Peace Pulse

Renowned former Indian diplomat and politician, Mani Shankar Ai­yar, brings a fresh perspective to the Indo-Pak narrative by high­lighting the people of Pakistan as a pivotal asset for India. Aiyar’s reflections during the Faiz Festival underscore the warmth and hospital­ity he experienced, emphasizing the potential for people-to-people con­nections to transcend political tensions and foster understanding.

In Aiyar’s eyes, the overreactions of the Pakistani people, wheth­er in friendship or hostility, reveal the depth of emotions that per­meate the relationship. His personal anecdotes, shared in his book “Memoirs of a Maverick,” paint a picture of Pakistan vastly different from Indian preconceptions. Despite the goodwill he encountered, Aiyar acknowledges the challenges of translating such warmth into meaningful governmental dialogue and cooperation.

While Aiyar advocates for resumed dialogue between India and Pakistan, the reluctance of political establishments on both sides re­mains a significant hurdle. The last decade, marked by strained re­lations, contrasts sharply with the advice of seasoned diplomats like Satindar Kumar Lambah, who underscore the importance of engage­ment with Pakistan. Aiyar criticises the courage to conduct surgical strikes but laments the lack of courage to engage in direct talks.

Aiyar’s call for sustained civil society engagement echoes senti­ments expressed by Pakistan’s former diplomat, Shahid Malik. Aiyar stresses that initiatives for peace need not solely originate from gov­ernments. Malik suggests practical measures, such as easing visa re­strictions, as a starting point for enhancing people-to-people contacts and fostering trade, offering a tangible path towards reconciliation.

Mani Shankar Aiyar thinks it’s unrealistic to expect the current Indi­an government, guided by Hindutva principles, to engage in talks with Pakistan. He believes they are trying to copy Pakistan’s Islamic repub­lic model, deviating from the secular vision of leaders like Gandhi and Nehru. However, he clarifies that this viewpoint is held by a minority, as 63% of Indians have not voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In simpler terms, not everyone in India supports this government’s approach, emphasizing the diversity of opinions within the country.

Aiyar’s perspective illuminates the potential of people-to-people connections in reshaping Indo-Pak relations. While political estab­lishments may be hesitant, the grassroots efforts advocated by Ai­yar and Malik offer a ray of hope. The challenge lies in overcom­ing visa issues and fostering dialogue at various levels, transcending political rhetoric for the betterment of both nations.

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