The humps in the road that we encounter as we move around are there for our safety, designed to reduce the speed of vehicles and prevent accidents. By contrast, the bumps in the road that leads to peace between India and Pakistan are anything but helpful. The latest speed-breaker comes courtesy a joint statement by the French and Indian sides post to the visit of French President Francois Hollande to New Delhi.
The statement was another from the ‘Pakistan must do more’ file and called for more ‘decisive action’ against Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network and other militant groups, including al Qaeda. The response of our Foreign Office was robust, asking India to stop making unsubstantiated allegationsabout Pakistan. This came as our high commissioner in India was expressing the hope that foreign secretary-level talks would go ahead and that the two foreign secretaries were in communication with each other — which is at least a positive note.
Whilst we agree that unsubstantiated allegations do little for the cause of peace, it must also be noted that the investigation on this side of the border into the Pathankot attack does appear to have run out of steam. India alleges that the attackers came from Pakistan. If we can conclusively refute that, then we need to do so and quickly, but if the allegation has substance then we equally need to acknowledge that as a reality and do something about preventing a similar event in the future. And if we fail to do that, then all we are doing is pouring petrol on the fire for ourselves, and giving India an opportunity to again take us to task. Denial did not work in the case of the Mumbai attacks that led to the disastrous breakdown of the peace process then in train, and we cannot let another opportunity pass us by for want of an outbreak of common-sense diplomacy. The France-India joint statement was ham-fisted, but it must not be allowed to be a bump in the road that slows the inching forwards that has been evident in the last year. Let cool diplomacy prevail.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2016.