Indo-Pak Talks Goodbye Pakistan?
On February 14th, just before the India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level meeting took place this scribe wrote why the talks should be held. He laid down a basic condition for the talks to proceed in the future, and if that was not met he suggested that all efforts for future dialogue should end.
He wrote: “There are elements in the Pakistani government that are genuinely opposed to terrorism… At the same time there are more powerful elements in the Pakistani establishment that are opposed to any peace settlement… the elements seeking normalisation with India are incapable of delivering on any promises they might make … there is only one global power that has displayed a vested interest in keeping India and Pakistan apart … China is badly misguided in pursuing its policy of isolating India in South Asia… holding talks with Islamabad is desirable provided it is clearly understood it will be the final attempt… India should bluntly seek an open commitment… Would Islamabad be willing to commit to an eventual India-Pakistan relationship encompassing joint defence and trade…? Within Pakistan such an announcement would bring polarisation into the open…If Islamabad is unwilling and continues to serve wittingly or unwittingly foreign interests rather than its own, then it is time to bid Pakistan goodbye.”
Even before the foreign secretaries met it became clear that Pakistan would not oblige. Indeed it went to the opposite extreme. It is quite likely that India’s unexpected decision to resume talks with Pakistan was under American advice. The US wants Pakistan’s troop expansion in Afghanistan. To make that possible Pakistan must divert troops from its eastern front against India. To make Pakistan redeployment possible, India must reduce its troops on the Pakistan border. India most likely agreed. Pakistan perceived this as victory and its Foreign Minister Qureshi crowed and taunted India’s climb down in several public speeches inside Pakistan. Indian sources tried to rationalise this as posturing for domestic consumption. Worse was to follow.
Qureshi visited China and offered Beijing a “blank cheque” to mediate between India and Pakistan. He sarcastically added that India might be uncomfortable with such mediation. If this left any doubt about Pakistan’s approach to the talks, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir after meeting with his Indian counterpart removed it by a belligerent and undiplomatic press conference in New Delhi. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman said that Indians were responsible for 26/11! From all this Pakistan has sent a clear message. It is rubbishing India’s overtures and taunting America by giving pre-eminence to Islamabad’s ties with Beijing. Pakistan has behaved exactly opposite to what this scribe had suggested as the minimum precondition for continued peace efforts by India. Pakistan has affirmed that it will remain firmly in Beijing’s camp and continue to bleed India and frustrate America.
How should India respond?
It should react precisely as this scribe had suggested before the talks. America due to its own flawed policies in the past and misconceived policies at present seems helpless. America’s problem should not become India’s headache. India should ignore US advice and chart an independent course to deal with both China and Pakistan. It may be argued that President Obama has the right intentions but is cautious because America is enmeshed in Beijing’s coils. Regardless of that case India should remain firm. Tactical compromise with fundamental principles arises from weakness and invites defeat. Nothing can be more fundamental than fighting global terror. Recall Lord Krishna’s advice to Arjuna that vacillation arose only from weakness. Arjuna consequently changed. But who will change President Obama?
At present America cannot, Pakistan will not, and UPA government dare not, act effectively against rising Chinese belligerence. But there are effective options available to India. It is futile to outline them as long as the Indian government does not display the will to act independently. Indian governments since 1947 have failed to act independently. Today India is in a position to play a global role. It cannot do that unless it changes its colonial mindset. Is it paranoid to think that Indian governments up till now have not been acting independently? Well, then, consider this passage from Kalyani Shankar’s recent book Nixon, Indira and India. In addition to the author’s crisp narrative the book is invaluable for the secret US archival material made public for the first time. Consider the following passage from the secret White House Memorandum of Conversation between Dr Henry Kissinger and India’s Ambassador to US, LK Jha dated August 30, 1971.
Dr Kissinger expressed reservations about Indira Gandhi’s attitude to the US after the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty. According to the Memorandum, Ambassador Jha explained that “…Madam Gandhi was not at all pro-Soviet. She had for a long time resisted the proposal that it had first been thought up by Dinesh Singh, the former Foreign Minister of this treaty of friendship. (In fact, Jha said on a personal basis, he wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Dinesh Singh actually received pay from the Communists.) At the same time he also thought that Kaul and Haksar were very much under Soviet influence. In short, for both these reasons Madam Gandhi was under great pressure…The Ambassador repeated that Haksar and Kaul were the real obstacles in India and that in the Foreign Office there were many pro-Soviet elements.”
LK Jha was a doyen among India’s diplomats. It is most likely that other Indian diplomats in other foreign lands habitually adopt a similar approach. Should not trust and exchange of confidence between Indian diplomats, even those opposing each other, take precedence over trust and exchange of confidence they might share with foreign leaders? If LK Jha could behave thus, what might be the condition of the rest of our diplomatic community? Can one conceive of American, Russian or Chinese diplomats ever selling short their own colleagues to an Indian leader?
Recently the PM told Saudi journalists that there was no alternative to dialogue with Pakistan. One begs to differ. One is not talking of war. But that alternative needs willingness to act independently. That seems missing. Pakistan wants China to mediate between India and Pakistan. According to Foreign MOS Shashi Tharoor, India wants Saudi Arabia as the interlocutor. Is there any qualitative difference? Tharoor may have been indiscreet, but was he incorrect?
The first need therefore is to get a government in New Delhi that is capable of independent policies that safeguard national interest. Till such time one should preferably hold one’s peace.
By Rajinder Puri