The much anticipated meeting between Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, instead of closing the chasm between the two nuclear powers, has broadened it. In an unexpected turn of events, Nawaz Sharif called Manmohan Singh, “a dehati aurat” (a village woman). This uncalled for remark was picked up by the press corps of both the countries and as soon as it was released on the Indian cable news networks, it enraged the politicians and the ordinary citizens, alike.
The shadow Prime Minister Nerendra Modi of the opposition Bharat Janta Party, a fanatic Hindu political party, was quick to slam the Pakistani Prime Minister, for his remarks made during a meeting with Manmohan Singh. Modi was adamant that Nawaz Sharif should take his words back and ask for an unconditional apology for hurting the feelings of 1.2 billion Indians.
Keeping up with the tradition, various Prime Ministers, and other heads of the state, hold bi-lateral meetings on the side line during the United Nations General Assembly Security Council summit and exchange views upon topics of mutual interest. However, as far as India and Pakistan are concerned, this much anticipated meeting proved just another photo-op, as no matters of importance effecting either country came under discussion. And further, adding insult to injury, Nawaz Sharif made this unprovoked remark, which further complicated the matters even further between the not too friendly nuclear powers.
It was expected that during these bi-lateral talks the important issues of nuclear non-proliferation and Afghanistan would be discussed. Instead, Nawaz clearly indicated that he had no intentions of taking up these issues with a puppet Prime Minister, as, according to him, the real power vested with the Gandhi family. Therefore, it was no use discussing important matters like the situation in Kashmir with Singh.
It was expected that these bi-lateral talks would take the shape of tripartite negogtiations with Hamid Karazai of Afghanistan, or even a quad-lateral discussions with the active participation of the Obama administration, also. Such exchanges would have been in the supreme interest of all the parties involved, but, due to the conscious or unconscious fau paux, nothing of import came out of the expected meeting.
Both Pakistan and India are major stake holders in the American war on terror. Besides, they have important economic and political issues pending between them, like the state of Kashmir, that need to be amicably resolved before the American and allied forces pull out of the region. Cordial relations between the neighbors are a must and it was expected that much would come under discussion in this meeting. There was great hope for a meaningful dialogue process would be initiated between the two neighbors.
But, as things turned out, nothing substantial, or even unsubstantial, resulted. In fact, the undiplomatic personal remark of Nawaz Sharif about his counter part Dr. Manmohan Singh, worsened the matters as they presently stand at a very critical juncture.
Written By: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada