ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

Much more than the actual Clinton trip, it is the preliminaries to it which are proving to be far more important to the two quarrelsome countries in the subcontinent. India will hasten to cede ground on this or that issue to the Americans, for otherwise Bill Clinton, it is feared, might lean toward Pakistan. In identical manner, the Pakistanis will be eager to make additional concessions to the Americans so as to dissuade the latter from expressing greater love for India.

The epochs are vastly different, or perhaps they are not. The Graeco-Roman classics are replete with narrations of how chieftains of vassal-states would quarrel with one another in order to gain an extra inch of space which helped them monopolise or near-monopolise the favours of the emperor ensconced in Rome or Athens. India and Pakistan are behaving in an almost identical manner with respect to the United States of America. Emulating the style of the Roman or Athenian supreme rulers, who made a habit of touring distant conquered territories, president Clinton has announced his intention to visit this month the ramparts of his empire in south Asia. The rhetoric the electronic and written media in India and Pakistan have opted for in this season has a single focus: the great American president is in the main visiting India; Pakistan will, at most, be a refuelling stopover; alternatively, he has only Pakistan in mind while drawing up his travel schedule, and has decided, as an afterthought, to spend a couple of nights on Indian soil to give New Delhi’s politicians a spanking.

Those circulating such stories, whether in India or in Pakistan, tend to walk away from ordinary common sense. The suggestion that the presidential plane, flying the ten thousand-odd miles from Dulles International Airport to the skies of the subcontinent, will need a refuelling stop so close to its final destination is hilarious: if the plane will have fuel enough to fly to Karachi or Islamabad, it could, thank you, land with equal ease at New Delhi; no refuelling will be called for. Those planting stories of this genre are however least bothered about the credibility of what they narrate.

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