He is on a three-city tour of Pakistan to launch his book from a new publishing stable
Using the goodwill he has earned among Pakistanis with his “just and fair” assessment of the country's founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the former Indian External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, on Wednesday sought to dispel the apprehension that India still harbours a desire to undo the Partition.
“The Partition is a fact. You cannot undo a fact; though its consequences can be undone. It is a wrong impression that India wants to undo the Partition. But, India does want to live in peace,” Mr. Singh said while addressing a large gathering here during a stopover on his three-city tour of Pakistan to launch his book Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence from a new publishing stable.
Continuing with his “India-Pakistan-are-born-of-the-same-womb” argument he made in Karachi on Tuesday at a lecture organised by the trustees of the Mohatta Palace Museum in collaboration with Oxford University Press (OUP), Mr. Singh stressed the need for both countries to recognise and study their common inheritance. “If we don't study our common inheritance, we will become victims of the revenge of geography;” that, too, one which was drawn up in 37 days.
Though the audience was appreciative of his objective assessment of the ‘Quaid-e-Azam' and the political price Mr. Singh had to pay for taking such a stance, the former minister had to answer for his long association with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Pointing out that he was among the founder-members of the BJP, Mr. Singh said he had opposed the Ramjanmabhoomi Rath Yatra conducted by party leader L.K. Advani.
Labouring the point, Mr. Singh said he had also taken a stand against the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leadership when they criticised Mr. Advani for his pro-Jinnah statements in Pakistan, and had differed with the party over its electoral understanding with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. “I don't know if this qualifies me as a liberal. I'm rather an eccentric,” he quipped; adding for good measure that had he stayed on in the Army, “I would probably have been court-martialled.”
From Islamabad, Mr. Singh is due to travel to Lahore on his book tour, initially planned for last year soon after the India launch. While that visit did not materialise, Oxford University Press (Pakistan) — in the meantime — secured the world rights of the book from its original publisher, Rupa&Co.
But evidently, the book sold well in Pakistan ahead of the OUP edition, for many of those who came for the nationwide launch of this edition of Mr. Singh's book brought along their old copies to be autographed. And, they did not mind queuing up for his signature.