Chaai Time in Pakistan!! Anyone??

My friend Greg Mortenson wrote a wonderful book about his experiences in Pakistan entitled “Three Cups of Tea”. His argued that any serious issue in Pakistan could possibly be solved in a span of drinking three cups of tea. Provided, of course, if both parties are willing to negotiate and are present over those three cups. Historically, one of the most traditional ways to host a ‘temporary’ guest in Pakistani culture is to offer (tea) Chaai. National passion for Chaai could be seen through presence of dhaabas (small food stalls) along the road, as one travels across the length and breadth of the country. In certain parts of the country (and more about these regions later), people would actually think it’s a disrespect to refuse a cup of Chaai. One can feel the desire and attachment to Chaai as a pastime even during official meetings, businesses and discussions. You enter an office to get something done, a straight refusal accompanied by a cup of Chaai could greet you.

Recently, there was a spat between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. The popular narrative is that on day one, Indian air force came and went back after ‘destroying few trees’ in the suburbs of Balakot (a region which was devastated by 2005 earthquake as well). Next day the Indian air force again crossed into Pakistan, but this time Pakistan air force brought the pilot to the ground and, the cosmologically iconic drink was offered to him – Chaai! Just a matter of courtesy… The Prime Minster went a step ahead to be extra-magnanimous and released the same pilot a day later. He is a “Khan” and traditionally they have their own ways of “melmastia” – hosting the guests. Beware, they really believe it’s rude to decline Chaai when offered.

Relatedly Mike Pompeo in an interview with Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends, once again accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and repeated Washington’s “do more” mantra. His exact words were, “Well, we’ve taken actions against Pakistan that no other administration has taken. I do see this. I see this from – I’ve had friends killed. You have too, I’m sure. Lots of New Yorkers were killed when those towers came down. I’ve not forgotten the lesson from 9/11. We need Pakistan to do more. They have to stop harboring these terrorists. We saw what happened with India, the conflict that arose there as a result of terrorists that departed from Pakistan. We need the Pakistanis to step up. They need to stop harboring terrorists.”

Certainly Pompeo is not an ignorant person nor is he a Trump, (borrowing Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi’s words) who is “”ignoramus waiting for ignominy”. He fully understands the national sentiment in Pakistan. Americans are also aware that Pakistan has effectively walked off from American camp. Resultantly, anything that comes to US as a “help” from Pakistan is a good will. It is certainly rude to ask for more good will.

There is no doubt that CPEC and the China-Pakistan-Russia nexus is not good news for India in the face of their diminishing relevance in the equation. However, Pompeo’s allegations are shamefully naïve and unfounded

A detailed analysis of Pompeo’s interview reveals that Pakistan was literally dragged into the conversation and while talking about Taliban, and Pakistani influence behind the Taliban, the word “terrorists” was used accusing Pakistan of harbouring them.

There is no doubt that CPEC and the China-Pakistan-Russia nexus is not good news for India in the face of their diminishing relevance in the equation. However, Pompeo’s allegation are shamefully naïve and unfounded, the least to say, especially when Pakistan is trying hard to help broker peace in Afghanistan. It is unfortunate that the trust between Pakistan and USA has withered into thin air and it is unlikely to be restored in the foreseeable future. One more time USA plans on using Pakistan and abandoning the region after a relative peace is achieved, and aspires to leave India as in charge. But Pakistan has learned the lessons and visibly Islamabad is thinking beyond US. Pakistan is helping in Afghanistan because the peace in the region is in its own larger economic and social interest.

A clear case of Indian lobby trying hard to isolate Pakistan and failing miserably. On the question of India, even a blind person could see the evidence of ill-founded allegations hurled on Pakistan in case of Kashmir massacre of the Indian armed forces personnel. It is a fact that the suicide bomber was from Indian occupied Kashmir, it is also a fact that 350 Kilograms of (RDX) explosive used for the attack was “Made in India”. It is also a known and admitted fact that the responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Indian Jesh-e-Mohammad. It is also a fact that in an uncanny resemblance in quickly apportioning the blame, India replicated the 9/11 time line. Finally, it is also a fact that Modi, in an effort to score some pre-election points domestically, blundered into the entire drama, only to get egged in the face. The scientific evidence is too loud to buy into the Indian narrative and Indians are not ready for an introspection, at least yet. Sadly enough for India, Khalistan movement is back in a big way alongside Kashmir – just wait to see Hindu repressions taking roots in Indian Punjab against the Sikhs.

It’s been many months since Prime Minister Khan took office. Unlike his predecessors, he has not shown any willingness to visit Washington, nor did any significant official from the US visit Pakistan. It is about time he invited someone over for a cuppa to sort out the outstanding issues and request Americans to stop asking Islamabad to “do more”. Interestingly, sometimes the Chaai can be more expensive for the taste of many – last time around it cost Indian air force a MiG – 21!!

Syed Ali Wasif Naqvi is a Research Associate at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)

Published in Daily Times, March 22nd 2019.


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