Friday, October 1, 2010

Shah Mehmood Qureshi no lone ranger or loose cannon

Pakistan upto old tricks on Kashmir
by Pankaj Vohra on Wednesday, September 29, 2010

“The Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi seems to be determined that the India Pakistan relations do not improve.” This is a hilarious premise, if we are to accept this, it would effectively cast Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the mould of a lone ranger or a loose cannon, which he most definitely is not.

Needless to say a Minister for Foreign affairs enunciates, and propagates the foreign policy of the nation which is the end result of a process of discussions, and debates arrived at after receiving inputs from various quarters, is not necessarily a single individual’s handiwork or thinking.

Yes there is an overt display of machismo, bluster and loudness in the conduct of Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, despite all these qualities he in his personal capacity would not be able to derail or enhance the relationship should the Government of Pakistan desire improvement of ties with India or vice versa. That would be giving him credit far beyond his capabilities. Improvement of relations with Pakistan, are not incumbent on who occupies the office of Foreign Minister in Pakistan.

It would be a fallacy to believe that Kashmir issue has not already been internationalized; it was so done when India took the matter to UN. The resolution if any is to be arrived at on a bilateral basis and not through the intervention or mediation by a third party. It would be far more prudent to look within, rather than look at Pakistan or the personality of the person that we would engage with from Pakistan.

We are guilty of oscillating from one extreme to the other. Either we are thumping are our chests ventilating fire and brimstone or it is all mushy mushy stuff. In all these years we have not developed a pragmatic Pakistan policy. While Pakistan has a very clear and defined policy which is conclusion of 1947 add to that the humiliation of 1971.

We have had our opportunities which were unfortunately frittered away, 1971 is a prime example. This can only be explained by our ambivalence, that is big brother approach, time will heal the wounds or sheer romanticism exemplified by Mr. I.K Gujral and others who held candle light vigils at the Wagha border. We have failed to factor in the realities of what drives Pakistan to base its relation with us. Being unaware would be excusable; ignoring those is the cardinal sin that we have committed.

Militancy unleashed in Kashmir in 1989 onwards was another manifestation of its desire to wrest Kashmir, this was successfully thwarted by our brave soldiers, here again it was treated in isolation and not included in the bigger picture. Events of November 26th 2008 is a paradigm shift, which begged a very robust reaction from India, we let ourselves down as always. Undoubtedly this was under tremendous pressure exerted by USA. The response of our government to events of 26/11 has established for all times to come that we are a meek and a weak nation. The utterance for domestic consumption may have been belligerent yet they lacked conviction and large portions of the civil society resigned itself to the fact that no retribution was on the cards.

The incumbent Prime Minister has not helped matters either by his formulations.

1. Boundaries cannot be redrawn……….But they been done in Europe what makes us so unique? That it cannot be implemented in our region.

2. Talks are the only way forward……….This is perhaps the most disingenuous statement, not talking is also an option and it should be exercised.

3. India cannot achieve superpower status or our growth is being hampered by an unstable relationship with Pakistan. This effectively makes us hostage to Pakistan and this is not a reality. India has made tremendous progress despite a hostile environment that envelopes our region.

The above three points actually feed the aggressive instinct of our neighbour who is acting more like the common street corner bully than a mature nation seeking to co-exist. We cannot be burdening ourselves unnecessarily with responsibility of improving relations with an intransigent Pakistan.

It is time to devise a definite policy for conducting our relations with Pakistan, we need to first address the issue of terrorism and the areas of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan. We cannot be legitimizing its role in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Should we fail to deal with this situation now, the consequences and the attendant costs at a later date may prove to be exorbitant.

We have failed to appreciate the urgent need to resolve the Kashmir issue internally, the longer we take to conclude this amongst ourselves greater are the chances of Pakistan meddling and provoking the locals leading to repeating the events of the past three months. Kashmir is an internal matter and Pakistan has no role what so ever. India needs to be assertive if not aggressive.