Dr Ved Pratap Vaidik's recent 20-day tour of Pakistan seems to have been precociously productive. He met a number of former soldiers, diplomats, experts and journalists, even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. As with any good trip, there are photographs. None sadly are selfies -- which is all that is missing from Vaidik's excellent adventures in Pakistan.
From Vaidik's point of view, it was time well spent, a discovery of a kinder, gentler 'other'. He went looking for a big, bad Muslim state bent on total annihilation of India, but found instead a peace-loving padosi.
This time, the mood has changed. Nobody made any comment about Prime Minister Narendra Modi that could have upset me. Overall, Pakistani leaders and scholars' opinion was that if the Indian people had accepted Modi, then why should Pakistanis not accept it?... Pakistanis don't fear any longer that India can destroy Pakistan or seize 'Azad Kashmir' at gun-point..." Vaidik writes in his blog.
Open the Wagah border, now!
As all dutiful self-appointed diplomats, Vaidik did not shy away from the more daunting tasks of his goodwill tour. He met former 'prime minister' of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Sardar Ateeq, his father, the 90-year-old Sardar Qayyum, PoK's seniormost leader. And, oh yes, Hafeez Saeed, the prime conspirator of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, wanted by Indian courts, under trial in Pakistan and leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the political arm of terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba and recently itself named a terror outfit by the US.
Right, that guy.
Vaidik said the meeting was unplanned, and arranged all of a sudden. Then again, he also says the meeting had been in the works for over a year, arranged by the anchor of a prominent Pakistani news channel. Whatever the case, Vaidik was in the neighbourhood.... so why not, especially since the meet-and-greet seems to have gone so swimmingly well.
According to The Indian Express, things were a bit chilly on the outset -- first dates can be awwk-ward -- but happily they soon broke the ice when Vaidik refused the offered snacks in solidarity with his host who was observing roza. And things just got better and better, especially once Saeed c;eared up all those silly misunderstandings involving bombs, hotels and dead people.
"He denied all the allegations against him," Vaidik told Times Now. "He said he came to know about the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks only two hours after the attack on television news," he added.
Really? You don't say. And here we have a warrant out for his arrest -- or more accurately, his head. It's almost like a shuddh Bollywood romance: warring clans, crossed wires, cue tragedy. All it takes is two hearts filled with true aman ki asha to bring everyone together in peace, love and understanding. This is why Vaidik wants the Indian government to invite Saeed to India to "hold a large public meeting and clarify his standpoint".
There was a whole lot of clarifying going on. While Saeed got an opportunity to 'clear' his name, Vaidik did his best to clear that of his leader, as he told ANI, "Hafeez Saeed asked me about Narendra Modi. He said Modi is dangerous and now he has become the Prime Minister of India. He said that Modi is dangerous for the whole of South Asia. I said that his thinking is not right. There is no need to fear Modi."
So strenuous were Vaidik's efforts that Saaed now says "he would welcome Mr Modi in Pakistan." Now that's an invitation no Indian prime minister can resist. Maybe Modiji can take Saeed some dhoklas. And they should have plenty to talk given Saeed's keen interest in all things Modi, including his personal life.
“I don’t know why they ask such questions but when he persisted I also asked him whether he is a brahmachari (bachelor). He said he has three wives and I told him he is one short at which he burst out laughing,” Vaidik told Express, fondly giving a whole new meaning to the term 'fraternising with the enemy.'
We don't know what Modi himself feels about at this unexpected breakthrough in Indo-Pak relations. Both he and his government have refused to comment on Vaidik, as has his party spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi -- -- other than to say that they had nothing to do with the meeting. But Vaidik is an aide of a prominent supporter of the BJP and Modi, ie Baba Ramdev. That's a bit inconvenient for a party that created a ruckus in Parliament back in 2012 just because then Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde referred to Hafeez as "Shri Saeed" and "Mr Saeed". (Though now if Vaidik has his way, it will be Hafeez Bhai from here on out.) And yet the Modi sarkar resolutely refuses to condemn the man.
In political terms, this will all be a storm in a parliamentary teacup. All that will be left is the enduring embarrassment of the Indian Right who have to accept that one of their own has outdone even that 'terrorist loving' Arundhati Roy. And there is no cure for that.