Futile exercise

Pursuing fruitless diplomacy, India has bent over backwards umpteen number of times with negative results.

It can happen only with the prime ministers of India. There are multiple violations of the Line of Control in the Jammu & Kashmir region on an almost daily basis by Pakistani troops; and during the same period, the prime minister of India holds friendly talks in New York with the prime minister of Pakistan agreeing on some peace measures with the aggressor country. After the talks, the violations of the Line of Control in J&K have only increased in number and in intensity.

Now, just a few days ago, China declared its aggressive intent by issuing ‘stapled visas’ to Indian sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh. Of late, intrusions by China into India’s territory have been numerous. China now also takes another belligerent stance; it plans along with Pakistan for building a direct economic corridor between China and Pakistan, from Xinjiang to Gwadar, oil pipelines, railroad links and optic fibre lines passing right through the territory of Kashmir that is occupied by Pakistan (PoK).

 Two days after the incidence of ‘stapled visas’, prime minister Manmohan Singh leaves for a state visit to Russia and China. The agenda for the state visit to China is that the two countries, during the meeting of the respective prime ministers, will discuss various bilateral issues. It is not as if the two prime ministers of India and China have not met earlier towards the same purpose. Pursuing fruitless diplomacy, a sort of diplomacy insulting to the nation, India has bent over backwards umpteen number of times with negative results.

This is not to say that India should stop talking to its belligerent neighbours. Dialogue should continue. Even with a warring enemy, a channel for dialogue has to be kept open. Fighting for our rights and talking are two independent activities. However, one should not substitute bilateral talks for firmly asserting one’s sovereign territorial rights. Not when the other party is constantly and insistently violating the boundaries between the two nations. The ‘firmness’ of assertion has to be tangible. It should not be the kind which our external affairs ministers – Salman Khurshid or his predecessor – have been telling the Indian public through media interviews. Khurshid has always maintained that India has sent a firm message to Pakistan or China as the case may be. Glib advice of sagacity and wisdom is all right when spoken at home, but it has not carried any weight with the country’s troublesome neighbours. It is necessary that we communicate in a manner that the adversary understands better.

The J&K issue is vexing, indeed. When the bilateral talks do not yield results, one thinks of international diplomacy; where one can bring the pressure from heavyweight nations to bear upon the belligerent neighbour. India and the US have a ‘strategic’ relationship as the two countries proclaim. But, it is of little use against Pakistan’s machinations. In fact, very recently the US has sanctioned $1.6 billion in aid to Pakistan. Ostensibly, it is for Pakistan to fight Taliban on its western frontiers; but, more often than not, such aid ends up being used in a large measure against India.

Strategic partnership

Pakistan has been, time and again, violating the expressed intention of the US; but, the US has been turning a blind eye. Thus, despite all this talk about strategic partnership between the US and India, no substantial improvement has taken place for India in either its bilateral trade with the US or in its political might as perceived by its adversaries and other nations. The point is: the J&K issue has to be resolved by India, on a stand alone basis.

While border violations and sending of terrorists into India’s territory has to be dealt with very strongly, so that the perpetrators dare not repeat such acts again, the internal atmosphere in J&K has to be made politically favourable. This can happen only when the region witnesses meaningful development. In fact, the state of J&K should become so developed that the people in the PoK region should demand for their immediate integration with the model state. The youth today, anywhere, desire good governance, better living and growing economy. Religious and military jingoism can be countered by solid economic development. India has never attempted the ‘economic growth’ path in J&K. The Centre and the state have all the time believed in fighting the terrorists and secessionists through a huge military and police presence which is perceived by many J&K residents as excessive and oppressive.

An important point to note is that no amount of ‘strategic’ partnerships will help a nation that is perceived as weak and indecisive. Strategic partners will come knocking on one’s door when one is perceived as strong and tough as happened with China as far back as in 1972 when the US president thought it was a great achievement to go and visit his Chinese counterpart in Beijing. Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of state then, was and even to date is considered as a great political strategist for having achieved this diplomatic feat.

Strength begets strong friends; it makes adversaries to rethink and desire for friendship. China is respected today because it fearlessly defends its independence and because it has pursued the path of economic development in a focused way and achieved the status of an economic powerhouse. This economic power lends it political power internationally.
Wishy-washy weak steps helps no one. Statecraft is not about visiting various countries and signing treaties that mean so very little. Gathering its strength of mind in dealing with international issues and pursuing strong economic development at home are the two mantras which India needs to imbibe. India needs single-minded determination and focusing of its energies in all that it does.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)

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