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India is a source of envy and concern in Pakistan.” A first hand report on Indo-Pak Relations and the hurdles in achieving peace. On 15th March, the Peace and Harmony Fellowship Group of the International Service Committee hosted a talk by Mr. Anand Arni, on the subject of Indo-Pak Relations -Glimpses of Pakistani Perspective and Achieving Peace.

Rtn. Vineet Jain, Chairperson of the Peace and Harmony Fellowship Group welcomed members and introduced Mr. Anand Arni, who is an ex RAW agent. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Geostrategy Programme at the Takshashila Institution, Bangalore and a trustee of the Goa-based strategic think-tank, Mantraya. He was Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.

In his career as an intelligence officer, he served in RAW for 37 years before retiring in 2012 as the deputy chief. In RAW, he spent 25 years dealing with issues related to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is a veteran of counter terrorism & anti insurgency. He was a key member of the Team that negotiated the release of Kandahar hostages. He is a very distinguished and decorated officer.

Mr Arni has served in many Indian diplomatic missions. He writes extensively on Indo-Pak and related areas. He is involved in an ongoing Track 2 dialogue with Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is also involved with Conflict Resolution with some global reputed organisations.

Mr. Arni has lived in Pakistan for many years. He described it as being an Islamic state under virtual army control. Their language, food habits, thought process, interests and even sense of humor are similar to ours! They love visiting India for sightseeing and shopping. They love Bollywood movies and our music and arts too!

Mr. Arni was posted as an Indian Diplomat in Karachi and shared some nostalgic memories of the city with us. Karachi being situated at the edge of the desert, has no rainy season or even winter. Houses there are well designed. He also mentioned that there is only mostly the elegant, refined upper class and then the lower class in Pakistan. The middle class is a negligible percentage of the population.

Mr. Arni remarked that India is a source of envy and concern in Pakistan. Our economy is much bigger than theirs. Kashmir is a major bone of contention. They regret losing Bangladesh in 1971. Vernacular media has an overall anti India bias.

The Army Chief is very powerful and is the self appointed guardian of the country. Those who don’t toe his line are sidelined. He analyzed the political situation and events around the time that Imran Khan took over as PM. Tension with India gives their army a big reason to dominate.

In the past Nawaz Sharif had tried various peace initiatives to reach out to India, like the famous bus trip. Their aggression has always meant to force India to back out of negotiations. PM Modi visited Pakistan once on Nawaz Sharif’s birthday for his granddaughter’s wedding.

Both Kargil and Pulwama aimed at getting us to walk out of discussions. He recounted the political climate in the days of Zia and Musharraf.

Mr. Arni was hopeful of some forward movement in future, in areas like restoration in exchange of High Commissioners and other Diplomats, resumption of Cricket ties and ministerial exchanges. Last two years have been largely quiet on the fronts of mutual interrelations. He added that their economy is in a bad shape and economic engagement with India will greatly benefit them! Bilawal Bhutto is an interesting political player to watch out for!

Mr. Arni’s talk was followed by a very interesting Q&A session, moderated by Rtn. Vineet Jain, in which members asked various questions that included issues like the average Pakistani’s mindset, interplay with China and cultural relations. It was a superbly charged and action-packed session! Thanks Rtn. Chetan Kamani for the help in arranging the eminent speaker!

Ann. Pragya Jain

Editor, IWCB

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