India-Pakistan Conflict: Boycott the Boycott

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

Ah, the season of war is back. Time to deal with completely needless inconveniences because of the bloated egos of the leaderships of the two countries, if you are unfortunate enough to live in one of them.

War hysteria is at an all-time high in recent years in India, especially fueled by the Fuhrer and the warmongering media. Similar roles have been taken up by the military leadership on this side as well as warmongering news anchors on warmongering channels.

In the wake of the national mood, the association of Indian film producers considered it necessary to take action against Pakistani artists from appearing in Indian films. This tells us a lot about the Indian film producers and their version of patriotism.

Now India has been known to do this before and considering that it was not always exactly a fan of free trade and has even had some love for trade protectionism in the past, old habits creeping into the new Indian age of economic freedom is not a surprise.

But what is even worse is that the Pakistani film distributors and theater owners felt the need to emulate the Indian version of patriotism. They have responded by taking off Indian films from Pakistani theaters. I know Pakistanis have been at it before, but is this really the right way to act? Even PEMRA is pressing to eliminate Indian television content in Pakistan and to suspend the guilty TV channels. This is completely nonsensical, especially in the age of the internet.

Regardless of the quality of Indian films, it is a well-known fact that these productions are awfully popular in Pakistan. Has our hate for India really exceeded the love of the free market and freedom of access?

Why do we have to punish the local consumer to make a point about nothing to the Indian producers or the government of India?

And if we say that India started it, then why do we have to act in kind? Are we trying to harm India or our local consumer?

While a good number of both Indian artists and public are maintaining their sanity, sadly their public debate is dominated by people who are inciting an emotional reaction. Likewise, there is no shortage of such idiots on this side of the border.

However, it is easy to see that the India-Pakistan conflict has been reduced to the words and actions of brawling, irresponsible, and mentally impaired high school bullies who don’t know any better but to resort to juvenile antics to score cheap points.

As two of the largest nations of the world, the people must pause and reflect. Have we really lost our minds? Is this who we really are?

Well, apparently. Because it seems like we have been waiting for an opportunity to pounce on each other for quite a while. But in all fairness, you cannot blame the hysteria among the people. The political and military leadership, in both India and Pakistan, need to get their heads examined.

With Pakistan threatening nuclear warfare and India threatening to block Pakistan’s water supply, it is clear that the welfare of the common people is the last thing on their minds. Just imagine countries issuing such threats lecturing others on terrorism.

The ban on the art from across the border by private entities, who we very well know are pressured by government authorities and public opinion shaped by propaganda, are also reflective of the disregard of the public opinion. The regulatory authorities and film business bodies on both sides have only shown how much they regard the audiences. Shameful to say the least.

So should we move ahead likewise and boycott these film producers and theater owners as well? I guess not because that is not who we are, even if their terrible business sense makes them a deserving party.

Let us not respond to a boycott with a boycott.

Let us not respond to a ban with a ban.

If some business entities and government in India have decided to punish their people, why should we react to punish ours?

Pakistan had embraced the free market way earlier in its history than India and must keep that tradition alive. At least the Pakistani people remain very libertarian and pro-free market when it comes to their freedom of access, and will remain so despite the government bans.

The government should get out of their way when it comes to ridiculous regulations. Or the citizens know very well how to go out of their way to get around them.

And let’s face it, many people in Pakistan love Indian movies. So let them watch in peace.

When it comes to the India-Pakistan conflict, let’s boycott the boycott.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Moral Complexities of Supporting the Armed Struggle in Kashmir

Source: Indian Express

Source: Indian Express

The mind of a modern, liberal, enlightened youth in Pakistan is boggled with the moral puzzle of the armed struggle in Kashmir. Should Pakistan stop backing the Jihad in Kashmir? Or should Pakistan provide support for the freedom movement in Kashmir? What a world of a difference do these words make.

In a world that is unforgivably anti-Jihad since 9/11, and very rightly so, backing Kashmiri Jihadi group sounds like a recipe for diplomatic suicide. This could possibly isolate Pakistan, cost valuable alliances with the West and jeopardize economic prosperity and trade partnerships in the future.

But suspending the lifeline of the Jihadi struggle in Kashmir also sounds like an unacceptable option to many, especially the Pakistani establishment. Other than their political designs, it would effectively mean that a Kashmiri would probably never be able to see the face of a military grade weapon again.

It would mean that all they would ever have to respond to the occupying force of way more than 500,000 strength military is sticks and stones. It would mean the death of the Kashmiri freedom struggle, which is somehow acknowledged as legitimate by people who condemn the Jihad in Kashmir at the same time. No other country in the world is going to come to support the supposedly peaceful Hurriyet leaders.

Which route is easier? Certainly the former. It would make Pakistan less unpopular and who knows India would grace us with a bilateral cricket series. It could improve Pakistan’s image as the state recovering from hiding Osama Ben Laden right next to its military academy. Why should a Pakistani go out of their way to help a Kashmiri anyway?

Alright, a lot of Kashmiris live in Pakistan. They are our next door neighbors, relatives by blood, friends, and colleagues. So what? Even the Pakistani Kashmiris apparently do not seem to be too bothered with what is going on across the Line of Control. Why do we need to replicate the misery of the Indian Kashmiris in our lives?

However, with every mutilated unarmed Kashmiri teenager, and every raped Kashmiri woman and wounded mother, something stirs the conscience of a nation that is notorious for ignoring everyday atrocities within its own borders. A nation which cherishes a law that is designed to make its religious minorities suffer in constant terror. All of a sudden morality becomes much more complex than sheer self-interest. Even though it should not. It does not make any sense.

So would a Pakistani support the armed struggle in Kashmir or not?

It’s a question with a rather simple answer. Either you do or you don’t. But if you do, then it’s important to embrace the cause and defend its moral grounds. There was a time when the Pakistani state used to openly embrace it. And since when have we stopped referring to Kashmiri militants as freedom fighters? But it was a different world. Still, hanging somewhere in the middle reminds the world of the policy Pakistan has been adopting from selectively targeting Taliban factions to continuing old partnerships with the likes of Ben Laden from the days of the Afghan Jihad and pretending that we are fighting terrorism. The Americans have moved on, but our security leadership has been having a very hard time.

Of course, it is perfectly legitimate to defend the Kashmiri armed struggle on moral grounds. Are the Kashmiri Jihadi freedom fighters terrorists just because they are Islamists? Does the secular character of a freedom struggle immediately makes the cause legitimate? Surely, you cannot expect the Kashmiri freedom movement to turn secular overnight, not that it would ever have any such intention. Is targeting soldiers, even if sleeping, an act of terrorism or an act of war? Especially when the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is not exactly very friendly to the Indian State. But then there are Mumbai attacks, Parliament attacks, Hindu Pandits. Innocent lives. What to do?

With the exception of those who committed these atrocities, our intellectuals get played at the hands of the textbook Indian diplomatic rhetoric when they declare the Kashmiri freedom fighters terrorists. They end up endorsing foreign state propaganda in an effort to avoid the local one. Though they speak the truth in their own right. Pakistan has had enough of fighting other people’s wars and lying about it. Enough of freeing Afghans from the Soviets, or restoring Saudi custody of the Ka’aba, or sending pilots to fly Syrian planes or handing over bases to the United States. All for nothing but to make our generals richer, who, let’s face it, would have grown richer anyway. But we need to build our country. Who gives a damn anymore?

How do you harness an out of control Jihadi who is raised on hate? How do you expect that they would never hurt citizens? Does this effectively mean that supporting armed resistance in Kashmir is not any different to supporting and apologizing for terrorism? And India is surely justified in believing that any country that is supporting an armed movement in its borders is its enemy. Granted, but should Kashmiris be abandoned to their conditions of a whole state turned into almost an internment camp? Simply expressing solidarity will not get them anywhere.

India does not win the diplomatic battle for Kashmir out of any moral virtues or for having a clean human rights record, but simply because of the leverage it enjoys for being a sheer heavyweight. Anyone who does not recognize India as an emerging global power is sadly mistaken. At least, it’s the strongest military presence in the Asian continent after China, and not doing too bad in terms of economy either. So why pick a fight with India when we can avoid it?

But calling a Kashmiri freedom fighter a terrorist still is a resounding slap on the face of every Kashmiri who idiotically risks his life to needlessly wave a poorly sewn, incorrect Pakistani flag on some obscure building. It’s an insult to the desperate Kashmiri who shortens his misery by exposing himself to the pellets because he has to choose between a life of humiliation and a not-so-distant inevitable death. How is a Kashmiri to fight back? Does anyone bother answering this question? Are the Naxalites not fighting back?

The biggest moral problem is that if a Pakistani would not stand up for the plight of the Kashmiri, who else in the world will? Because the fellow countrymen of Kashmiris pretty much consider them expendable second class citizens and a distant border state with delicious produce and exotic vacation destinations. Still, it is a battle that would take anyone taking this road on a tough, treacherous ride.

It only takes a hypocritical Pakistani to realize the plight and it only takes a brainwashed Jihadi to fight this fight. And well, there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around. Neither our generals nor our Jihad backing secular liberals would have the gut to fight for anything, let alone Kashmir. So you can only count on Islamist fanatics. It’s just stupid.

Though as far as the right of an oppressed people’s armed struggle is concerned, it would be a betrayal of history not to recognize it. Just pray that you are not in their way. And the inherent, incurable hypocrisy of Pakistanis should not sabotage this right of the battered citizens of Kashmiris.

Let it be the humiliated Yazidis, the frustrated Palestinians, the courageous Kurds or the brutalized Balochs, it is almost insensitive to ask them to become Gandhi at the face of continual aggression. Walk up to the gas chambers in obedience. However, how they make their point tells a lot about a people. You would be judged differently when you blow up a civilian building instead of retaliating against an army camp.

Every liberty seeking individual should welcome India’s new stance to support the freedom movement in Baluchistan, even though more out of animosity with Pakistan than the love for the Baloch, and should welcome them to the club of “terrorist states” or “backers of terrorism.” Just like the United States and allies are backing the Syrian rebel army to overthrow the despotic Assad regime. Just like the British backed the Arabs to bring the Ottoman Empire down to its knees. Perhaps Pakistan’s role in Kashmir is not too odd after all.

Sometimes, you have no choice but to be a “backer of terrorists” to fight oppressive tyrants.

You get no extra bonus points for turning the other cheek anyway. All it does is get you crucified.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Keep on Mounting the Pressure on India Over Kashmir

Source: BBC/Getty Images

Source: BBC/Getty Images

The last thing an Indian nationalist wants to talk to you about is Kashmir. It’s because looking the other way when it comes to Kashmir has become the defining factor for the Indian nationalist. And it’s not just Kashmir. From Parveena Ahanger to Soni Sori and Irom Sharmila, there are many voices slapping the brutality of the Indian establishment that are discounted every day.

But don’t get me wrong. This does not imply by any means that the fire inside the Indian nationalist has died. They are ready to come at you harder than ever when the question is asked, especially now with an upper hand in the national politics, but their response would be anything but about Kashmir. It may be about Baluchistan, about radical Islam, about the treatment of minority groups in Pakistan, about what sort of hell Pakistan has become. But hardly ever about the subject under discussion.

Probably the only reason for that is that other than conscientious objectors in India, only the people and the government of Pakistan realize the moral responsibility to speak out about Kashmir for the most part. Despite the allegations and/or possible militant interference. Despite being a country “inspired by terrorism.”

Even the honorable Prime Minister of India, who is the true voice of his most avid followers, had similar answers to offer on Kashmir. Nothing substantial and a lot of embarrassment.

This only goes to show the moral state of the Indian nationalist mind. But more than that, it also gives you an insight into the priority that Kashmiris hold in India. It shows how much Indian nationalists care about the people of their inseparable part, and which worsens the feeling of isolation among Kashmiris.

Source: AP/Dawn

Source: AP/Dawn

There is no doubt that the Kashmiri freedom movement has had overwhelmingly Islamist tilt since the insurgency of the 1980s, backed by the Pakistani establishment. However, since its defeat, the Indian state has not had much to offer to the Kashmiris either. It has failed to win hearts and minds, like so many other border states where Pakistan was not a factor. It’s about time the Indian people realize that the brutality of their establishment is not always about retaliation to Pakistan’s interference.

A war of words on Kashmir, as long as it remains a war of words, is always going to be a losing battle for the Indians because there really is nothing to defend there. The way to hurt an Indian fundamentalist nationalist the most is to target where it hurts the most. Their nationalistic pride.

You cannot possibly defend shooting more than a million pellets aimed right in the eyes of your people. You cannot possibly defend killing dozens of those young protesters. But the plight of the Kashmiri people is far more than just the recent unrest.

Indian Occupied Kashmir is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world, where thousands have been killed. According to independent observers such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, rape is used as effectively an instrument of war and domination in Kashmir, as well as the impunity with which the security forces act. You don’t have to be an expert to know that Kashmiris in the valley are treated as second class citizens.

Pakistani nationalists display a similar attitude toward Baluchistan, so Prime Minister Modi’s comments about it should be the least of Pakistan’s worries. Again, it is a matter of waking up to the human rights abuses going on in your own backyard. The recent disappearance of journalist Abdul Wahid Baloch is the latest of the unanswered question marks and a very serious one too.

But bringing up Baluchistan as a response to a question about Kashmir and vice versa is only indicative of the lack of interest in even addressing the issue at hand. Such arguments can be expected from twitter trolls, not from the leadership of a country. Though sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Source: Ahmad Kakar/

Source: Ahmad Kakar/

But it is bad news for the Pakistani dove who wants unconditional peace with India. Modi’s comment potentially offer legitimacy to the argument that Pakistani establishment and nationalists have been making for years. This is particularly counterproductive as the focus toward Taliban and Islamist militants could shift back to India as the primary enemy. But that is not India’s problem. It is Pakistan’s problem, and unfortunately, the warmongers on both sides enable each other.

What the Indian nationalist fails to understand is that not everyone is interested in Kashmir defecting to Pakistan. Not everyone is even interested in the independence of Kashmir, even though these suggestions may seem to be the only relief to the troubled Kashmiri people.

Despite the history, if the Indian government and military start treating Kashmiris with a little more respect, the entire rhetoric about the Kashmir issue could disappear. But the fact remains that neither Kashmiris, nor the rest of the Indians have a remote understanding of each other’s viewpoint and have little in common. The cultural divide between the two makes the problem even worse.

However, whenever the Pakistani stance would move forward to actively support militancy in Kashmir, particularly through Islamist militants, the entire moral side of the argument is sabotaged. It only takes the world’s attention away from India’s brutal treatment of who are supposed to be their own citizens. This is where the support and freedom given to the likes of Hafiz Saeed must be discontinued.

Let’s keep mounting pressure on India when it comes to Kashmir. But it would only work effectively when we officially remain confined to a war of words.

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Why the Idea of Olympics Is So Important

Source: MSNBC

Source: MSNBC

Without condoning corporate or other slavery that may or may not be involved in related construction jobs, I find it important to support the idea of Olympics. Especially the idea of participation in it and oppose preventing any people from doing so. Further more than that, I would consider the idea of rising developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, Qatar, India, and China to organize these events as well in addition to the West.

More often than not, the criticism from international media and activists point out valid concerns such as security, labor rights, and poor administration. Sometimes, these critiques could come across as if developing countries should stay away from the privilege. They should by all means, if it is going to heavily burden them. It does not mean they should stop aiming for it.

To improve life for all the stakeholders, positive criticism on Olympics is very important. But it is best done without condemning the developing countries participating in the process or the idea of Olympics itself.

There is a larger reason to why more nations should be encouraged to participate in the Olympic process.

Olympics is a liberal, globalist, intellectual cultural idea. There is a reason why its creators came up with it and why the leaders of the world, as well as most people of the world, so religiously follow it.

Olympics is truly the only global festival that allows people from all nationalities come together, keeping aside all political differences, in a deeply divided world.

It is one of the few platforms where Iran and Israel and North Korea and the United States gladly send in their citizens to participate without a second thought.

Struggling with countless political ideologies, even more religious beliefs and cults, and other dividers such as race and language, it’s one of the few last remaining unifying factors for apparently the most intelligent species on the planet. Even if in name only.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

The international assortment of athletes also presents the perfect opportunity for exposure and education. Most of the times, it brings forth athletes from all corners of the world embracing each other. Especially bringing together people from countries at odds with each other.

At others, it brings prejudice and bigotry to the surface, only to be rebuked due to the universal symbol of peace and unity that Olympics is. Leading to opportunities for shaking prejudiced beliefs.

Time and again, athletes from Muslim majority nations have refused to share space with Israeli athletes. This is particularly insensitive when the brutal cold-blooded murder of 11 Israeli Athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics are kept in mind. Lately, Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with Israeli athletes, with the manager blocking the way.

While the story is being used by both sides for their respective partisan agenda, most people are missing a very important point. The exposure and interaction provided by the Olympics are the perfect, very first blow to the prejudiced indoctrination of these kids.

These young athletes and their officials may embarrass themselves with such behavior, but it’s about time that some of them would realize how wrong their behavior is.

While there is always a chance that they would lack such a consideration, you can never expect someone brought up with prejudiced indoctrination to offer the right response at first. But, as humans, they are likely to feel some empathy for the persons of their enemy at some point. Even if they don’t admit it.

This would help a good number of people have the first shock to the wall of prejudice that they have built around themselves. Such experiences would only prove educational, and help them develop empathy for the people on the “other side.” Actually, even an opportunity to cheer for them.

What a distraught Pakistani fan is to do but to cheer for the likes of Deepa Karmakar, Saina Nehwal, and the Indian women’s archery team? Only wondering where ours is.

Furthermore, watching Olympics sports after a break of four long years is a welcome relief from the excruciatingly monotonous cricket, soccer, tennis, and golf running all year long.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Chabahar Deal Reveals India’s Double Standards on State Terrorism



Mumbai attacks not only devastated India to its very core but has also shaken the conscience of the world, including many in Pakistan. The attacks were undoubtedly one of the most shocking since 9/11 anywhere around the world, but were significant due to India’s findings that the Pakistani state could have been involved.

Since then, India has maintained a principled stance of holding Pakistan accountable for letting Islamist militants, if not its citizens, use their territory to harm Indian people and state assets. While there is a long history of such attacks and allegations, including the attack on the Indian Parliament, the recent attacks on the Pathankot airbase have opened the old wounds that have destroyed relations between India and Pakistan.

However, India’s high standards of fighting state terrorism go down the toilet drain when it comes to its relations with Iran. The recent Chabahar Deal points to a partnership that goes far deeper than just bilateral trade. This does a little disservice to the great stance adopted in fighting the resistance from Pakistan to acknowledge its shortcomings, if not crimes.

Other than North Korea, Iran is the only country that openly calls for the death and condemnation of the Western civilization, as well as openly threatening the annihilation of Israel. Not to mention, a nuclear Iran could pose the sort of dangers for the Middle East that are unprecedented. Again, Israel being the focal point of all the threats.

Furthermore, Iran also has a dubious history of backing Shia militias all over the Middle East, orchestrating an attack on the Saudi ambassador to the United States and has grown tremendously in terms of influence following the fall of the Saddam regime. A recent report from the State Department finds Iran as the top sponsor of state terrorism in the world.

There is nothing about these findings that India is unaware of. India ignores the awful diplomatic stances of Iran, which has almost made the Islamic Republic a pariah in the international community.

There is no doubt that Pakistan has lost face with awful and unacceptable state policies such as allegedly sheltering Osama Ben Laden and backing certain factions of the Taliban and other anti-India militant groups. However, even Pakistan cannot even imagine to take the kind of disastrous and self-destructive diplomatic lines that Iran is known for.

It is shocking that most countries in the world would even remotely be comfortable with a state that openly intimidates more vulnerable targets such as Israel. What is even more shocking is the lack of protest over the Chabahar Deal from Israel, Gulf Arab states and other Western countries concerned about growing antisemitism around the world. However, that is just as baffling as Arab countries and Pakistan not standing behind Israel against the Iranian threat.

India has many strategic and political reasons to partner with Iran. For many, the discussion ends just there. Many are seeing Chabahar as Iran’s answer to Pakistan’s development of the Gwadar port, partnering with China, which is something India should invest in by all means. So while the pragmatist would immediately dismiss any moralist criticism on the Indian foreign policy, the viewpoint is not entirely irrelevant when it comes to Iran’s relations with several of India’s other friends.

While Pakistan and China sound like the perfect recipe of evil, Iran and India are as odd in terms of the moral perceptions of the states as fire and water. However, India has hardly ever explicitly condemned Iran’s irresponsible state stances and has turned a blind eye to several of its dubious activities in the region, including the support of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Probably no other state officially adopts violent rhetoric as a part of its foreign policy than Iran. North Korea is the only other that comes remotely close.

Of course, Iran’s diplomatic irresponsibility should not divorce it from the international community. The recent US-Iran nuclear deal is a part of the second chances being offered to the Islamic Republic. However, Iran needs to mend its own ways for its perception to improve. With the development of ballistic missiles, Iran’s threat to Israel is as real and dangerous as ever.

While India has the right to establish the sort of relations that it deems fit with any nation, ties such as those with Iran undermine its moral authority to lecture on state terrorism.

Not to mention an insult to the memory of the souls departed in the Mumbai attacks.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

I Almost Hoisted the Indian Flag Too

Source: AFP/Indranil Mukherjee

Source: AFP/Indranil Mukherjee

A few weeks ago, a curious headline caught my eye. There is a good reason why I really related to the unfortunate individual caught in the whirlpool of insane politics of rivalry between neighbors India and Pakistan. Just like Umar Draz, the arrested fan in Okara is taken by the brilliant drives of Virat Kohli, the brilliant batting of Sachin Tendulkar mesmerized me throughout my teenage years.

However, when you are surrounded by bigots and compulsive nationalist haters, you would never be able to freely express yourself. But sports fans are a different breed. They are out of control. What’s the point in supporting a sports team or an athlete, if you are not showing off and challenging and trash-talking your opponents?

This is precisely what poor Umar Draz had done, and this is precisely what I almost did on a few occasions when Sachin Tendulkar played. Of course, I failed to share the jubilation with my fellow countrymen when Sachin missed his century in the 2003 World Cup game against Pakistan, or failed to steer his team to victory in the Chennai test, or even when Shoaib Akhtar knocked his middle stump out in the Eden Gardens. Alright, I must confess, I did take some pleasure in that memorable dismissal. But great players are even dismissed in a stylish manner.

Let us agree for the sake of argument that hoisting the Indian flag is a deeply immoral wrong. Just like waving the Pakistani flag is considered a crime in Indian occupied Kashmir. Even then, Umar Draz was merely waving the flag of the cricket team he was supporting, which happened to be India. The Kohli posters in his room prove that he is a genuine fan. I blame the format of international cricket for his innocuous act to be taken as one of rebellion and defiance of the state. If you are rooting for your favorite cricket team, you would look like rooting for another country, possibly an enemy.

However, Umar Draz is living in far more comfortable times than my days of following Sachin’s career. If he had given a thought to it, he could also have expressed himself by displaying the flags and colors of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, though the difficulty of accessing the franchise merchandise in Pakistan should also be taken into account.

During the 90s and 2000s, Sachin Tendulkar was not a part of any such team, and therefore I had no choice but to take pleasure in his many tons helping India cruise to victory. In Umar’s defense, he is free to choose to support India over the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Who knows? Maybe he hates the colors and the ridiculous commercialized franchise name.

Since then I have learned that playing cricket with India is a far more political affair than our sport-loving minds could comprehend. Of late, I have even discovered that probably it is not even worth the trouble. But does that prevent you from following the sport you love and express your love for your favorite players across the border? I still enjoy watching the IPL games every now and then.

And in my overzealousness, I almost hoisted the Indian flag for Sachin too. But thank God I didn’t. Though I should be able to whenever I want.

Considering the shocking case of the arrest of Umar Draz, I wonder what would have happened to me. Would I have seen the inside of a filthy cell like Umar Draz for such a harmless act and had my public record ruined for life? Where is our most basic sense of human decency?

Shame on us. Time to make a little change in the penal code.

Originally published in The Nation blogs.

Sharif and Netanyahu: One Handshake I Would Like to See Making News

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

I just came across a post from the Israeli Prime Minister on social media reporting on his interaction with the leaders of the world, including the Indian Prime Minister, in the recent Paris Climate Change Conference. Just imagine for a second the awkwardness of the Israeli and Pakistani leaders completely ignoring each other’s existence during the leader summit. Maybe it would take more than climate change to unite the nations of the world.

During the conference, two handshakes made news, only suggestive of how bad things are between those nations: The one between PM Nawaz Sharif and PM Narendra Modi, and the other involving PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. But one handshake that I would have liked to see making news would be between Pakistani Prime Minster Sharif and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

This only takes you to the idiotic foreign policy Pakistan, and a number of other Muslim majority countries, mostly Arab, have been maintaining toward Israel. There is hardly any doubt that Pakistan has been losing a tremendous opportunity for decades by not building its relations with Israel, despite being aligned with the Western alliance that both are part of, including the Gulf Arab states. Let it be issues like defense and security or trade and educational exchanges, the opportunities offered by the diplomatic relations would be unlimited. But only if the people of Pakistan open their minds to them and drop old prejudices for a while, if not for good.

What is even worse is that due to the diplomatic vacuum in the region for Israel, its partnership with India, Pakistan’s primary rival, has been strengthening manifold on the defense front. Pakistanis have the option to keep on whining about how the Jewish people are the sworn enemies of Muslims and are colluding with Hindus against them. Or they could try joining forces with Israel themselves. If the Israelis are being hostile, have the Pakistanis given them a chance to be friends? Even once? Actually, Pakistan’s defense interests are more aligned with Israel than ever with common threats in the region.

We need to understand that the diplomatic boycott of Israel is not just an expression of political hostility, it stems out of antisemitism. We certainly should know better than that. Now that even some Gulf states are opening new diplomatic avenues with Israel, and Arab League members proposing recognizing Israel in a peace plan, Pakistan certainly does not need to be bound by any obligation to them.

Furthermore, since Pakistan’s beef with Israel, as is the case with other Muslim majority countries, is the occupation of Jerusalem, diplomatic relations would put them in a far better position for negotiating peace. Besides, the priority of peace for the Middle East should be the independence and recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state and the protection of the rights of the people rather than pursuing a religious crusade.

Building relations with Israel would be a step forward to improving tolerance and acceptance among the people of Pakistan, who have been conditioned to riot at the very mention of Israel. Pakistan needs to expand its horizons for a brighter future and must not restrict itself with the false obligations of being a Muslim majority state. We need to interact in a saner manner with the global community and the current civilian leadership is capable of bringing about the required results.

It is time to break our shackles and embrace the policy of friendship and cooperation instead of insisting on bigotry, boycott and hate.

It is time to establish relations with Israel and recognize its right to exist.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.