ISLAMABAD - The outgoing Pakistan envoy to India, Sohail Mahmood, is doing what dyed-in-the-wool diplomats are expected to do: present the most optimistic face possible, even when bilateral equations between two estranged countries have touched a new low.
Sohail, who is soon to take over as the new Pakistan Foreign Secretary, has said that his country hopes for “re-engagement with India”, once the Lok Sabha elections conclude, noting that dialogue would enable the two countries to understand mutual concerns, resolve outstanding disputes and build on durable peace and security, DNA has reported.
Pakistan’s outgoing high commissioner is right in saying that diplomacy and dialogue are “indispensable”. He has added for good measure that a narrative is needed that captures the reality in Pakistan objectively and more fully, a narrative that also helps recognise opportunities for peaceful, cooperative and good neighbourly relations.
It would not be incorrect to state that unlike some of his predecessors, Mahmood has been the most low key and sober. His short tenure of less than two years has been marked by no major controversy, even when terror attacks in India like Pulwama and its aftermath, have brought the two unfriendly neighbours to the brink of war.
To be sure, Mahmood is not talking in his individual capacity, but carrying the brief of the Pakistani government. He is repeating what Pakistan premier Imran Khan has said about re-engaging with India once the general elections in this country are over.
The thing to be noted, however, is that given the patently bad relations between the two countries — which includes a tense military standoff — the High Commissioner has done well to project a forward-looking agenda. He has refused to get into a slanging match with the Indians, as some of his predecessors had done.
Neither has he used the language that politicians resort to for scoring brownie points or for winning elections. While, given the deep cynicism that exists between the two sides, it is easy to play down the envoy’s statement as rhetoric, it is also important to remember that scoffing at an idea, no matter how far fetched it may seem, is self-defeating.
A good diplomat’s job is to keep all manner of hope alive and not get carried away by an obviously bad situation and Mahmood needs to be credited for doing what is expected of him. Having said that, the envoy has spent enough time in India to be able to convey to his government the aspirations of the Indian government and people.