Pakistan Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on January 19 said her country does not see a “partner” in Prime Minister Narendra Modi for working towards peace between the two countries, but it saw a partner in his predecessors Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Speaking at a session on South Asia in Davos at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023, Ms. Khar, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said, “When I went to India as Foreign Minister, I had worked really hard to press for better cooperation and we were in a much better position at that time compared to the situation in 2023.”
She said, “What we have done in these years, we have added to the hostility. We must realise that we cannot change geography. And let’s understand it’s not a South Asia problem, it is an India-Pakistan problem and the problem from India side and there was a lack of statesmanship.
“There is a need to think beyond an election cycle and a willingness for peace. I am not seeing a partner in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though he may be good for his country, I did see a partner in Manmohan Singh and in Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”
Her comments come days after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sought “serious” and “sincere” talks with his Indian counterpart for the resolution of the “burning” issues, including Kashmir.
Ms. Khar further said Pakistan has learnt its lessons from the past and it wants to move forward but she feels that India was always a country where all religions coexisted but that was not the case any more.
“I am not saying that we don’t have any problem in Pakistan, but our government is always working to ensure that minorities are protected by new laws and enforcing existing ones,” she said.
On the Chinese position, Ms. Khar said China is seen as more like a pillar of stability than of chaos in the region except for in India.
“I truly believe that if both countries have got statesmen at the same time and not leaders interested only in elections, there is no problem that cannot be solved,” she said.
To the allegation that it is a statesmanship problem that is thwarting good relations between India and Pakistan, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said during the same panel discussion that Pakistan has to realise the problem is from their side as India does not have problem with any other neighbour.
He said the two countries share the same language and have similar cultures, food etc.
Mr. Ravi Shankar said Prime Minister Modi has extended his hand several times. He also also repeatedly offered to help and the allegation that the current prime minister has shown no willingness makes no sense.
Prime Minister Modi has offered help to all neighbours and it cannot be said he has done nothing, he added.
Ms. Khar also alleged that India’s secular fabric has been torn apart during the tenure of the current government, a charge which was strongly rebutted by Mr. Ravi Shankar.
On whether Pakistan can act against terrorist organisations working out of the country, Ms. Khar said she can only engage in an informed discussion and that those asking these questions should first know the facts about the action taken against some of the names often talked about.
On suggestion that economic cooperation can build bridges, Ms. Khar said, “We have been through those cycles many times. When my party was in power last, we had talked about peace and cooperation and normalising trade with India.
“But why do I think now that there is no chance right now, is because India broke the trust. Narrative setting is very easy. We can kill people and say we did it for peace.”
She added: “I have spent too much time in politics and I have lived too long in this region. I do want peace and happiness in region, but I don’t see a hope because trust was broken. I want to hear a different language (from Indian leadership).”
Asserting that she does not want to engage in a tit-for-tat with Mr. Ravi Shankar, she said, “I am willing to talk peace and meditation with Guruji, but politics?”
Mr. Ravi Shankar stressed there was a need to move forward, adding that a world exists beyond politics.