India has invited Pakistan Foreign Minister for SCO meeting may not result may break the ice
India inviting Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Goa has hit the headlines. The SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting is likely to be held in the first week of May. Though officials have made it clear that the invitation sent to Bhutto Zardari is a “routine matter” as India is the current chair of SCO, it has attracted considerable interest. This is mainly because of Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent conciliatory remarks vis-à-vis India and his desire to hold talks with India. He said that he had asked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to facilitate the negotiations. The Pakistan Prime Minister’s Office later brought in a caveat—that India must restore Jammu and Kashmir’s special status—but it is widely believed that this was the result of the intervention of the deep state. It is a well-known fact that the Pakistani deep state remains wedded to the jihadist ideal of destroying India. A lot many factors ensure that the ideal is poignantly felt and zealously acted upon: revenge for the defeat in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, resulting in an inglorious surrender and dismemberment of the nation; Islamisation, which began under Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, and gained depth and breadth in Pakistani society and culture subsequently; birth and development of the terror factory with its various stakeholders entrenched in the Army, government, society, culture, and civil society. Even the Oxford-educated Imran Khan ended up with the sobriquet ‘Taliban Khan.’ In such a socio-cultural milieu, it will always be difficult to even find, let alone have dialogue with, people in the Pakistani establishment who are sensible enough to talk sense and courageous enough to walk the talk.
Such is the climate of opinion that anything reasonable attracts flak and obnoxious gets applause. Unsurprisingly, Pakistani leaders regularly indulge in loose talk and make deplorable remarks. Last month, for instance, Bilawal Bhutto called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the butcher of Gujarat.” This is not how foreign ministers talk about the heads of governments of other countries. But then in Pakistan politicians are always mindful of the reaction of the all-powerful Army, which carries out coups, installs and deposes governments. Imran Khan’s rise and fall are examples of generals’ intervention; they ensured that he won the election and, when he became defiant, kicked him out of power. Pakistani politicians’ plight is best summarized in an old Hindi film song by Mukesh: Mujhe raat din yeh khyal hai, kahin woh nazar se gira na de… Therefore, to expect that the visit of Bilawal Bhutto (if it happens, for Islamabad may decide to send the junior foreign minister) would result in a thaw in the bilateral relations would be excessive optimism. Yet, the visit does open a window of opportunity for both nations to have meaningful dialogue.