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By Saeed Naqvi

The perception of both the Indian state and media of Islam and Muslims is coloured by the checkered relationship with Pakistan during the past half a century. In the process we have lost many opportunities and failed to make inroads into many lands beyond Pakistan…

Excessive focus on Muslim Pakistan distorts our vision of Muslim societies in general. Since Pakistan has plagued us from its very inception, our subconscious sees all Muslim societies in adversarial terms. Pakistan’s foreign policy is aimed at restricting our options in external affairs.

This, Pakistan was able to do for a long period, with regard to the 54 members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference after the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad incident in Rabat. We never had a clear strategy to deal with OIC....

When ethnic cleansing, mass graves and rape camps in Bosnia shocked Europe, what was our response? Nothing, as far as I can remember. For years the siege of Sarajevo lasted and the west did nothing. At that stage Benazir Bhutto and Turkey’s Ciller made that spectacular dash to the besieged capital of Bosnia. For this gesture, Pakistan manipulated Bosnia to co-sponsor an anti-India resolution in Geneva. Any country as desperate as Bosnia would have responded favourably towards a country which had shown it sympathy. 

We kept finding excuses for demonstrating no sympathy for the victims of the worst atrocities committed since the World War II. First we could not abandon our ‘historic’ ties with Belgrade. Our traditional ties were with Tito of Yugoslavia, not Milosevic of Serbia! Second, why should we rush in where angels fear to tread? And finally, after Bosnia had been successfully manipulated by Pakistan, our case was iron clad: how can we sympathize with a people who co-sponsor resolutions at Pakistan’s bidding?...

Everyone knows that central Asia is all about oil and natural gas. Those are the assets the world is in pursuit of...

Visit Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan) and you will find the shores of the Caspian sea lined with old oil rigs. Western oil companies have committed billions of dollars towards exploring the Caspian oil.

And, believe it or not, we do not even have an embassy in Sarajevo. It can be argued that we do not have an embassy in Sarajevo because no major economic stakes are involved (although that by itself is not a convincing argument). But why, pray, have we ignored Baku?

The argument was that Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia made it difficult for us to make a choice. How were we able to make a choice between Crotia and Bosnia? The two were in conflict but we opened an embassy in Zagreb, not in Sarajevo, which represents the composite culture we so celebrate.

Vasundhra Raje was the first Indian Minister to visit Baku, a city that is going to be as important as the Gulf in its oil potential . But it has been decided that in the interest of maintaining balance, we shall have embassies in Azerbaijan as well as Armenia. But when? After the oil boom is over?

Someone has observed that in recent years whenever a Muslim county has been in conflict with a non-Muslim one, we have tended to be indifferent with the Muslim state. 

(Indian Express, 30 October  1999) q

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