India Uncut

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A pragmatic foreign policy

A number of bloggers, most of whom I read regularly and admire, have started a campaign to express their displeasure at Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, visiting India. They feel that Musharraf had enabled terrorism in Kashmir and caused the deaths of thousands of Indians, and therefore, our government should not host him. Nitin started the campaign, and others like Secular Right India, Varnam, Sandeep and Patrix have joined. I have Bloglines subscriptions to all of them, some of them are now email buddies of mine, and I generally agree with them. Not this time, however.

I have no issues with everything they say about Musharraf; but while those dictate our emotional response to him as individuals, our foreign policy must be based on just one thing: a coldly rational understanding of what benefits us the most. Peace between India and Pakistan, particularly a freeing up of trade, stands to benefit us a great deal: our bilateral relations can be either a positive-sum game or a negative-sum game, and not a zero-sum game. In other words, if we move towards peace and greater economic interaction, both countries benefit; if not, both miss out. No one wins at the expense of the other here.

Saying no to Musharraf would just mean a continuation of the status quo. Using the same logic, in fact, Israel and Palestine could refuse to talk to one another, and there would be no chance of peace there either, and the Middle East would forever be in strife. The only way to move forward is to leave emotion behind and just do what will benefit us the most. Heck, forget the individual concerned, forget Musharraf: better Indo-Pak relations will benefit millions of people in the long run, and that should be the aim of our foreign policy with regard to Pakistan.

Musharraf's visit here may just be a cosmetic measure, of course, that leads to no improvement in bilateral relations. But it holds the possibility of progress. Saying no to him condemns us to more of the same. Is that really what we want?

Update: Bloody hell, you'd think I was Musharraf, the way bloggers are taking me on. Here's Secular Right India's post on this post, and here's my response. And here's Ravikiran's accusation that I have committed a moralistic fallacy. Rubbish, I say. Put these boys on the bus.
amit varma, 12:42 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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