Tuesday, 1 September 1998

Substance, not Form - Mistaking Posturing for Progress

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

The cooktail cliques reserve their choicest endearments for those
who have wounded Indian interests most. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
was a particular favourite, despite his constant attempts to
actualise the ISI objective of a balkanised India. These days,
whenever Henry Kissinger comes to Delhi or Mumbai, there is
a scramble among the well—heeled to host him—possibly as an
expression of gratitude for the consistent hostility he displayed
towards New Delhi during his years in power.

Anatoly Dobrynin has, in his memories of Washington life,
revealed that the US and Pakistan signed a secret protocol in
1962 that assured that country of American support in the event
of any "aggression" by India. Not being aware of the nuances of
decision-making in a democracy, poor Ayub Khan believed that
this agreement guaranteed US military intervention on Pakistan’s
side in case the Indian Army beat back his offensive and entered
Pakistan territory. As a result, he grew bellicose and went to war
twice in 1965. The Soviets being as unused to democracy as the
Pakistanis panicked when told by Kissinger of this secret protocol
and put pressure on New Delhi to refrain from recapturing
"Azad" Kashmir.

Frontline State
Even an administration as paranoid as Nixon's would not have
dared to inflame public opinion in the US by militarily attacking
the world's largest democracy. Thus this "protocol" was another
of the placebos used to pacify dictators. Even today such
nostrums are being handed out—witness the many interjections
on Kashmir in western chancelleries. Except for the ISI, and its
dupes in the Valley, all others know that no country has the
capability to change Indian policy on Kashmir in a manner that
will dilute New De1hi’s sovereignty over it. Now the US claims
it wants to involve China in "resolving" India-Pakistan tensions-
a clever move to increase tensions between New Delhi and

During his first term in office, President Clinton gave
indications that his administration would be almost as hostile to
India as Nixon’s was, However, there seem to be glimmerings of
recognition of India’s status as a frontline state against terrorism
and hegemonism. Sadly, many of the officials in New Delhi
appear to be caught in the 1970s time warp, perceiving the US
as a hostile country. A recent example of this was the Indian
defence secretary's refusal to go to Washington to attend a
meeting cochaired by a "less senior" US official.

Strategic Objective
While India has had clear internal markers on the parameters
outside which it will block or otherwise stymie unfriendly
initiatives, thanks to politeness few of these have been made
public. Apart from the continued development of strategic
programmes to build up deterrent capability against the two
countries that have attacked India in the past, other markers
include the willingness to march into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
and liberate the territory should Islamabad’s covert war against
India spill over into major population centres, as seems to be
happening now, Again, should Pakistan provoke another "hot"
war by further intensifying its terrorist campaign within India,
this time the strategic objective needs to be the liberation of the
Sindhi, Baluchi and Pashtun people from Lahore's domination.

Indeed, a mosaic of smaller states would not only damp
sectarian tensions in what is now Pakistan, but would also
develop much faster. The borders of these states can be guaranteed
by a common SAARC defence set-up. Finally, the goal should be
visa-less travel and a common intra-SAARC currency acceptable
within the region, even while the national identities of all the
states are protected. Rather than develop into fundamentalist
breeding grounds, as has taken place in Taliban-controlled
Afghanistan, these SAARC nations need to evolve into secular
democracies where minorities are given equal rights.

However, for such an outcome, it is important that our
policy-makers not accord primacy to form over substance. Silly
disputes over protocol are less important than the need for large
democracies to work together for international stability.

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