By Akif Sattar.
Friendship and Statesmanship are not two different types of “ships” rather entirely opposite to each other sailing in the reverse directions. These two cannot navigate in the same direction. One has to manage these two ships disjointedly instead of making them sail simultaneously.
Speech of PM Nawaz Sharif at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and sharp reaction by Indian PM Narendra Modi in response, was the reflection that the aspirations of both the leaders to become statesmen evaporated into thin air. The only phenomenon witnessed among the two was a warm friendship, the two friends who do not forget to wish birthdays, exchange gifts for families and attend family festivals despite having busy schedule and long distance to converge.
The statesmanship is the practice of a statesman, usually a head of state who has a career in politics, looking after the government and running a state with prudence and sagacity. A statesman is supposed to overcome the vested interests for the sake of nation’s larger interest. Both Modi and Nawaz should have considered first the fortunes of the nearly a billion population living in the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent instead of developing ties at the personal level.
There is no second opinion that Nawaz Sharif did highlight the atrocities of Indian occupying forces in Indian held Kashmir (IHK) in UNGA and drew the attention of international community to resolve the long standing issue on the agenda of United Nations Security Council.
However, he did not even mention the word ‘Kashmir’ in his fifty minutes long meeting with Modi and post meeting press talk in New Delhi on the oath taking ceremony of Modi. Also, he did not hold a meeting with the APHC, though it could not be termed as incompatible with the standard diplomatic norms and practices.
The very good and just reason of this contrast is that you cannot play to both sides of the wickets. You have to be at either side. Be like true friend and compromise all national obligations or be like a true statesman and compromise your personal interests whatsoever they are. It was not only the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the excitement was overflown ahead of PM’s visit to India in 2014, when daughter of Pakistani PM Maryam Nawaz, who is very social these days, expressed on the social media in one of her tweets that “Why the two nations are living like divided Korea? Why can’t they live like united Europe?” I hope that the innocent daughter would have got the answer none somewhere else but from her father’s speech at UNGA that why we can’t live together. Thanks to Panama Leaks, she was not part of the Pakistan’s delegation to UNGA in New York. However, the granddaughter of Nawaz was there, might be for the moral support for her grandpa.
Unfortunately, our leaders are not sharp enough to maneuver the family exposure in a suitable way. If you’re having extended family in your official trips, you can manage to make them sit in the visitors’ gallery instead of inviting public criticism by making her sit right behind you, where the officials were supposed to take their seats.
Across the border Modi woke up next morning and announced that India will not attend the upcoming SAARC Summit scheduled on 9-10 November. He argued that cooperation and terrorism cannot go together. The decision has come after the Uri attack incident that has led to the growing tensions across the border. Violent acts are not a new phenomenon, the similar incidents have occurred earlier which among others include Samjhota Express blasts, Mumbai Attacks, Pathankot incident and frequent firings across the Line of Control (LoC).
Interestingly India has never turned down any official invitation in recent months. Indian delegates recently participated in SAARC Interior Ministers Meeting, First SAARC Young Parliamentarians’ Conference, and SAARC members Anti-Corruption Departments moot. Though all these types of conferences are just like exploratory and excursion trips on public funds, yet with an imaginary agenda of cooperation among member countries in years to come. All the efforts, resources and agreement have gone down the drain, and region is back to square one.
It is just because this time Modi has not received any private invitation from Sharif family, rather he got a state invitation to attend the SAARC Summit. If this invitation had been personal, Modi would have decided to visit with heaps of gifts and well wishes. This attitude has exposed Modi on both the fronts at personal and state level. With hindsight one could easily figure-out that all gifts, surprise visits at wedding ceremony and birthday wishes gesture of good-will were nothing but fake. Modi has nothing to do with Nawaz at all. He can make every effort to present Nawaz has failed in state affairs. He is no way a good friend either. If Modi be a true statesman, he would have never visited Sharif family just to extend the best wishes to the granddaughter of Nawaz keeping in view the alleged state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan.
Both the premiers have failed to carry forward cordial and friendly relations, started-off with high hopes and enthusiasm. Rather, they have realized that they should go for statesmanship instead of friendship. However, this is yet to be seen if they would prove themselves as good statesmen or just family friends because the essence of statesmanship is not a rigid adherence to the past, but a prudent and probing concern to chart the future course.
The writer is associated with an international developmental organization and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org