Thursday, January 3, 2008

Pak should have a national government: Waris Shere

Recently I had the good fortune to meet a Canada-based academician -- Prof Waris Shere -- who is an expert on international affairs, which is one of my favourite subjects. We got talking on a number of global issues from the US to West Asia to Europe to Pakistan.

He says in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the best way forward for Pakistan would be the formation of a national government. “Under the present leadership, the future of Pakistan, which is undergoing a major crisis, looks bleak. A national unity government, comprising all major parties, would help the nation find a way out of the difficult situation it finds itself in.” he said.
“There is an urgent need for dialogue, especially in the light of the current situation in Pakistan,” Shere, who had discussed global peace issues with Bhutto during her visit to Canada in mid-90s, said. “A stable and progressive Pakistan would be in the best interests of India.”
Referring to the debate on opening a communication channel with the Taleban, Shere who is currently on a visit to Bangalore said, “Yes, talk to them. That’s the only way out. Violence wouldn’t lead us anywhere.” He suggested that the US should adopt a carrot-and-stick policy in Afghanistan and bolster the moderates in a bid to win over the extremists.
He quoted the example of former US President Ronald Reagan, who invited the then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to a dialogue only weeks after terming the Soviet Union an evil empire. “Today, there is no option but to start a dialogue with the enemies. Look at Libya; it was a terrorist state, it abjured violence and joined the mainstream,” he said.
Shere said the US should recognise the position of Iran in the region and open talks with a view to creating a framework to regulate Iran’s influence, displaying a willingness to coexist with Iran while limiting its excesses. He said the US must not only ensure consistency in foreign policy but plan it on a long-term, rather than focus on immediate gains. In matters like human rights and political freedom, it has different yardsticks for different nations, said Shere, who has authored seven books and over 40 articles.
“Today, terrorism is the new international anarchy. Yet the overall picture, while of concern, is by no means bleak. It must be dealt with by new agreements and meaningful dialogue. Peaceful change requires systematic diplomatic effort with friends and foes alike. Global leadership must be accompanied by social consciousness, and a readiness to compromise,” Shere says in his latest book, ‘The Struggle For Peace’, an anthology.
It has contributions from a number of international political figures and academicians, like former UK PM Tony Blair, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, president of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Hass and member of the Harvard Department of Government Samuel Huntington. Most of the authors in the anthology agree that today there is a high level of inter-cultural interactions that is in turn intensifying inter-cultural awareness.
Shere believes that India was lucky to have leaders like leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. “Though India and Pakistan were born together, look at how Pakistan is today. That’s because there was complete political vacuum there when it won independence, unlike in India. Nehru banked on democracy even though at that time India was very poor. He could have easily been a dictator. Even while recognising all the shortcomings of the newborn nation, he firmly decided that democracy was the path for India. He stands vindicated today,” Shere said.
(Published in The Times of India, Bangalore, on December 29, 2007)

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