As Brijesh Mishra, the late National Security Advisor under Vajpayee government had once bluntly remarked,” The only thing straight in Kashmir was the poplar tree”, a similar discussion on the K-word and other significant issues unfolded at the Youth Forum on Foreign Policy as part of its Embassy Dialogue Series with the honourable High Commissioner of Pakistan, Mr. Abdul Basit, at the Pakistan High Commission on 9 September 2015.
Amidst an august gathering consisting of students from Swedish and Sri Lankan embassy, students of International Relations and other varied backgrounds from Delhi, the High Commissioner started the discussion by defining foreign policy and differentiating it from the concept of diplomacy. He connoted that Pakistan had been through difficult times and their foreign policy was influenced by security interests.
Coming from a country that is both reflective and complimentary to the unique diaspora that both neighbours share, he expressed a desire of having normal relations with India as he remarked, ” Our main issue is the problem of Kashmir. Had that issue been discussed we would have been discussing a different paradigm. India -Pak need to sit across the table to debate and solve these issues.”
He strongly voiced how our countries become hostage to our own rhetoric as he said, “There is a lack of understanding of my country. It is always seen as a hub of terrorism, instability and a state where women’s voices are suppressed. We are a confident country and are developing in different areas”. He pushed across the fact that Pakistan is not the country we see on TV and read in the newspapers.
The lecture was followed by an interactive question and answer round where he played off all the questions with a straight bat.
While both India and Pakistan make individual claims for having won the 1965 War, on being asked, ‘Who won the 1965 war?’, given the war’s 50th Anniversary this year, Mr. Basit unabashedly said, “Pakistan won the 1965 war”. And to not many people’s surprise, questions related to Kashmir were asked too.
When he was quizzed as to whom does Pakistan consider as the true representatives of the people of Kashmir, the High Commissioner bodaciously uttered, ” We believe that Hurriyat are the true representatives of Kashmir. A plebiscite or referendum in Jammu and Kashmir is the most honourable way of determining the aspirations of that region.” He also assured that, If after a plebiscite, the people of Kashmir want to join India, Pakistan would readily agree.
Though the agenda of the talk was ‘India- Pakistan talks post Ufa’, this segment was seldom deliberated by the High Commissioner in his address. All in all, the address provided hindsight into our neighbour’s perspective as his excellency called upon the youth to play a pivotal role in deluding years of animosity between the two countries.
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