Saturday, December 19, 2009

Failed Warrior “diplomacy” of India

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent state visit to Washington represented another milestone in India's growing cooperation with the sole super power. However, in the absence of a major breakthrough in their multi-dimensional relationship, attention quickly shifted to Indo-US divergences on various facets of their cooperation. The visit also became Pakistan-centric because of Indian pressure on US hosts to lean on Pakistan for curbing militancy targeting India. President Obama and his aides, politely listened to Indian lament but counseled recognition of Pakistan's on-going operations to defeat the terrorists. As if feeling somewhat irritated by India's one-point agenda, the American side did not hesitate to publicly acknowledge Pakistan's vital role in regional peace and stability.

We, in Pakistan know full well that the India of the 21st century has come a long way from the Nehruvian era of nationalism, state enterprise and non-alignment. The United States now occupies the premier place in India's calculus of economic and strategic partnerships. Conversely, the US, which was closely linked to Pakistan, feels free to enhance her cooperation with India to a level where it would count as a factor in the power structure. It was, therefore, disconcerting to see a big country like India indulging in propaganda against her smaller neighbour during a bilateral visit.

Pakistan had to accept the growing Indo-US partnership as a fact of life in the post-cold war period. But two parallel developments after 9/11 came to have a profound impact on the triangular character of the relations linking the US with India and Pakistan. America's pressing need to get Pakistan's maximum cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban had visibly upset India, and her friends in the administration supported by the Indian-American lobby and the US industry. It succeeded in promoting an extraordinary package of strategic cooperation for India that included the ambitious plan for civil nuclear cooperation. Criticism by the non-proliferation lobby and Pakistan's protest were cast aside as the Bush administration proceeded to develop "a unique relationship with a unique country."

The Bush team further justified the India package as a way of helping India to become a great power in the 21st century as a counter-weight to China. However, this imaginary plank of the strategic partnership with India has crumbled with President Obama embarking on building a close partnership with China as a major determinant of global power play. To put it candidly, the unique relationship carved for India is now passing through turbulent waters and nobody seems to be sure about its future.

Pakistan meanwhile has to cope with the multiplier effect of Indo-US calls for removing terrorist safe havens from its soil. It is hard to imagine that the world's two major democracies are unaware of the genesis of […] militancy. Or that they are unmindful of the difficulties in achieving that objective. Soon after 9/11, Argentina's veteran statesman and one-time foreign minister, Guido di Tella had compared terrorism to organised crime, concluding that the goal of its eradication would be as daunting as that of eliminating drug trafficking. Expecting Pakistan to eradicate quickly and effectively the militant groups who are determined to create chaos and warfare borders somewhere between wishful thinking and naivete.

In the months that followed 9/11, it was not unusual to hear politicians and scholars linking the rise of jihadist organisations to the oppression of people in Palestine and Kashmir. Today, any such argument would be dismissed in the name of zero tolerance to terrorism as if it was a ghastly phenomenon occurring on its own. We are facing a situation where India takes offence to Barack Obama's suggestion to resolve the Kashmir dispute. More recently, India showed knee-jerk annoyance over the US seeking China's cooperation in helping peace and security in South Asia.

There is no direct link between the situation in Palestine and Kashmir but it so happens that Israel too is unhappy over Obama's initiatives to kick-start the Middle East peace process. Yet, the Nobel Peace Committee had the vision to recognise the merit of a leader who brings hope to the dispossessed that have become second-rate citizens in their own homelands. Pakistan can only regret the Indian riposte to a perfectly reasonable US-China interest in helping India and Pakistan resolve their outstanding disputes in the interest of regional and global peace. New Delhi went on the offensive first by ruling out any third-party role in contentious issues with Pakistan, and secondly by making relations with Pakistan contingent upon prosecution of Mumbai suspects.

The hard-line stance adopted by Mr Singh was followed by threats of limited war if another attack like Mumbai takes place. India's self-professed coercive diplomacy has now metamorphosed into warrior diplomacy used as a hand-maiden of militarist designs. As a result, diplomacy is conducted like war, using propaganda as its main weapon. The adversary is pursued relentlessly and efforts made to cut off its supplies. Threats of war are used as manoeuvres to convince the other side of its vulnerability. The offer of peace is made at the cost of capitulation. No effort is spared to corner enemy. In warrior diplomacy, the preparations for a visit to the US are undertaken along the lines of planning for another war operation.

The warrior brand of diplomacy has become a convenient vehicle for India to rule out resumption of the composite dialogue process, which India feels has run its course. It is inclined to use the option of a limited dialogue as it suits her domestic considerations. Alongside, New Delhi has unleashed a propaganda campaign through public diplomacy at the highest levels. This desire to become both the prosecutor and the judge should not be lost on the outside world.

Pakistan has reasons to be frustrated with India's demands for tough action against the militants while putting off the dialogue. Surprisingly, the Pakistani media which gives generous coverage to Indian accusations, seems to have forgotten that action against the perpetrators of the Samjhota carnage is pending in India. The leadership here thinks that by suspending the dialogue, India is not countering the militants' design of heightening mistrust between the two neighbours.
The prevailing Indian stance mirrors views in certain circles, contending that the security establishment has not abandoned its optic of good and bad Taliban. They argue that by exerting pressure on Pakistan through the US, Islamabad may take some decisive action against the movements targeting India. Washington is not in a position to persuade India to revive the dialogue because it has no carrot to offer in return.

While India's propaganda receives coverage in the international media, including our own, Pakistan's calls for resuming the talks does not receive proper coverage in India and elsewhere. Even if Pakistan goes an extra mile to placate Indian concerns, the most likely outcome would be: do more. Time has come for a major review of ways of countering the warrior diplomacy being pursued by India. This does not mean that we should not consider taking steps that may be conducive to blunt the charge that India could be targeted by some jihadi attack, which in turn could be used as a pretext for retaliation. India too should recognise that she can gain Pakistan's confidence and cooperation by returning to a framework of negotiations rather than continuing public diplomacy with all guns blazing.
The writer is Pakistan's former ambassador to the European Union.

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