Handcuffed to history in South Asia | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


Handcuffed to history in South Asia

by Aijaz Zaka Syed

I sometimes wonder if Shakespeare had India and Pakistan’s leaders in mind when he wrote those immortal lines in As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.”

No matter who is in power in Delhi or Islamabad, the script of the carefully choreographed diplomatic spectacle never seems to change. From their famous encounter at Tashkent to the tense handshakes at Simla and Agra, and from Vajpayee’s historic bus trip to Lahore to the bitterness of Kargil, the more the narrative changes, the more it remains the same.

Still, the bitterness and open hostility that hung in the air as S M Krishna and Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed the press conference in Islamabad took your breath away. They sat side by side, yet avoided looking at each other like estranged husband and wife. Tension in the air was so thick you could have carved it with a knife. One almost felt sorry for the soft spoken Krishna. A widely respected figure in and outside the governing Congress for his liberal outlook, Krishna deserved better. Never a part of India’s powerful foreign policy establishment, the former Karnataka chief minister isn’t perhaps cut out for the zero sum game that is India-Pakistan diplomacy.

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