Wednesday, October 22

Aitya gharat gharoba?

It raises suspicious when so many Pakistanis go missing in India. My first reaction was the same as the TOI story, it could be a way of infiltration. If so, then the security apparatus in India needs to examine the situation carefully and identify the missing people as soon as possible. This, I think, is important especially in the current environment of insecurity. Official infiltration figures are low, but terrorist activities within India have not gone down. Instead they have spread far beyond the disputed Kashmir region. While these missing persons may have no relation to any terrorising elements, it would be in our interest to have verified it.

But once we keep aside all prejudices and security concerns it is possible to think of alternative reasons for the missing people. In the worst case scenario, many of them might have died while in India. On a more positive note, it is possible that considering the dire economic and political situation Pakistan is in, many of these people simply decided to stay back and make a living in India. With our shared past and physical attributes it is easy to live relatively unnoticed. India does not have very stringent centrally organized rules and procedures for hiring. It is up to the employer to verify and be satisfied of the person he is employing. No national record or database is generated for each person being employed. This I think makes it very easy for illegal immigrants to get work in India. Places like Mumbai absorb hundreds of new workers daily and I do not see a way of identifying the Pakistanis overstaying their visa limits.

It could be either or, or even both. In any case it important to take notice and necessary action. If they are infiltrators the course of action would be fairly straightforward. However, if it is for economic reasons our policymakers could have a good opportunity staring at them. It could be a chance to take a step towards improving relations (specifically economic relations) between the two countries, just like the opening of trade across the LOC is. Security concerns exist and I do not argue that they should be overlooked for symbolic gestures of goodwill and some economic gains. Yet, trust building requires such everyday economic contacts. Increasing the costs of fighting a war, or harming the other country can decrease the likelihood of increased tensions between the two countries.

Only time will tell if the missing Pakistanis bore good news or bad.

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