Diplomatic Briefing with High Commissioner Basit

High Commissioner Abdul Basit (L) and Shekhar Gupta (R) in Mumbai on April 29, 2014. (Asia Society India Centre)

MUMBAI, 29 April, 2014 — Asia Society hosted an event featuring Abdul Basit, Pakistan High Commissioner to India and Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express, in its diplomatic briefing series.

The discussion started by High Commissioner Basit's delivering a speech as a prelude to the discussion on India-Pakistan relations. He said, "Pakistan's foreign policy is not so generous as such. As a developing country, we focus on security development and economic growth and contributing to fair and just international system." He added that withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan had a major impact on the whole scene, including Pakistan. Basit mentioned that curbing terrorism is a huge concern for Pakistan, and they are battling it domestically. He stated that current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is quite clear about his views and policies. Basit felt, "It would be difficult to attain aspirations of prosperity, unless we have peace in the neighbourhood." Basit stated that there is a need to increase South Asian trade as intra-South Asian trade comprises 4-5% of global trade. He vocalized the need for uninterrupted dialogue without any pre-condition as a key factor in solving the issues facing India and Pakistan today.

Gupta stated that, "Pakistan is a failed state and the army runs the country — this is the general belief, but we should not take such a simplistic view; contradictory to this, Pakistan is a buzzing democracy now. There are women groups who come out and protest, as in any democracy."

Basit mentioned that one can remove the stereotype in Pakistan by interjecting the fact that there are 25 women in Parliament in Pakistan. On being probed by Gupta on role of media in Pakistan as a force of mediation, Basit mentioned that the media tend to blow things out of proportion and are relatively coming of age in Pakistan. He also declared that Pakistan is the second-largest contributor of troops to the UN peacekeeping forces and is making all efforts to contribute to create a safer world.

For more information on the programme, please watch the video below.

Reported by Vishakha Wadhwani, Intern, Asia Society

Video: Watch the program (1 hr., 24 min.)

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