Indian PM squanders golden peace opportunity in South Asia

Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh squandered away a golden chance to encourage peace between belligerent, nuclear-armed neighbors, Pakistan and India, at the U.N. General Assembly session. Instead, he chose to adhere to a hawkish, extremist stance against Pakistan.

High hopes were pinned on the much awaited meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Dr. Singh, the rival leaders in south Asia, at a time when the urgency for resolving tensions and establishing lasting peace mounts higher than it ever before. Especially after the realization that neither of them could defeat the other in war to carry forward its own agenda.

Faced with the daunting challenge of winning a majority for his Congress (I) in the upcoming elections, Dr. Singh ignored the friendly gestures and peace overtures of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the General Assembly session. Crushing all hopes for peace in south Asia, he chose to pursue the requirements of political expediency back home and woo hardliners from the folds of arch-rival Bhartia Janata Party [BJP] in the coming elections.


In what was deemed as an act of sabotage and failure to promote peace between the two nuclear arch rivals, in his address to the General Assembly Dr. Singh reiterated Delhi’s allegation that “Pakistan was the epicenter of terrorism in the world,” and demanded that Islamabad’s funding and patronization of terrorists should be stopped.

Pakistan has remained the worst victim of terrorism after joining the world alliance against terrorism.

Mansoor Jafar

Dr. Singh’s government is about to complete a second term in office and is approaching elections in a few months with the mounting pressure of winning, for the third time in a row, and beating their arch-rival, Hindu nationalist BJP. Therefore, he is unable to take any big decision and bring any policy shift vis-à-vis the arch rival Pakistan.

On the other hand, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s party PML-N has taken to the field with a fresh mandate; he is more enthusiastic to make peace with India and in a better position to achieve this end. In his address, Nawaz Sharif reiterated that Kashmir, the core issue between India and Pakistan- over which four wars were fought by the two countries, should be solved using U.N. resolutions that called for a plebiscite in the Kashmir state, giving the people a choice of whether they wanted accession with Pakistan or India. But, Dr. Manmohan declared Kashmir an integral part of India, going against India’s original stance of 1948 when Delhi approached the U.N. to ask for help in solving the Kashmir dispute.


Despite his political handicap, if Dr. Manmohan Singh had resorted to a reconciliatory approach instead of extremism, he could have turned this vital meeting with Nawaz Sharif into an important milestone for improving bilateral relations and reducing tension between the two countries. This realistic approach would have saved huge expenditure on defense purchases for both countries and diverted funds to the welfare of their people to raise their living standards. Dr. Singh should keep in mind the similarly tense situation in 1999 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee responded positively to Nawaz Sharif and went to Pakistan to sign an historic peace road map the “Lahore Declaration.”

Manmohan Singh’s speech reflected a desire to shun the dialogue process with Pakistan and implied that he was more interested in winning the upcoming elections than establishing lasting peace in south Asia. He should not forget that in the last sixty-six years, the Indian army has killed more Kashmiris than the struggle between Indians and British colonists from 1857 to 1947.

All talk

Immediately after Dr. Singh’s address, his political rival and prime minister designate of BJP, Narender Modi, told a large public meeting in New Delhi that Nawaz Sharif had insulted Dr. Singh by referring to his protests with president Obama against Pakistan as the “bellowing of a peasant woman.” However, the reports of Nawaz Sharif using those words during an off-the-record talk remained unconfirmed by leading journalists. It turned out that the discussion was an exclusive report by an anchor of a leading Pakistani news channel. Yet, BJP leadership has continued to increase pressure on Dr. Singh by dubbing it as a deliberate insult aimed at the elected Indian prime minister.

The fact that Manmohan Singh was under pressure from his political rivals back home and used his speech to the U.N. General Assembly for his election campaign was quite evident from his beating the old drum and failure to accept the peace initiatives instigated by Nawaz Sharif. He forgot to mention Pakistan’s immense sacrifices as the frontline state in the war on terror, suffering from unmatched terrorism in the world’s history which has caused over seventy thousand casualties in just over a decade.


Pakistan has remained the worst victim of terrorism after joining the world alliance against terrorism. This could be judged by the hundreds of bomb blasts and drone attacks on its soil that have left around seventy thousand people, including armed forces personnel and civilians, dead. The country has been hit by a new wave of terror with four incidents of blasts killing over 200 people and wounding even more in the last week after the parliament authorized the government to hold talks with Taliban to end the insurgency-like situation. In his speech to the U.N., Nawaz Sharif declared that following the upsurge in terror incidents during last week his government has found no justification to hold talks with the Taliban.

Pakistani agencies have time and again declared they had solid proofs of Indian involvement in insurgency in Baluchistan and tribal areas. Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde himself admitted to having terrorists training camps on Indian soil run by Hindu fanatics to carry out genocide against the Muslim minority. The Nehru family used to be considered as moderate and liberal in comparison to hardliner political rivals like BJP. But in 1971, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, while referring to Indian military intervention that dismembered Pakistan, proudly declared India had finally sunk the two-nation theory into the bay of Bengal. This boast proved that the Nehru family and their Congress (I) was as equally fanatic as the BJP, RSS, VHP and other such groups that look to purge India of all minorities through ethnic and religious cleansing.

Now the fourth generation representative of the Nehru family, Rahul Gandhi, is singing an anti-Pakistan tune. He was quoted as saying to media that dismembering Pakistan was the biggest achievement of his family. In view of the prevailing hardline, anti-Pakistan stance of Indian political leaderships in general, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s tirade against Pakistan in the U.N. was nothing unusual. But Delhi should remember that such an attitude will continue to make the dream of lasting peace in south Asia remain elusive.


Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.