Speaking to Wall Street Journal President Zardari said he did not consider India to be a threat. He sought better relations with India through free trade. He described the militants in J&K as terrorists, not freedom fighters. The last observation invited flak in Pakistan. Not surprisingly Nawaz Sharif behaved like a characteristic South Asian opposition party. He appeared to deliberately distort the issue and oppose for the sake of opposition.
Zardari's statement was misunderstood by Indian TV anchors, who either do not know the English language or lack elementary logic. Mehbooba Mufti made her own contribution to collective stupidity by contradicting Zardari. Nowhere had Zardari commented on the substantive Kashmir issue. Nowhere did he suggest that terrorists were either Pakistani or of Indian origin. He merely condemned acts of violence by those generally described as Kashmiri militants. Is there any doubt that killing school children and women through bomb blasts amounts to terrorism?
One day after his interview with WSJ Zardari clarified that he had not shifted his stand on the basic issue of Kashmir. To compound their stupidity TV commentators blared that by saying this he had back tracked. The dense fog of stupidity, obfuscation and mischief being deliberately created renders all the more compelling the need for an adequate official Indian response to Pakistan's President. Zardari has spoken with courage to take on his domestic opposition. He has moved even beyond Musharraf by opening the door to a peaceful solution that may involve out of the box thinking.
What most Indians need to understand is that a policy that perpetuates the status quo is in the long run self defeating. When Pakistan occupies half of Kashmir that we continue to claim as Indian, there is an unresolved problem. When it is recorded history that Pandit Nehru accepted Kashmir's accession with the caveat that it should be subject to the approval of the people of Kashmir, there is an unresolved problem. When almost all politicians in Kashmir continue to agitate peacefully for a new deal, ranging from more autonomy, to bifurcation of the state, to outright secession, there is an unresolved problem.
This scribe will not suggest how the government should respond to Zardari. He would avoid repeating himself. But it should be amply clear to the mandarins of South Block that some response must be given. They owe it to Zardari who has stuck his neck out. They owe it to the people of Kashmir, divided and disenchanted for six decades. They owe it to India, continuing to bleed from a thousand cuts.