Imran Bowls Political No-Ball!
Imran Khan addressed a public meeting in Lahore that attracted a crowd of 100,000 people. It must have appeared to him an occasion too good to miss. So he went populist and ballistic. He found similarity in the presence of US troops in Afghanistan with the presence of Indian troops in Kashmir. The crowd must have loved it. He said: “I want to tell Hindustan that the 700,000 troops you have kept among the Kashmiris, no army has been able to solve any country’s problems at any time.” That remark snowballed into a controversy. Mr Khan stuck to his guns. Justifying himself before a TV channel a few days later he said: “I don’t think Indian army for 20 years or 700,000 troops in Kashmir is going to solve any problems. I think it’s only going to produce hatred. It’s counter productive…It probably means I might be a well wisher for India to actually say this. It doesn’t mean I’m an enemy of India.”
He was right in saying that no army can solve a country’s problems. He was terribly wrong in describing the situations in Kashmir and in Afghanistan analogous. He crossed the line and foot faulted to make a delivery far and wide. There are many leaders and commentators in India, more articulate and politically savvy than Mr Khan, concerned about the army’s presence in Kashmir. These include the Chief Minister of Kashmir and the state’s Leader of Opposition. But their concern about the army’s presence is tempered by the sober knowledge of cross-border terrorists from Mr Khan’s country infiltrating into Kashmir. The cricketer-turned-politician seems to be blissfully unaware of this. Despite mutual differences people in India are collectively addressing the problem in Kashmir. Why, even this writer has offered a proposal to address the Kashmir problem that is far more radical and explicit than what any of the foreign-funded separatists in Kashmir have offered. Therefore Mr Khan need not worry much about Kashmir.
Countering Sino-Pak Axis
INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY FLAW!
Two recent events highlight the delusional make believe world of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). First, Pakistan announced that the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status would be granted to India. Secondly, China’s Governor of Xingjian province visited India to establish direct trade links between his province and India. Both events understandably generated much cheer in official circles and in the media. The same day developments jolted enthusiasm on both counts.
Pakistan’s decision to grant India MFN status was reportedly cleared by the Pakistan army. But very soon the tune changed. Later Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that normalization of trade between both nations would be established. The reference to MFN status was deleted. The good vibes emanating from the Xingjian Governor’s visit were also marred by the conduct of the Chinese Ambassador to India Mr Zhang Yan while he was hosting a reception in honour of the Governor’s visit. A reporter’s pointed questioning about Chinese maps that showed J&K and Arunachal Pradesh being outside India provoked the usually affable Ambassador to snap at the journalist: “Shut up!”
Failing to appreciate the underlying reason for the jarring changes on both occasions leads the MEA to make a basically false assumption in its dealing with Pakistan and China. Unless this false assumption is rectified India will continue to drift in its relations with both governments. The Chinese Ambassador betrayed immense tension to snap at the journalist in such undiplomatic fashion. The Pakistan foreign ministry was constrained to dilute its first announcement regarding the MFN status. The two slip ups happened for the same reason. Both China and Pakistan are each following two incompatible agendas while dealing with India.
One agenda in both cases is being pursued by ineffectual civilian governments that is positive and seeks enhanced trade and cultural ties with India. The other opposing agenda is being pursued by the respective armies of both China and Pakistan that seek territorial and hegemonic domination of India. Unless this dichotomy of approach is recognized and addressed effectively by MEA there is no good future for India with either nation. It has repeatedly been pointed out in these columns that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the ultimate decision maker in Beijing and it is pursuing a subversive, hegemonic and adversarial role against India. Only recently have Indian Intelligence agencies started to acknowledge this truth reiterated in these columns for many years.
The same applies to Pakistan where the army and ISI can overrule and dictate policy to the civilian government. The Pakistan army is at present little more than the PLA’s cat’s paw to implement the strategy laid down by China’s generals. It might be noted how far the Pakistan army trained by the British like the Indian army has traveled from the traditions and culture imbibed from the British. Like the PLA Pakistan’s army personnel are dabbling in business and land deals to augment personal financial fortunes and clout. They have adopted the traditional warlord culture of the Chinese army.
If the present trend continues by which India permits dual policies to be pursued by both China and Pakistan, the nation will be a heavy loser. Enhanced trade will tie us down to both nations. It will disable our ability to counter the adverse consequences of the aggressive policies followed by the armies of China and Pakistan. India will end up as much a client state of Beijing as is Pakistan today. Beijing’s stranglehold on the subcontinent would be complete. To end the present dangerous drift MEA must throw a carrot to Pakistan and wield an economic stick before China to end the nefarious designs of both armies.
The carrot for Islamabad would be the offer of a formula on Kashmir that Pakistan cannot refuse. It must visibly obtain the consent of the people of Kashmir and address the core interests of India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. That formula does not bear repetition. It has been written about earlier. Let it suffice to observe that the citizens of Germany and France have more rights when in each other’s country than the citizens in the rest of India presently have in the state of J&K. It might also be noted that if a greater quantum of autonomy would suffice for J&K it would not prevent New Delhi from granting equal autonomy to all the other states of Union. That would entail a review of the way our Constitution is implemented. It would result a change of system without a change in the Constitution. It would also end the special status of Kashmir.
The economic stick to wield before Beijing would be to block all exports from China. Our system could withstand the challenge. It would impose an unbearable strain on China and could induce the army to heed its own civilian government. Ultimately it is up to the civilian governments of both Beijing and Islamabad to prevail over their respective armies. India must dare to pursue policies that strengthen the hands of both civilian governments against their respective armies. If MEA fails to do that and persists with the present drift India could end up as another client state of China. (RP)
However, there is merit in his observation that armies by themselves cannot solve problems. That certainly applies to the situation in Afghanistan. It applies equally to the situation in Baluchistan. Mr Khan’s memory needs to be refreshed about the recent history of that unfortunate Pakistan province. Immediately before Pakistan was created the Khan of Kalat in Baluchistan had asserted to the British that his territory was not a part of British India. A distinguished lawyer effectively argued his case. His name was Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Within a year of becoming President of Pakistan, Jinnah allowed Pakistan‘s army to forcibly annex Baluchistan. Since then there has been persistent Baluch insurgency against Pakistan crushed by the army. Leading Baluch separatists Ataullah Mengal and Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo alternated between jail and London. This struggle started long before India ‘s RAW was created or could allegedly fund the Baluch insurgents through Afghanistan because India has no border with Baluchistan. Should not Mr Khan address this problem nearer home? And while he does that he might with advantage also address the longstanding grievances of the Pakhtunkhwa Khyber province inhabited by Pathans like himself.
Mr Khan claims that he is a well wisher of India. We believe him. He should also believe us when we claim that there are many, many people in India including those in the government who are well wishers of Pakistan. After all, the stability of our nation is linked to peace and prosperity in Pakistan. Ending terrorism and defusing trouble spots in both nations is the prime need to achieve regional peace and stability. Should not Mr Khan therefore concentrate on eliminating terrorist havens in Pakistan and on addressing insurgencies within his country’s provinces? He should allow us to address the problems in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. That is the way forward for Indo-Pakistan relations to improve. That is what statesmanship demands. Making populist speeches in large rallies is not the answer.
By Rajinder Puri