WHETHER prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Pakistan turns out to be a historic or merely a defining moment will depend on what the two countries do from here on. Ultimately, judgement on the 30 hours in Lahore will be the business of the next generation. But what of the here and now? How shall we reckon the achievement and the disappointments?
The general mood in India, clearly, is one of quiet satisfaction. There is also a palpable sense of relief. The ice has been broken , as Nawaz Sharif said in his press conference; the first bilateral summit in a decade has actually happened. Attached to this is a sense of relief: no disasters, no horrendous gaffes and no snafus.
The summit's achievements were at least commendable at three levels: the symbolic, the normative, and the substantive.
At the level of symbolism, the summit, first of all, was a response to the fanatics on both sides of the border-the Jamaat and company in Pakistan, and the Shiv Sena and cognate brigades here. The hardliners are still at work on both sides; but the radical hysterics were sent a message. The second symbolic achievement was the PM's visit to the Minar-e-Pakistan. Pakistanis are constantly in fear of 'Akhand Bharat and what they see as various types of Indian irredentists who have 'never accepted the reality of Pakistan . This visit should soothe nervous Pakistanis-if they can be soothed. The third symbolic achievement is somewhat more ineffable but important nonetheless. The visit forces on all of us, I think, the recognition that Indians and Pakistanis inhabit a common South Asian house. Interdependence and culture tie us together and the visit affirms that, simply and categorically.
The Lahore Declaration was symbolic-all declarations, in some measure, are-but it also charted a set of diplomatic norms, some new, some old. Three in particular are worth...