One of the most outspoken voices of moderation in Pakistan, Ayaz Amir, a PML (N) parliamentarian and ardent supporter of friendlier Indo-Pak ties, tells Sameer Arshad that anti-New Delhi rhetoric is yesterday's news in his country. Excerpts:
Has trade triumphed over hostilities after the Mumbai attacks?
Trade is one of the factors. There is a growing feeling in Pakistan that the era of animosity is over and we should move to a new phase of relationship. The hotbed of hostility against India used to be Punjab. Anti-India sentiments also stemmed fromPartition. That has changed. Now, there is greater maturity. Mumbai was a tragedy. We are finally out of it. We may have many like Hafiz Saeed but the real guys behind (Mumbai attacks) were splintergroups not controlled by him. We have militant offshoots. But overall the anti-India feeling is rather old. We have public meetings here and Indiais never mentioned . I come from the army belt of Chakwaland Rawalpindi , and there is hardly any village which does not have a recent tomb of a soldier who has died fighting the Taliban. We no longer have soldiers dying in fight against India.
So that's the main factor...
The situation on our western borders is also driving the feeling . But in order to sustainthis mood (favouring peace with India) and push it forward, there is a feeling in Pakistan that there should be some sort of a breakthrough on problems such as Sir Creek and Siachen, especially after the recent tragedy. There has been an outpouring of comments in Pakistan that thisstandoff in Siachen is completely senseless.
There are many in India who would argue that bonhomie from civilians is fine, but what matters is what the army has to say about this. Is the army on board?
The old situation has changed in the army as well. The obsession with India as an enemy is no longer the dominant sentiment . It will bemore pragmatic if we solve our problems through diplomacy. The feeling that India poses an existential threat is no longer there. The threat of Taliban is not going to go away with the US withdrawal (from Afghanistan). It may get even worse. We have many problems other than India.
Did Zardari's visit to Delhi break the ice?
Yes. Very few people opposed the visit but the government remains very unpopular. He was criticized for taking such alarge delegation to India. Questions were raised about the trip but not the spirit of friend- with India
There appears to be a change in the stance on Kashmir as well. How widespread is the feeling?
After the two countries signedthe Simla Agreement, Pakistanstopped talking about Kashmirfor the next 17 years. But Indiamismanaged Kashmir and Pakistan got into the act. Kashmir is a missed opportunity as far as India is concerned. Supporting militancy was a flawed policy and we did no service to the Kashmiris with it. We, in fact, damaged the Kashmir cause, and that is a growing feeling.
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