country could be interpreted by people as something else on the ground.

In political communication, what the public hears is different from what is going on, the minister said.

Recalling Kargil, the minister said in the years after 1998 conflict Pakistan has gone faster and farther in the development of nuclear arms.

However, India could push the intruders back without crossing the Line of Control, he said. Tharoor said both sides should not be thinking about war.

Pakistan was besieged with many problems like the Pakistani Taliban active in some pockets, the Shia-Sunni disturbances, serious sectarian problems and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. "Surely peace with India will allow them to focus on other problems There are good arguments for peace on both sides," Tharoor said.

Commenting on the role of the civil society, Tharoor said "civil society was a factor but certainly not the most important factor".

They can hold candles at Wagah and promote an atmosphere conducive to peace, he said.

The minister said India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had some degree of initial contempt towards Pakistan, became generous to it at the end of his career by conceding the Indus Water Treaty.

Just before his death, Nehru had sent Kashmir strongman Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to Pakistan to negotiate a peace settlement, the minister said, adding that Abdullah regretted that had Nehru not died in 1964, he (Abdullah) would have come back with peace.

The minister said former Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq did a number of things that had a long-lasting impact on us. Trained in the "colonial tradition", Zia brought significant change in the Pakistan military. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy aggency was created during Zia's time, he said.

The former president of Pakistan tried to undermine India (especially over Khalistan) not by direct confrontation, but by financing terrorism, Tharoor added.

He said "great hopes were created when Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto spoke to each other. Everybody thought that the two fresh young people could bring lasting peace," he said.

"We don't know what the balance is going to be like. There will definitely be awakening of the civil society," he said.

Tharoor said there some signs of political exhaustion in the political establishment in Pakistan with the process of hostility.

"There are some interesting changes taking place in Pakistan, some degree of declining influence of the military," the minister said.

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