India Abroad August 29, 2014 A19 INDIA NEWS/SNUBBING PAKISTAN
The Indian decision to call off the foreign secretary- level talks with Pakistan scheduled for August 25 is imply appalling.
The justification being proffered — that Pakistan’s
ambassador in Delhi inviting members of the separatist
Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat Conference meet up with
him — belies logic and lacks credibility.
The motives of the Narendra Modi government are
highly suspect and patently lame excuses are being touted
The most disconcerting thing is the perception that sincerity of purpose is lacking on the part of the Modi government as regards its regional policies.
The gramophone record that held out the promise of
playing a mellifluous South Asian symphony May 26-27
appears on closer examination to have grooves embedded
with crud and the lands.
For over two decades already — including under a previous Bharatiya Janata Party government — Delhi allowed
discourses to take place between Pakistani officials and
the Hurriyat leaders. There is nothing earthshakingly new
in what Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit has
Indeed, Hurriyat leaders, despite espousing separatist agenda, have been allowed to visit Pakistan and get involved
in the cogitations of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
So, what is it that the Modi government is proposing?
That Pakistan give up its stance on the Kashmir issue?
That Pakistan keep the Hurriyat at arm’s length?
Even after another 67 years in power, the Modi government cannot hope to achieve that end. Pakistan is a sovereign country and a nuclear power and we simply do not
have the capacity (or the right) to force our will on that
country on the core issue of its relations with India.
Self-appointed apologists of the Modi government have
drawn a parallel between Kashmir and Baluchistan.
But that is a churlish argument since Baluchistan is not
an India-Pakistan issue at all; it is Pakistan’s internal
problem, and if India were to hobnob with Baluchi
nationalists, that will be blatant interference in Pakistan’s
internal affairs. Whereas, Kashmir is an India-Pakistan
dispute and there is a file on it in the UN archives.
Simply put, this is the geopolitical reality, however,
unpalatable it may seem.
Yet another silly argument being touted by our ‘hawks’
is that the domestic politics in Pakistan has destabilized
the elected civilian government in Islamabad and it is
advisable that India sit on the fence until things are clarified. But then, when is it in these past 67 years that
Pakistan has been in a state of absolute domestic bliss?
India has dealt with Pakistan through good and bad times
in that country’s internal politics.
A third lame excuse being advanced is that the Pakistani
army is indulging in provocative acts on the border lately
and added to the invitation to meet the Hurriyat, there is
reason to believe that the ‘powers that be’ in Pakistan do
not want any meaningful dialogue to take place.
Paradoxically, this is an argument that ought to justify
the raison d’etre for engaging Pakistan today. By refusing
to engage the civilian government in Pakistan, New Delhi
is only playing into the hands of the hardliners in that
Besides, the Pakistani army is not equipped to fight two
wars simultaneously. Given the extremely complicated sit-
uation on the Afghan-Pakistan border regions where the
Pakistani army is overstretched, the generals in Rawal-
pindi, who are a cautious lot traditionally, simply cannot
afford to provoke a war with India.
Clearly, therefore, what emerges is that the Modi government has taken this fateful decision on the talks with
Pakistan for reasons other than what it is advancing.
What could be the underlying reasons? What could be the hidden agenda?
In retrospect, Modi blundered into the PR exercise May
26-27 by inviting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif
to attend his inaugural ceremony in India. But trifling
with India-Pakistan relations in a cavalier way cannot
have a pleasant ending.
The heart of the matter is that despite Modi’s high-flown rhetoric about good-neighborly relationships in
South Asia, he lacks a road map on how to proceed — be
it with Bangladesh or with Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Suffice to say, a constructive agenda is lacking for the
talks and Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh would
have twiddled her thumbs in Islamabad in the absence of
a mandate from the Indian leadership.
Put differently, these talks held the danger of exposing
Modi’s carefully cultivated image of being a visionary in a
common South Asian home. Unsurprisingly, Modi ducked
at the penultimate hour.
But a deeper question arises here. Did he duck on own
accord or under the diktat of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Everything depends on an answer to that profound
question and we may never really get an answer here,
Consider the following. There is every indication that
the BJP will make a strong pitch to form the next govern-
ment in Srinagar following the forthcoming state assem-
bly election in Jammu and Kashmir in October. Chances
are that the BJP will succeed in this project.
Now, with a BJP government in both Delhi and
Srinagar, how long can Modi delay the implementation of
the RSS-driven pledge to abrogate Article 370 of the
Unlike the other two RSS demands — a common civil
code and a temple in Ayodhya — this one is entirely ‘do-
able’ if the BJP succeeds in forming the government in
Nay, the RSS will insist on it, and as a good pracharak,
Modi will have no option but to comply. Looking back,
And, herein hangs the tale of the scuttled foreign secre-
tary level talks. Both Delhi and Islamabad are anticipating
gathering storms on the horizon.
Modi’s inaugural bash already looks a distant dream, as
ancient passions take over.
With Afghanistan on the boil and regional security situation being so fragile, the international community would
have reason to feel concerned if India-Pakistan tensions
were to escalate. The US reaction has been one of ‘
disappointment’ over Modi’s decision.
M K Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat
M K BHADRAKUMAR
The real reason why India
scuttled Pakistan talks
A Pakistani Ranger, right, and an Indian Border Security Force officer at the Wagah border. It is being wondered if the BJP government ducked the talks on its own accord or ‘under the diktat of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?’ MOHSIN RAZA/REU TERS