End India’s one-sided love affair

Diplomacy requires us to be courteous, not foolishly soft... There’s no rule in diplomacy that says we should indulge in strategic masochism just to look good

Two pictures say it all: Pakistan foreign secretary Jalil Jilani on the extreme left of the frame shaking hands with his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai on the right of the frame. The distance is symbolic and possibly the handshake was limp as well. The other picture is of Mr Jilani in a clinch with secessionist Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

The contrast is obvious and both happened on my territory. Incidentally, the government has fairly stringent rules for its civil servants about meeting foreign diplomats. Why are there no rules for secessionists?
Yet another exercise in futility has just been concluded and it was expected. Both sides asserted their stated positions. One should be reasonably certain now that the character of the Pakistani state today does not allow it to be flexible; it is fighting too many battles for its ghairat and it is far too down the road on the path drawn by its Islamic radicals. Diplomacy requires us to be courteous, not foolishly soft; it also requires reciprocity. There is no rule in diplomacy that says we should indulge in strategic masochism just to look good; the other side just makes use of us and walks away. No nation works only on theoretical ideals when it deals internationally. It merely pronounces them periodically. Any state worth its superpower status, functions on interests defined by itself for itself, not by others.
The United States coddled Pakistan for decades and got a spoilt child in return. And we coddled Kashmiri terrorists and terrorised the people. Instead of ensuring Pakistan remained out of the equation, successive governments in New Delhi thought it could solve the riddle by pleading with Pakistan. It was obvious to anyone following developments in the region and, given Pakistan’s attitude towards India, that it was never going to want to solve disputes with India. It just did not suit the Pakistan Army and the ruling elite attached to the Army, who had become dependent on a certain way of life and on largesse from abroad, to change its position.
One of the ways of conducting policy includes a determined counter-insurgency operation which is never pretty, but that’s the only option —to tackle the instigator of insurgency at its source. In India, successive governments have assumed that the best way to solve our problems in Kashmir is to try and get Pakistan on board, through grand gestures and grander statements. Pakistan has remained adamant as we have made overture after overture, in the hope that Pakistan would see value in peace. Each Indian government has been disappointed and yet there has been no new thought in changing our tactics.
For more than two decades we have been defensive and apologetic in our policy towards Kashmiris which has brought neither peace nor satisfaction to the people of the Valley. Instead of being stern and firm with Pakistan and instead of showing Pakistan that it has to pay a price for its actions that hurt India, we have been harsh on the people of the Valley. Kashmir’s so-called leaders, in fact, have played havoc at Pakistan’s bidding, so much so that till today one of these so-called leaders, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has not had the courage to name the killers of his father. He prefers, instead, to break bread with those who ordered the killing. We have another leader, Yasin Malik, now described as a moderate leader, who roams the streets of Srinagar free as a bird after murdering four Indian Air Force officers. We have another, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who openly says he wants to become a Pakistani and take Kashmir there, yet his open secessionism goes unpunished. This is not magnanimity. This is weakness of resolve.
So obsessed have we been with our self-image as a responsible state and the desire to look good in the West’s eyes that we have ignored what our apparent goodness of the heart means to our neighbours. For years, we have ignored what Pakistan was doing to Kashmir and us through terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Instead of making the Pakistan Army pay a price all these years, we chose to take the dossier route. What has it got us? Frustration at home and scorn from Pakistan. Our neighbours must be saying to themselves, if a huge country like India cannot look after its own interests then how or why would it look after their interests. Maybe they say to themselves: it is better to be friends with China and Pakistan, who together can keep India in check.
It is time to change this.
Our interests lie in peace, not in coddling Pakistan, not necessarily in pursuing “most favoured nation” status, trade and visa issues with that country, but in ensuring it remains irrelevant in Kashmir and realises it is irrelevant. This will not happen by our mere say-so. It will happen with a little bit of firmness in New Delhi, which does not include drift and coddling as policy options. The old adage — it is sometimes necessary to be cruel to be kind — remains valid. The two main political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, will use the extremist elements for political mileage even though the rest of us know that neither Omar Abdullah not Mehbooba Mufti would want to lose political power to the Hurriyat as they are both the children of the electoral process not the gun. We have to remove the fear of the gun, but this needs firm action at home and, if necessary, suitable action across frontiers.
A state worth its future standing on the international scene especially needs to be seen to be safeguarding its interests. It owes it to its citizens and to the future.

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