Pakistan extremism takes centre stage at festival

A session on “Descent into Chaos– Pakistan on the Brink” took centre stage at the Jaipur Literature Festival with renowned panelists discussing bilateral relations and contemporary challenges for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

 Ahmed Rashid, author of several books on Central Asia, claimed that India’s reluctance to initiate dialogue with Pakistan is mere “stupidity” while G Parthasarathy, former Indian diplomat and author, pointed out that talks couldn't be held amid flying bullets.

Rashid talked about the sudden and drastic improvement in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan and reflected that Taliban has to be pushed by the Pakistan army to initiate dialogue with Kabul because most of the big Taliban leaders live in Pakistan. 

“Pakistan needs to save itself, if it does not want to descend into chaos,” he added.

He said recent attack on a Peshawar school has brought Pakistan army, government and other institutions on one platform demanding action against extremists. “The issue of extremists can not be addressed by military action alone but a serious de-radicalisation is the need of the hour,” said Rashid.

Anatol Lieven,  professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service based in Doha and Qatar, commented that the Talibans made dialogue Pakistan and Afghanistan difficult. 

He believed that the ongoing talks were capable of producing a change of heart in the Pakistani ranks.

“Resilience is there in Pakistan and at the same time Taliban has also grown powerful. So, it’s difficult to predict what is going to happen in the long run. However, Pakistan-backed network targeting Indians should be stopped,” said Anatol.

Parthasarthy said he did not want “a neighbour to be on the brink,” and thanked Pakistan former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri for being the most agreeable Pakistani foreign ministers he has dealt with since the 1970s.

On the need for dialogue between India and Pakistan, Parthasarthy said, “You can’t have a dialogue when bullets are flying. Nobody hears the sound of the dialogue. Everybody hears the sound of the bullet, so lets military deal with it.” Kasuri summed up his thoughts on Indo-Pak relations by saying, “I K Gujral saheb and I planted a sapling in the India International Center, which I hope will be a tree now, growing faster than the Indo-Pak relations.”

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