Published: Times of India – July 15, 2013
NEW DELHI: Pakistani human rights activist SaeedaDiep is the director of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies, Lahore. On a recent visit to the city, she spoke to The Times of India about Indo-Pak relations and the road ahead
Q: Now that Nawaz Sharif has been elected as Pakistan’s prime minister, how do you think it will impact Indo-Pak relations? A: The last time that a head of state from India visited Pakistan was during Nawaz Sharif’s time – that was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Now with Sharif back in power, we are very positive and hopeful, especially on Indo-Pak trade relations.
However, there is a pattern. Whenever peace talks proceed between India and Pakistan, something derails it. It was Kargil during Vajpayee’s time. The day they were about to announce the legal visa policy, the beheading on the border took place. Both the governments should understand that there are hidden hands who will hamper the process. But that is no reason to suspend talks.
Q: How do you view the new visa policy? A: Unfortunately the new visa policy is pathetic – it won’t help a common Pakistani meet a common Indian, since there are still very strict rules in place. It only favours rich businessmen.
Q: Narendra Modi is emerging as a potential prime ministerial candidate here in India. How is that viewed in Pakistan? A: Activists will always condemn religious extremism. But at the same time, common people probably will say that it was Vajpayee from the BJP who visited Pakistan. It was Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif who started the bus service. I’m not sure about the reaction of common people. As for activists, our focus is on peace with India. We want secular people with broad vision who don’t use religion to divide people.
Q: How do you see Indo-Pak relations in the light of the impending NATO pullout from Afghanistan in 2014? A: I don’t think the Afghanistan government will be able to handle the Taliban after the US leaves. There are chances of them penetrating into Pakistan. And that can’t be good for India’s future either. In such a case, it becomes very important for Pakistan and India to stand united.