Bottomline | Dirty Games

India should not comment on Pakistan’s internal matters

Pravin SawhneyPravin Sawhney

While India aspires to become a major power, its foreign policy objectives and especially the conduct of diplomacy betrays pettiness. On the one hand, we bend over backwards to humour the United States. Our chests swell with glee on hearing that the US will help us become a major power. Never mind the price we need to pay. Moreover, it simply does not occur to us how any nation can become a major power when its neighbours do not respect it. At least three, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are not connected with us. They accuse us of highhanded behaviour, short of really saying that we are gasbags. Take the case of Pakistan. Our real problem with Pakistan is that we focus on its shortcomings and ignore its strengths. What we correctly say is that Pakistan’s economy is no match to ours, it lacks democracy, size, natural resources, industrial infrastructure and the large educated middle class that we have. Now consider Pakistan’s strengths. It has positioned itself correctly with the US and China, two powers likely to dominate this century. The US has conferred the Major Non-Nato Ally status on Pakistan, has decided to sell F-16 and other defence equipment which was on hold since decades, and it will not push Islamabad on the issue of cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. There are many reasons why the US has done all this.the recent IAEA’s board of governors meet on Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons programmes.

The two key ones are that Pakistan is US’ close ally in the war on terror, and its nuclear weapons should stay with the moderate leadership of Gen. Musharraf. Even as US’ closeness with Pakistan will not be a short-term affair, China is Pakistan’s tested all-weather friend; Pakistan’s strategic weapons, ballistic and cruise missiles, and most of its conventional weapons come from China. What is more, China gives diplomatic support to Pakistan, which is why Pakistan, unlike India, abstained from voting against Iran at

This is not all. Pakistan leads India in the types of ballistic and cruise missile that have entered service, and nearly matches the Indian military at the operational level of war, a must for a short duration war. During the 10-month-long Operation Parakram in December 2001, which we initiated to militarily coerce Pakistan to stop exporting terrorism inside India, we winked first and de-mobilised our army from a confrontation. Again it is we who have finally accepted that talks with Pakistan need not wait until Islamabad stops infiltration across the Line of Control.

Most importantly, it is Pakistan and not us that is setting the agenda for peace talks. It was Musharraf who hit the bright idea of expanding peace talks by including the settlement of the Kashmir issue through the ‘soft border’ approach, in addition to the existing confidence building measures being discussed under the composite dialogue. What does all this mean? That Musharraf sees himself in a position of strength vis-à-vis India on the Kashmir issue. Therefore, he is pro-active and wants the permanent settlement of the Kashmir issue in a year or two by the present leadership in both countries. Under such circumstances, what should we do? Two things: One, we should work hard to bring the internal situation in the border state under our control. Only this move will weaken Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir issue. And two, we should continue with the peace process and avoid interfering in the internal matters of Pakistan.

For example, what exactly was the need for our ministry of external affairs spokesperson to tell Pakistan what it should do in Balochistan? Worse, an analyst who is member of the National Security Advisory Board has confirmed that this was a deliberate step meant to tell Pakistan that it should stop its rhetoric on Jammu and Kashmir by talking about ‘self governance’ and ‘demilitarisation’ (the same analyst wants India to jump into US’ lap). A balanced view has come from the Hindu newspaper correspondent, B. Muralidhar Reddy based in Islamabad. He had made three relevant points: that Balochistan is a part of Pakistan, such interference by India may affect the third round of composite dialogue due to begin on January 17, and such vitiation of atmosphere will strengthen hardliners who oppose the peace process. It is anyone’s guess that there are many more people, included senior military officers, in Pakistan who are opposed to the peace process than in India. Within the Pakistani establishment, there are people who are wondering why the peace process is moving slowly. Is it the Indian military, the MEA, the Prime Minister’s Office or the media who are opposed to peace talks? Regrettably, the answer is not difficult. The Indian military has little say in policy making. Barring a few, most media personnel would prefer being level headed in relations with Pakistan. The few, who draw sustenance by being close to the MEA are happy to push the belligerent line that portrays India as a major power. The buck really stops at the PMO. Having signed the peace process with Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must now leash the spoilers in the MEA by ensuring that we do not comment on what is essentially an internal matter of Pakistan.


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