After the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, in 2008 India-Pakistan relations had frozen. The ice began to thaw with Pakistan conferring the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status on India, which means substantial increase in bilateral trade.
President Arif Ali Zardari’s visit to the Ajmer dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is symbolic of the deep cultural bonds the Subcontinent shares, the bonds that are unbreakable, but need to be further strengthened. This is also a step further after the MFN status.
The gesture was warmly reciprocated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi at the luncheon the PM organised for them.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s inclusion in the presidential entourage fondly reminded Indians of the 19-year-old Benazir Bhutto accompanying her father Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto at the Shimla summit with Mrs Indira Gandhi four decades ago.
India and Pakistan often find it difficult to live with each other, but they also know that they cannot live without each other. There is so much common between them that they have to learn to live with their differences, ultimately. Hopefully, the process of learning has begun.
Keeping the spirit of the moment in view, India did not press too hard the issue of Hafiz Sayeed, on whom the US has announced a $ 10 million bounty.
In the same spirit, Pakistan too did not press the issue of Samjhauta Express blasts, which killed many Pakistanis and Indian Muslims.
Rapprochement and confidence-building measures have to continue for India and Pakistan to play their historic role in SAARC and beyond.
So far, so good. Harder work likes ahead as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Pakistan on President Zardari’s invitation. More difficult issues like Siachen, Sir Creek and the dreaded “K” issue come on the table. Crossborder terrorism would be no less daunting.
The best course will be to deepen relations and fortify cooperation, without getting bogged down by issues that defy consensus at this stage of history. Cooperation, not conflict is the answer.