The Secret Life of Foreign Secretaries
By M J Akbar
Secret extra-terrestrial sources, with reliable knowledge of the future, have revealed the full text of the dialogue between the Indian Foreign Secretary (IFS) and the Pakistan Foreign Secretary (PFS) on the sidelines of the next non-aligned summit. We offer this exclusive to our readers:
IFS: Hi! All well, my friend?
PFS: (Shrugs) Is sarcasm your normal opening gambit, or do you reserve it for the Indo-Pak dialogue?
IFS: We don’t do sarcasm in Delhi, not with a monsoon lost in transit.
PFS: You could have fooled me. As for all being well vis-a-vis the Taliban, read the papers. Your chaps getting on well with that little war against the Naxalites?
IFS: Well, at least our intelligence agencies didn’t fund the Naxalites to kill innocents and blow up hotels in Pakistan.
PFS: Actually, we are quite good at that ourselves; don’t need foreign expertise. Frankly, the Taliban were a terrible investment. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you...
IFS: The bite hasn’t got septic, has it?
PFS: Well... shall I be honest?
IFS: That would be such a pleasant change.
PFS: Very droll... You do seem to have acquired a splendid sense of humour since we last met. Very nice. Not in the manual for foreign secretaries, is it?
IFS: Ha ha. I take your point, however. Every country in our heavenly subcontinent is trapped in a desperate civil war — apart maybe from dear little Bhutan. Time for a little cooperation, then?
PFS: Precisely what I was thinking! We always have been the biggest poverty pit in the world — that’s where the Naxalites come from, isn’t it? Now we are also the bloodiest.
IFS: Not to mention the blood of innocents. Your only consistent export to India is terrorists. You ramp up the supply or scale it down depending on your political GDP requirements. You got a bit defensive after Mumbai, but you’ve put them back in business, haven’t you?
PFS: You give us too much credit. These militias have their own agenda. And unless you settle the root cause, Kashmir...
IFS: It seems to have escaped your notice that for the world — including your ally America — that this ‘‘root cause’’ argument has long crossed its sell-by date. You want to get stuck on this, we might as well use the rest of our time discussing which movie you last saw.
PFS: Saw a sexy picture of Angelina Jolie the other day in one of your newspapers! Wow! Our newspapers are so vegetarian compared to yours. It’s those mullahs, I’m afraid. Will neither have fun themselves nor let us have a bit on the side.
IFS: Oh, we’re getting some moral police as well, but our elections sort them out, so that’s a relief. You are good at changing the subject, my friend, but won’t work. Why do you get collective amnesia when it comes to Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Prof Hafeez Mohammad Saeed and his associate Colonel Nazir Ahmed? They were released because you ‘‘forgot’’ to include al-Qaida in your list of terrorist organizations! The lawyer you deputed for Sarbjit Singh ‘‘forgot’’ to appear in court. Forgot! Do lawyers get paid extra for forgetting?
PFS: Ah, the familiar blame game. Why don’t we move on? We are ready for demilitarized zones on both sides of the border — say five miles on either side. That would send such a massive signal of peace, and take your Army off the backs of the Kashmiri people as well. You don’t want me to dwell on that bit, do you, after Shopian? DMZs could enable Kashmiris to share electricity, get on with trade and increase travel on basis of special travel permits.
IFS: All so convenient: our Army moves away so that your surrogate militias and self-styled jihadis can breathe more easily. Simultaneously, you want us to dilute symbols of Indian sovereignty wherever possible. But you will not compromise on your absolutist stand. Why don’t we declare the Line of Control the border and really get on with life? That would close the chapter, and bring peace.
PFS: Peace! What a brilliant thought! But we can’t accept the LoC as the border. It would only mean that for 60 years we have fought for nothing.
IFS: I know it, and you know it, that the LoC is the only answer. The rest is keeping the ball in play to fool the world if not to fool ourselves.
PFS: (Gently) That’s not our decision, is it?
PFS: (Smiles) Tell me, how long will it take if our political masters really want peace?
IFS: About six minutes.
PFS: And how long if we keep talking the way we did?
IFS: Another 60 years.
PFS: Touche! See you at the next meeting!