Love in Yemen: Unprecedented joint evacuation efforts may set India, Pakistan on new path to peace

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April 9, 2015

Something seems to be cooking between India and Pakistan. The familiar adversaries hitherto known for exchanging vitriolic comments and nasty gestures (apart from routine bloody, senseless battles on the borders during peace time) are now vying with each other in performing some feel-good gestures.

April 9, 2015

Something seems to be cooking between India and Pakistan. The familiar adversaries hitherto known for exchanging vitriolic comments and nasty gestures (apart from routine bloody, senseless battles on the borders during peace time) are now vying with each other in performing some feel-good gestures.

The latest example of this unusual Indo-Pak bonhomie is an unlikely far-away war theatre: Yemen. On 8 April evening, 11 Indians rescued from Yemen by Pakistan were flown in to India by a special plane.

This is unprecedented. Pakistan is not known to react like this, not at least for India. This writer admits his complete ignorance in case there is any precedence to this kind of Pakistani munificence towards India. It is something which needs to be acknowledged gratefully by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, something which should actually be in the pipeline.

For starters, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar did his bit on Wednesday when he was asked a question about the Pakistani gesture at his briefing on the Prime Minister's three-nation tour beginning 9 April.

"First of all I think our reaction to their gesture is very positive. It is a very good gesture; it is a very generous gesture. They have taken great trouble to do something and we need to appreciate that. I would also add that the Yemen situation, it is very interesting that in adversity actually everybody's best side has come forward. You find different countries actually helping out people irrespective of nationality," he said.

The foreign secretary also pointed out that India too had evacuated some Pakistanis from Yemen.

"In our own case we have actually helped I think 409 people from 32 countries to be evacuated from Yemen. It includes some Pakistanis; it includes other SAARC neighbours like Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Nepalis and a number of other countries. So, I think we approach this whole issue as an opportunity to really cooperate with each other. Often people take that as a sort of statement, I would say almost as a slogan or as a posturing, but the reality is difficult situations in international relations do call for countries to work with each other. What will be happening soon (the return of the evacuated Indians by Pakistan in a special Pakistani plane) is a very good example of that," Jaishankar said.

It is indeed a good sign that India and Pakistan just got engaged in an unusual rivalry: to see who evacuates how many nationals of the other side from Yemen. It is an even greater surprise that the Pakistani government sends the eleven evacuated Indians from Yemen in a special plane to India.

What is happening? Is there a 'method' to this 'madness'? Well, this writer had recently flag-marked an interesting subterranean development in the Indo-Pak context here and here.

Indo-Pak bilateral politics is a highly complicated jigsaw puzzle and the Pakistani munificence with regard to trapped Indians in Yemen and the Indian reaction may well be blocks that fit into this puzzle. If anyone had any doubts about the sudden upturn in Indo-Pak bonhomie, one should see the comments of PM Modi in an interview to Hindustan Times.

The relevant remark of PM Modi in context of resuming talks with Pakistan was, "Peace can only thrive when the climate is right. We remain open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free from terrorism and violence."

The recent brushes between India and Pakistan have been unusually cordial and have sent positive vibes. If the trend continues and the two neighbours continue to extend their munificence and benevolence to each other in the coming weeks, it could definitely pave the way for PM Modi's bilateral visit to Pakistan.

After all, Pakistan has huge diplomatic stakes as it is to host the next SAARC summit next year. Islamabad would definitely like the next SAARC summit to be a roaring success and the Modi-led India can help significantly. Needless to say, the coming weeks will show whether a lasting peace is finally in the pipeline for the two nations, or whether it was just a pipedream, just as it has been for over 67 long years.


Courtesy: Firstpost