By Rajeev Sharma
India-Pakistan engagement has been known to be based on tit-for-tat principle for the past 65 years. But this unwritten policy has just been given a bizarre twist, bordering on absurd.
A stray Indian dog accidentally boarded the Samjhauta Express at Attari station in Amritsar, remained unnoticed by the Indian security and custom officials and reached Lahore where the four-legged visitor was discovered.
The discovery was reported to the higher echelons in Islamabad and the Pakistani authorities, in their wisdom, found it to be a deliberate and grave provocation as the incident happened at a time when Indo-Pak tension was at the peak over the beheading of an Indian soldier on the Line of Control (LoC) in January 2013.
So, the Pakistanis decided to send 50 stray dogs to India by the same train – and they did so. They made their reprisal even more ingenious by making sure that the selected stray dogs are among the dirtiest and were kept hungry for a day so that they could bark more at the Indians!
The news story was first broken by The Spokesman, a recently-launched new Pakistani daily, and published in its 15 February edition.
There has been no formal reaction from India to this incident yet. This writer today spoke to Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesman Syed Akbaruddin and asked for his comments on the incident. Expectedly, he chose not to react, though he said he was aware of it.
However, Indian diplomatic sources told this writer that the Indian government has decided to keep a stiff upper lip over the incident and not even raise it with Pakistan through diplomatic channels. "We don’t wish to play up a non-issue by dignifying it with a comment. Let it be left where it is. We have no desire to enter a competition on who wins more brownie points over the most stupid things," a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
The incident demonstrates the anti-India mindset of Pakistan. More importantly, it shows that Pakistan government continues to be micro-managed by Pakistan Army as it was the General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi, which vetoed the foreign office plea for exercising restraint.
Imagine that the issue was seriously discussed at the highest levels among civil and military bureaucracy! The foreign office view was that the incident could have been a genuine mistake and it should merit a response only if it were to be repeated. However, the men in green had the last word as it was concluded that the Indians had found a clever way of cocking a snook at Pakistan when the LoC was a live wire.
Pakistan’s kneejerk reaction to a small incident like this should come as a shocker for the international community, particularly the West. For South Block mandarins, it is nothing new. The whole issue could have been sorted out if someone is Islamabad had lifted a phone and called up New Delhi for a clarification if the Pakistanis suspected something sinister from the Indians. But this did not happen.
The spokesman even compared the incident to the Cuban missile crisis and warned that the possibility of its ballooning into a nuclear war could not be ruled out. An Indian news magazine which followed up the story, wondered what would happen if India were to cull those 50 Pakistani dogs and send the bodies back to Pakistan by Samjhauta Express. India and Pakistan have, after all, traded in train loads of human bodies during the post-Partition riots.
Though there is no word on how India has dealt with the 50 Pakistani stray dogs, the Indian diplomatic establishment deserves to be praised for not taking the Pakistani bait hook, line and sinker. India could have at least sent back those 50 Pakistani stray dogs after giving them a good wash and food but the Indians decided to leave the matter where it was.
Be that as it may, this small incident must have demonstrated to peaceniks in the UPA government how difficult it is smoke the peace pipe with Pakistan.
One is only reminded of a quotable quote in context of Pakistan’s dog diplomacy: Never argue with an idiot; first he will bring you down to his level and beat you with his experience.