You say goodbye, I say hello
Sir — I read with amusement Dola Mitra’s efforts to avoid American products for a day (“Goodbye to all that”, May 1). While I do not support such childishness, I would like to point out that had Mitra tried hard enough, she could have done what she set out to do without compromising on quality. Instead of brushing her teeth with Colgate, she could have used Neem or Babool (besides Vajradanti). For breakfast, she could have settled for Mohan’s cornflakes and Dabur’s orange juice instead of munching muri with cold milk. For her attire, Mitra could have chosen from the innumerable Indian brands of jeans and Bata shoes. Mobile handsets are not made by Motorola alone. She could have exchanged hers for one made by Nokia, Samsung or Siemens. As for the music system, she should have opted for Sony or any other of Japanese-make. One should also remind her that most photocopying machines used in India are of Japanese origin. For a drink she could have chosen the originally Indian brands like Thums Up or Limca which continue to be popular despite being taken over by multinationals. And she could have used the Linux instead of Microsoft and Rediffmail for her emails.
Tamal Basu, Hooghly
Over the border
Sir — The report, “Jamali invites, Atal fights shy” (May 4), shows that India-Pakistan relations have taken a U-turn for the better and this in itself should be cause for rejoicing among believers in peace on both sides of the border. Although the change might have taken place at the behest of big brother America, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction and thousands of people on either side of the border, particularly Kashmir, will be the immediate beneficiaries of the newfound bonhomie. The problem is, will the nations be able to sustain the momentum' Remember that Pakistan had left no stones unturned to show India what a sham the Lahore bus diplomacy had been. Kargil had followed soon after, making it impossible for Indians to forget the stab in the back. Will India be able to trust Pakistan again, despite Kargil' What consolation will the government offer to the widows and orphans of Kargil'
Another thing. The coincidence between the peace initiative and the end of the Iraq war seem too much to remove the looming suspicion of American intervention from the mind. Both India and Pakistan should remember how the United States of America has shamelessly exploited the situation in the subcontinent to its advantage. If Afghanistan has become a problem now, it is precisely because of the US’s attempt to score a point against the former Soviet Union. Which means the neighbouring countries have to be both careful and critical of the US attempt to force peace on them. A bilateral problem should be solved bilaterally.
Bijoy Ranjan Dey, Tinsukia
N Sir _ That the Pakistan prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, has extended a formal invitation to his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is encouraging news. The initiative taken by Vajpayee to talk peace is itself remarkable statesmanship. Now it is imperative that both sides do not allow this current mood of camaraderie to die down and take immediate steps to start a meaningful dialogue to resolve the dispute between the two countries. India, on its part, has to be more pragmatic in its approach and should not be as rigid as it has always been, keeping in mind that a betterment of the situation will be to the advantage of the entire region.
Kalyan Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — Why does India always have to be on the defensive' What was wrong with the earlier position that India would not resume dialogue till Pakistan stopped cross-border terrorism' What changed overnight to force India into the corner' What prompted India to forget the recent massacre of Hindus at Nadimarg which was clearly sponsored by Pakistan' The report, “Envoy returns with hand of friendship” (May 3), in fact reflects the looming shadow of the White House over New Delhi, which is why India has suddenly decided to forget the failures of both the Lahore and Agra summits. India has been attacked repeatedly over the recent years, be it in Kargil or in Parliament. Yet we decide to tread softly.
India must remember that Pakistan will retain its grip over Kashmir at any cost while India continues to harp that the valley is integral to it. All this means that there will never be any permanent solution to the problem. War alone can decide the fate in the subcontinent and wrest Kashmir from Pakistan’s clutches. Ties of friendship and restoring of economic relations are just an eyewash.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — Pakistan has played its card well, albeit at the prodding of the US. Talks initiated should however start at the lower level, not the higher level, as correctly suggested by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Moreover, this time it is an “advantage India” situation, which means there is no reason for India to start wavering under foreign pressure. Remember, there has been border tensions between China and India as well, but the nations have maintained smooth trade ties. India and Pakistan should also forget past problems and conduct fresh bilateral trade arrangements.
Pakistan’s readiness to drop Kashmir from the top slot is one move that should be regarded with much scepticism. This is the first time that Pakistan has come close to even thinking of such a thing. Despite such willingness however, what is the guarantee that its terror strikes in the Kashmir valley will not continue' India has already provided the world with satellite images of the activities of the Inter-Services Intelligence in India. Given the optimism on either side, India should however try to underplay the Kashmir issue. However, the emphasis on Pakistan’s curtailment of cross-border terrorism should continue, although India can moderate on it depending on the success of talks.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — The prime minister should be congratulated for his bold stand on Pakistan. But does he expect the problem will be sorted out by the next round of talks with Pakistan' The differences with the neighbour has defied solution for over half a century and it will not be an easy process. The talks with Pakistan should be preceded by the sending of a goodwill mission to Pakistan which will help mould a favourable public opinion in the neighbouring country. The mission should include Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan and Lata Mangeshkar, Indian stalwarts who are much admired by the people next door. There should also be regular cultural exchanges and sporting links between the countries.
India should have done all this before the Agra summit. We missed that chance. This time the Pakistani prime minister is supposed to lead the delegation to India. But his status in Pakistani politics is not unknown. Any declaration made by the Pakistani representative in the summit would have to be ratified by the parliament of Pakistan and, above all, by Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan could change its views after the summit also. Which means leaders of delegations of both countries should be given enough freedom and authority to conclude deals.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta
Sir — The overtures of the two prime ministers on either side of the border are welcome. Both the countries have shared a common past, and now share a similar present. Despite being stricken by poverty, the countries have wasted their precious resources in pursuing nuclear and missile programmes and indulged in border skirmishes at the cost of development.
What is needed is a serious dialogue between the nations without being dictated by international bullies like the US and the United Kingdom who are ever willing to capitalize on the discord. It is in this context that the mutual offers become significant. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s turning down the invitation of Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali in this regard has been a dampener. But then Vajpayee has also to be careful of his steps. Both the international community, and more important, his own sangh parivar, are watching the developments over his shoulders.
S. Ram, Calcutta
Sir — Kudos to Atal Bihari Vajpayee for being so pragmatic in his approach to the bilateral situation. India is not in a position to wage a full scale war against Pakistan, although it may be ranked among the 15 top military spenders in the world. By containing the hostility towards Pakistan, Vajpayee has demonstrated his leadership and courage. This feat alone places him on the same pedestal as the top world leaders like Indira Gandhi. A successful mending of matters will also ensure the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in the next Lok Sabha elections.
Purnendu Mishra, Calcutta