By Sankar Ray
Pakistan’s new foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech at the foundation ceremony of Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad marks a complete hyphenation from his maternal grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who took over as the foreign minister in the early 1960s following the death of Mohammad Ali Bogra under the Chief Martial Law Administrator Field Marshal Ayyub Khan.. In the mid-1960s ,Bhutto gave a call for a thousand year war with India while Bilawal made a strong pitch for re-engaging with neighbours, stressing the imperative for communicating with not only the Indian government but addressing the people on ‘behalf of my country and our people’ as the foreign minister of Pakistan. Cutting ties with any country, (without naming, but meaning India) would not be beneficial for Islamabad which ‘ is already ‘internationally isolated and disengaged.”
“If I was to sum up the political conduct of our foreign policy and frankly quite a lot of policies, has been one of cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face. It requires all of us to have a deep rethink about where we stand in the world today and where we would like to see ourselves in the next ten years, twenty years, fifty years and the next hundred years”, Bilawal stated in his 2700-plus word speech. In fine, the speech is a new script for modernising and broadening Islamabad’s worldview.
In contrast, Bilawal’s grandfather in his book ‘The Myth of Independence’ vilified India alleging that ‘the principal objective of Indian foreign policy has been to isolate Pakistan’ and India’s objective was to promote ‘grandiose designs in south-east Asia and the total isolation of Pakistan from the People’s Republic of China’ and even United Nations. But over the years, people of Pakistan realised the macro-economic destruction in keeping up warring attitude of India. His grandson has also learnt the suicidal consequences of militaristic conflicts with India.
The 33-year-old new foreign minister of Pakistan representing the Pakistan People’s Party in the coalition of parties comprising the Pakistan Democratic Movement with Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) as the Prime Minister implicitly reminds us of the slogan of the undivided Communist Party of India in 1947 – Hindustan Pakistan Dost Banenge, Dost Rahenge (India and Pakistan will befriend each other and remain friends). But inexplicably enough, the CPI dropped the slogan thereafter. Now the Indian Left and democratic forces have a golden opportunity to chant the slogan once again.
The Pak minister of foreign affairs emphasised diplomatic engagement which helps Pakistan brighten its image in the world arena. By engagement he does mean diplomatic, economic, cultural and political engagement “When I say that we’re cutting our nose to spite our face, I mean that if we’re not even going to try and engage on the basis of one issue or the other, then how can we hope to impact or change the course of events?” He refrained from naming India. Islamabad has to change the course of events or direction so that the people of Pakistan feel the direct impact of global events, he emphasised.
Bilawal reposed high expectations on the Pak intellectuals for refurbishment of foreign policy. Blessed with ‘incredible intellectual capacity- addressing intelligentsia, civil society and educational institutions, Pakistan, he firmly believes has produced ‘a metaphorical army of thinkers’ who are resources for strengthening the Pak foreign policy outlook
Needless to say, the present ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and minister of home affairs Amit Shah – would never promote Indo-Pak camaraderie. The high-voltage Hindutva-supremacist strategy BJP-led government of National Democratic Alliance is in sync with bellicose attitude towards Pakistan causing anti-Muslim hysteria in keeping with the Hindu Rashtra slogan. On the contrary, when the Indian cricket team was about to go to Pakistan for playing Test matches and ODI’s in 2003, the then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee told Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly to beat Pakistan but must be back winning the hearts of Pakistani people there. Such a gesture from Modi or Shah is unthinkable.
Bilawal’s speech is almost collinear with the stand of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy. While he regretted and criticised the abrogation of Article 370 of The Constitution of India on 5 August 2019 revoking the special status enjoyed by the Jammu and Kashmir, PIPFPD .nailed Modi government for the arbitrary and unilateral abrogation of Article 370..Imposition of a lock-down on the entire state of J & K and the people – closing down all means of communications, restricting the movement of people and goods, arresting thousands of people including politicians, journalists, lawyers, teachers, social activists, youth and even minor children were mentioned and condemned in no uncertain terms
The PIPFPD snapped fingers at the ‘lies and false narratives’, put forward by the Modi government which falsely claimed that situation in Jammu and Kashmir was ‘normal’ in the state after 5 August 2019. The horrific violence by members of the state’s armed forces, illegal arrests, nightly raids on homes of people, the beating of men, women and children were bitterly criticised by PIPFPD as did the Opposition in India. This made Pakistan-India relationship plummet. (IPA Service)