I understand that when a politician is on a private visit to a country, he does not speak on behalf of the country. Mani Shankar Aiyar, by virtue of being a former diplomat based in Pakistan, is knowledgeable about the country. It seems that he has lost touch with it, and even his home country.
Sitting on a panel discussion in a studio in Islamabad, he was confronted by Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed through a phone link:
"Giving India MFN-status is not correct in any manner because there are already big problems that haven't been resolved, including the Kashmir issue. At this moment, the dams being made by India will create a crisis in Pakistan."
This is the man considered the mastermind behind the Mumbai 2008 attacks. His position would not be much different.
It is Aiyar's comment that is typically on a limb:
"There are some persons like Hafiz Saeed in our country who do not want things to move forward but thankfully the ordinary people want our ties to improve. We can improve our relations irrespective of what his (Saeed's) opinion is. We want him to be caught and taken to a terrorism court."
By getting into this same-same maze, he is in effect implying that the Hafiz prototypes in India are against any ties with Pakistan.
We do have a consolidated saffron terror in place, but it is essentially and rather tragically targetting people within the country.
It is pertinent that a couple of days prior to this studio peace, a piece of news which has much to do with Hafiz Saeed went largely unnoticed. The amicus curiae, advocate Raju Ramachandran, told the Supreme Court that Ajmal Kasab was not part of a larger conspiracy for waging war against the nation.
'Maintaining that the prosecution has failed to prove the case against him beyond doubts, he told he bench that his right against self-incrimination as well as his right to get himself adequately represented by a counsel to defend himself in the case have been violated during the trial.'
Kasab said he was brainwashed like a "robot".
What would Mr. Aiyer's position be? Does he believe that brainwashing takes place only in the area of terror? This is where we need to look at the scenario holistically.
Saeed's opinion is not an isolated one and neither is it restricted in both countries to fringe elements.
There are two crucial segments.
1. The overtly nationalist middle class that believes that an enemy gives credence to identity.
2. Those who take what appears to be a cynical view that
a) the terror industry is over-rated
b) peace through confidence building measures does not do away with insecurity. These placebos cannot and are not meant to address diplomatic issues.
Almost all politicians have spoken about such initiatives and gestures. Does anything tangible come out of it?
In the Islamabad studio, it was Hafiz Saeed who spoke honestly. Mani Shankar Aiyar is being hailed for his brave move in confronting him, when he was just aiming aimless darts.
Perhaps he might like to see the large queues outside the High Commissions in India and Pakistan to understand how difficult such 'private' visits are for those he is claiming to speak on behalf of.