India’s Shameful Sellout at Thimphu
Sushant Sareen

Cut through the claptrap of diplomatese and it is clear that the Manmohan Singh government has accepted all of Pakistan’s demands and put the Composite Dialogue back on the rails; only the word ‘composite’ has been replaced by words like ‘comprehensive’, ‘continuous’, and ‘constructive’ to put a positive spin on what is clearly a capitulation by India. Given the track record of the Manmohan Singh led dispensation’s policy on Pakistan, the complete about turn made by the Indian government on the commitment and assurance given to the nation that it would not get back to the Composite Dialogue framework until the perpetrators and plotters of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai were brought to justice, should come as no surprise.
Within weeks of the 26/11 attacks, it had become apparent that the Indian Prime Minister was desperate to restart the dialogue with Pakistan and was willing to do anything and pay any price to this end. The Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement issued on July 16, 2009, in which the Indian Prime Minister pulled out all stops to appease the Pakistanis, stands as testimony to the Indian government’s feckless approach to putting an end to cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. While the nationwide outcry over the shame of Sharm-el-Sheikh forced the PM to backtrack, as soon as matters cooled down, the Prime Minister instructed the foreign secretary to make another attempt to restart the dialogue. This resulted in an invitation to the Pakistan foreign secretary who visited New Delhi in February 2010 where he dismissed as “literature” the evidence given by India against the Pakistani perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. The Prime Minister, however, persisted with the talks track and, pursuant to his talks with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Thimphu in April 2010, sent the Indian External Affairs minister to Islamabad in July 2010 to try and revive the dialogue process.
Accordingly, in Islamabad, SM Krishna practically conceded on everything that the Pakistanis wanted. The only sticking point was that India did not want to commit to any fixed time line for discussions on issues like Kashmir, Siachen etc. Sensing our Prime Minister’s desperation to start the dialogue, Pakistan went for broke and insisted on a firm time line for starting negotiations on Kashmir. On India’s refusal to concede on this, the Pakistani foreign minister scuttled the discussions by throwing diplomatic niceties to the wind and insulting his Indian guest by publicly raising questions over Krishna’s mandate to negotiate with him.
Notwithstanding Pakistan’s obnoxious behaviour at Islamabad, the Indian government has refused to wake up to the folly of its ways and at Thimphu has gone on its knees and practically accepted all Pakistan's demands to return to the dialogue table. But fearful of an adverse reaction from Indian public opinion, the Indian External Affairs Ministry is chary of admitting that India has returned to the Composite Dialogue. It is therefore misleading the Indian public by peddling the nonsense of ‘sequentially’ discussing all issues including those in the Composite Dialogue process, culminating in the visit of the Pakistani foreign minister. Pray, what else was the Composite Dialogue process?
In order to sweeten the bitter pill being administered to the Indian public, issues like Kashmir are reportedly to come later in the ‘sequencing’ process, by which time it is hoped that the bonhomie generated by the American-funded track-II wallahs will make Indian public opinion amenable to a return to the Composite Dialogue (sorry, the Indian foreign secretary doesn't like ‘getting stuck in terminology’ and prefers to call it a return to a ‘constructive’ dialogue in which ‘no issue will be left out’). It is also a matter of some regret that many of our security analysts, including retired diplomats and generals who should know better, involved in India-Pakistan track II love-fests in exotic locations like Thailand etc are lending their names to joint statements calling for a “sustained engagement” between the two countries on a the “full range of issues”, which is tantamount to a total reversal of the policy announced after 26/11.
Regardless of the reasons for the Prime Minister’s obsessive quest for improving relations with Pakistan – warding off American pressure (such “pressure” is essentially only in the mind and one can take a lesson from how successfully a bankrupt Pakistan which is completely dependent on US aid shrugs it off), winning the Nobel Prize (isn’t the Prime Ministership of India a big enough prize?), economic spin-off’s of South Asian peace (it is not Pakistan that stops India’s progress but the dysfunctional administration and horrendously corrupt and venal political system, epitomised by the Rajas’, Radias’ and Kalmadis’), to save Pakistan from its self-created jihadi monsters (if the Americans can’t do this, India certainly cant) – the manner in which the so-called peace process is being pursued by the Indian PM is likely to reaffirm Pakistan’s assessment of India as a country that just doesn't have the staying power to follow through with its stated policy.
The Pakistani perception of India had once been summed up by one of their ISI chiefs – Javed Nasir, the man was behind the Mumbai blasts in 1993 – who said that ‘you lick the Indians, they kick you; and if you kick the Indians they lick you’. Our government’s pursuit of the dialogue process has only proved the Pakistani general correct. In this context, when after 26/11 the Pakistanis were begging India for a dialogue, the Indians refused; and now that the Pakistanis are kicking the Indians, the Manmohan Singh government is grovelling for a dialogue. No wonder, the Pakistanis never took Manmohan Singh seriously even after the 26/11 attacks. They adopted a two pronged approach with the Indian PM: stonewall all demands for bringing the guilty of 26/11 attacks to justice and at the same time heap him with compliments – visionary, statesman etc. – which will seduce him to forget the massacre of Indians by Pakistani terrorists and bring him scurrying back to the dialogue table.
But even the Pakistanis would have been surprised by the timing of the initiatives taken by India to get back to the talks table. The invitation to the Pakistan foreign secretary last year came against the backdrop of the London Conference on Afghanistan which had got the Pakistanis all excited and flush with misplaced triumphalism that their double game in Afghanistan had succeeded and that India’s willingness to resume the dialogue was a sign of its weakness. This year the talks took place a couple of days after the Pakistanis observed the Kashmir Solidarity day, a day on which jihadi terrorists like the Lashkar-e-Taiba held rallies in the heart of every major city of Pakistan and openly threatening nuclear jihad on India.
For the Indian foreign secretary to call the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, Hafiz Saeed, ‘an inconsequential person’ smacks of an unfortunate lack of an understanding of the reality in Pakistan. Hafiz Saeed is today an icon in Pakistan and virtually every institution in that country goes out of its way to eulogise him, protect him and defend his actions. His significance can be gauged by the fact that even the Pakistan army is afraid of acting against him.
But it is not just the actions of Hafiz Saeed which the Manmohan Singh government wishes to turn a blind eye; the Indian foreign secretary has also been assiduously brushing under the carpet the stream of vitriol pouring out from the Pakistani foreign office over the last few months. Surely, the Pakistani foreign office must be touched by the enormous understanding that the Indian foreign secretary has shown for their compulsion to bad-mouth India. Interestingly, even as the foreign secretary says that it would be unrealistic to expect her Pakistani counterpart to criticise his spokesman or his foreign minister, she was most ready to accept the Pakistani foreign secretary’s assurance that “the Pakistan army was on board to take these talks forward”. Worse, this was offered to the Indian media as something that would lend weight to the dialogue between the two countries. Did she actually expect her Pakistani counterpart to say that the Pakistan army was not on board? Nor did she bother to explain why, if the Pakistan army is so keen on talks, the entire infrastructure of terrorism directed against India has been reactivated by them. And how should India read the deluge of information that the current army chief is among the most anti-India and jihad loving generals Pakistan has seen since Ziaul Haq.
Even if we ignore all these inconvenient facts, surely the people of India need to know what action has been taken by the Pakistani authorities against the patrons of the 26/11 attacks. What has happened in the last six months that India feels that Pakistan has done enough to warrant a return to the Composite Dialogue? If anything, reports in the Pakistani press have revealed that the Pakistanis have warned India that the accused standing trial in Pakistan for their involvement in the 26/11 attacks are going to be released by the Pakistani courts if permission is not given to the judicial commission formed by Pakistan to examine Indian officials who investigated the 26/11 attacks.
The Indian people also need to know what the government expects to achieve from the dialogue from Pakistan. Stories doing the rounds in New Delhi hint that as a means to demonstrate the result oriented nature of the dialogue process there could be compromises on some issues like Siachen. Any compromise based on a demilitarisation of the Siachen sector would be detrimental to the national interest. It may be recalled that hitherto India had envisaged the possibility of such a demilitarisation subject to Pakistan’s acceptance of the Actual Ground Position line in the area. Pakistan’s failure to do so had stalled further progress in the matter. But even if Pakistan were today to accept the Actual Ground Position line, India should not agree to demilitarisation as once our troops give up the commanding heights currently occupied by them a return to the same would be impossible in the event of their seizure by Pakistan something which is much more easily accomplished from the Pakistani side than from ours.
The logic of India’s interest in demilitarisation through the 80’s and much of the 90’s was the difficulty of maintaining our posts at the commanding heights and the fact that our greater conventional military superiority over Pakistan gave us the capability to address any Pakistani bad faith in respect of the commanding heights by launching actions across the International Border or the Line of Control. Improved logistics have made it much easier for India to maintain its posts and a nuclearised environment have made it more difficult for India to contemplate major conventional military moves against Pakistan in reaction to its bad faith moves in the Siachen area. Accordingly, any settlement of Siachen based on its demilitarisation should not be considered by us today in view of the changed circumstances and Pakistan’s propensity to violate agreements entered into with us.
Clearly, the obsession with normalisation of relations with Pakistan, even if this is against our national interests, is acquiring dangerous dimensions. While peace and friendship are entirely desirable objectives, they are not an end in themselves. The Indian people need to be informed as to what we hope to achieve from peace and normalisation with Pakistan and whether the price that is being demanded off India in terms of a compromise in its core national interest, self-respect and dignity is worth it. Equally important is the fact that if the current dispensation doesn’t give up its cavalier approach to issues of vital national security, then it is only a matter of time that there will be another 26/11. And going by the namby-pamby approach of this government, it should by now have become clear that all the talk of India being forced to retaliate in the event of another major terrorist attack is nothing but an empty boast.
Finally, it is a matter of regret that the media has failed to react adversely to the manner in which the government has sought to revive the composite dialogue process in blatant contravention of its assurances to the nation that this would only be done if Pakistan brings to book the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. Is it that it is too preoccupied by covering the multi crore scams that rock the country on more or less a daily basis or is it that it is inured to the government’s habitually weak kneed policies vis a vis Pakistan? Whatever may be the case it is to be hoped that the media does a better job of critically analysing issues of such import because failure to do so will encourage the government to continue to appease Pakistan which will exact a terrible price in terms of emboldening the latter to adopt an increasingly more aggressive approach towards us.

TAGS: India, Pakistan, 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Terrorism

Published Date : February 10, 2011

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