It is for the people of India to decide who should be their next PM, and we will willingly engage with the government

Apr 13 2014, 03:19 IST
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SummaryIn his first interaction with the Indian media since taking over as Pakistan high commissioner, Abdul Basit, a career diplomat, hopes talks between the two countries renew at the earliest, without any conditions, and explains why Hafiz Saeed cannot get even 1% of the votes to win a poll in Pakistan. This Idea Exchange was moderated by Pranab Dhal Samanta of The Indian Express

Abdul Basit: We are entering a new phase, wherein in Pakistan we have a new government and India is going through elections. When I called on the President of India on April 2, he was very kind to say that while in the past 5-10 years, despite our mutual efforts, we have not been able to achieve much, it is important that we do not lose more time. The new government, he assured me, would engage with Pakistan to resolve all issues, and we hope that as soon as the new government takes over, we will be able to engage with each other in a more fruitful manner. There is too much negativity and the negative narrative of conflict has to be replaced, and that will obviously not happen overnight. It is a generational process and will take time.

pranab dhal samanta: While posted elsewhere, what was the one thing that struck you about Pakistans relationship with India?

There is history to this relationship and, over the last six decades, we have not been able to disassociate ourselves from that historical baggage or develop a mutual capacity to look at things anew. Having said that, it does not mean that you shy away from resolving the issues because unless we assure mutual sincerity and resolve to get down to the hard issues, it is not possible for the two countries to resolve them. At the same time, we have not been able to educate our people on the dividends that peace can bring to both our countries. Thirdly, we are still living with our self-serving narratives. We need to walk past that and try to understand each other better; we are living in an interdependent and global world, as the clich goes. Since I arrived here, in the last one month, I have been reading all Indian newspapers and watching entertaining talk shows, like they have in Pakistan. One got a feeling that there is not much understanding of Pakistan in India and that may also be the case in Pakistan. We need to get out of these mono narratives of each other.

Having said all this, south Asia is one region that still faces so many challenges. Many people are living below the poverty line. As a diplomat, I am very optimistic about things as it is our responsibility to create opportunities and to try to work together for our common

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