Being a bully

India’s response to the meeting between Pak envoy and Hurriyat is misplaced.

Written by Mani Shankar Aiyar | Updated: August 20, 2014 8:20 am
There was nothing to be gained from making an issue of such a trivial matter. There was nothing to be gained from making an issue of such a trivial matter.

Working out a viable relationship with Pakistan is in India’s vital national interest. But the wholly bogus nature of the Narendra Modi-Nawaz Sharif bonhomie on the occasion of Modi’s republican coronation now stands revealed in all its nakedness. In a childish display of extreme petulance, the India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level talks have been called off. The excuse proffered is that the Pakistan envoy had met with, and was scheduled to meet again with, Kashmiri “separatist” leaders on the eve of the talks. He had been warned after Round I of his interaction with them that if Round II took place, India would spurn dialogue and revert to the two-year-long stand-off.

The excuse is wholly misplaced. The Simla Agreement of 1972 removed Jammu and Kashmir from the international agenda and effectively placed it in the ambit of bilateral discussion and resolution: “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”. The trade-off was simple. India recognised that there were issues relating to J&K that needed to be resolved and Pakistan agreed to secure the resolution of these issues bilaterally instead of in an international forum. In actual fact, India, much more than Pakistan, especially in recent decades, has shied away from bilateral dialogue, while Pakistan has attempted from time to time, but without success, to revert to the UN. But the basic position today continues as it was four decades ago at Simla — India accepts that there is an external dimension to J&K, and Pakistan that dealing with these issues is strictly remitted to the bilateral, not multilateral, sphere of diplomatic interaction.

On the domestic front in India, the principle of “the sky is the limit” has long been instituted for determining the parameters of “autonomy” for J&K; autonomy that must, however, fall short of challenging the integrity of India or the finality of J&K’s accession to India. All else is negotiable. On the external front, it is recognised as legitimate for Pakistan to raise issues relating to “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir”.

It was in pursuance of this legitimacy granted to Pakistan by the Simla Agreement of 1972 that, just under two decades ago, the P.V. Narasimha Rao government recognised the legitimacy of Pakistani envoys and political leaders including Kashmiri “separatists” (under the umbrella of the Hurriyat) in their consultations in preparation for successive phases of the ongoing dialogue process. There has thus been a bipartisan, indeed, multipartisan understanding within India (at least till now) that such interaction falls in a class by itself and so does not constitute a casus belli or even a casus diplomati to break off the bilateral dialogue to which both are pledged.

Had Modi any new objection to this, he was duty-bound to make it clear to Nawaz Sharif when he met him in New Delhi and they discussed the resumption of the dialogue. The Pakistan desk of the ministry of external affairs knows full well that Nawaz Sharif was attacked on his return to Pakistan from New Delhi for his failure to meet with the Hurriyat, as his predecessors had done. This became such a big issue that when I was in Pakistan days later (in the august company of Ved Pratap Vaidik), both formally and informally, this was stressed. Thus, the consequences of warning High Commissioner Abdul Basit against maintaining his scheduled meeting with the “separatists” should have been clear to the meanest intelligence in the MEA. If the meeting with the Hurriyat leaders were called off, the howls of protest in Pakistan would have drowned all attempts at dialogue. There was nothing to be gained from making an issue of such a trivial matter.

I say “trivial” because nothing earth-shattering, either for us or the Pakistanis, has resulted from earlier meetings of the Hurriyat with the Pakistanis, including visits of Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan that we ourselves had permitted. From a Pakistani point of view, meeting the Hurriyat is an excellent way of selling to the Pakistani public the explanation that “Kashmiri” wishes are not being ignored or bypassed in the dialogue process. From the Indian point of view, the “separatists”, who are Indian citizens, whatever their view, are of such significance as to have warranted our “interlocutors” talking to them. What harm, then, can come of Geelani et al letting off steam in Pakistan House — the same steam they let off on a daily basis in the Valley?

Then there is the question of sovereignty. Pakistan may be weaker than India in every respect but there is at least one in which Pakistan is our equal and will remain so, and that is in the dimension of sovereignty. If India as a sovereign country refuses to buckle under Pakistani pressure, it is only natural that Pakistanis will not countenance infringement by India of their sovereignty. That is why the imposition of new conditionalities, flying in the face of precedents, will be seen as infringing on Pakistan’s sovereignty. The parallel being drawn in some quarters with India snubbing Pakistan by talking to Baloch separatists is as misbegotten as it is misplaced, for Balochistan is not an issue between India and Pakistan. We have neither had nor sustain any claims on Balochistan. On Kashmir, the Pakistanis do — and that has been acknowledged by India, even if India is (rightly) adamant that there can be no compromise on its sovereignty over the whole of J&K, as a result of the Instrument of Accession and Article I of the J&K constitution.

Such are the subtleties of diplomacy. They go ill with foreign policy strutting on a 56-inch chest. I am sure the MEA as an institution knows all this but is helpless because all power is being increasingly concentrated in one authoritarian. We stand warned that whimsicality and bullying are going to characterise our relations with Pakistan over the next five years; exactly the kind of whimsicality and bullying that led to the Austro-Hungarian Empire attacking Serbia a hundred years ago, leading to the devastation of the two world wars.

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP from the Congress

express@expressindia.com

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  1. N
    nina
    Aug 20, 2014 at 6:02 pm
    gr8 obsevation....bang on target !
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    1. r
      raj5151235
      Aug 20, 2014 at 10:36 am
      i get a bad feeling when i come across the scoms of India
      Reply
      1. A
        Anonymous
        Aug 21, 2014 at 11:22 am
        Fifth Column in our midst. He should actually feel at home in stan. Poisonous words spouted form there would better received
        Reply
        1. A
          Anonymous
          Aug 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm
          I would have thought mani was an expert bully!
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          1. A
            Anonymous
            Aug 20, 2014 at 6:41 am
            stan will never change . All efforts of the past have just brought us to back to the same spot. the prime minister is right take the approach he has taken. We can not have the fifth column in our midst dictating the same old past ways of diplomacy.. typical mani , I expect him to write an article supporting ISIS with eager antition.
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            1. A
              Anonymous
              Aug 21, 2014 at 11:19 am
              fifth column - He would be at home in stan - perhaps he should move there! There is always some poison in his words
              Reply
              1. L
                Leela
                Aug 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm
                Take heart MSA - you are old enough that you will be spared the devastation to be brought on by the whimsicality and bullying of the Indian Govt. However, the rest of India, especially the youth are perfectly okay with the new direction of diplomacy struting on a 56-inch chest (senior moment - oh, you forgot the chai wallah bit!). This is a refreshing break than the foggy diplomacy of your generation and legacy of the Congress that has let this problem fester for the last 68 years.
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                1. P
                  Paul
                  Aug 20, 2014 at 6:15 pm
                  Mr Aiyar has to differ with Modi no matter what. It does not matter what Modi said or did or will do. Congress/UPA and their lackeys will always make a point out of nothing. I think it is time that they let Modi do and show the world what his capabilities are. By making stupid arguments they are not beneing themselves or the countries.
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                  1. R
                    Rajeev
                    Aug 20, 2014 at 4:19 am
                    I think Mr Mani is being whimsical here. Rather than supporting the PM he will critiscize him just for the sake of politics.(which is strengthning stani postion) . He advocates that leaders be allowed to meet the seperatist to pacify people. Mr Mani your /our job is to protect the rigth of our Indian citizens. By allowing their leaders to meet seperatist is strenghtning the anti - indian forces who have been responsible for killing hundreds of civilians and armed forces. For long indian diplomacy has been pusillanimous and timid. Our diplomatic initiatives need to be bolder which is rightfully done by MODI
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                    1. R
                      Ram
                      Aug 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm
                      The authors is baised and his job is to oppose the govt. whatever it does. New Govt. showed spine and invited PAK to work and improve ties. However, several incidents of firing on border and meeting with Hurriat despite GOI's objection to it shows lack of serious on part of sthan. Talks can proceed only when both the countries are serious. Not just India.
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                      1. A
                        abhishek kumar
                        Aug 21, 2014 at 10:01 am
                        Please do not make a pertext of sensitive indo-pak relationship to criticized or defame your personal political foe whom you detest beyond any limit. The reason or motivation behind it best known to you.no doubt , a stable stan is very important for our country. But their is certain red line any sovereign country must follow in dealing with other sovereign country on contentious issues. This shows the sovereignty of any particular country.
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                        1. V
                          Vijay Singh
                          Aug 21, 2014 at 12:18 am
                          BANG ON!!
                          Reply
                          1. G
                            girish
                            Aug 20, 2014 at 4:57 pm
                            Congress party is THE OWNER of the 'Kashmir problem'. Its been two month since Modi took over. We got to see some action against congress' no action!! SHUT UP Mani, or write sensible and unbiased articles.
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                            1. B
                              Balakrishnan Subramanyam
                              Aug 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm
                              Mani Shankara Aiyer has once again proved that he was a misfit diplomat who had survived because of closeness to Rajeev hi & now trying to sound being pro Sonia & Rahul.His views have never carried any merit worth consideration.stan has always pla dirty with India & that country does not need to be sympathized by any of their supporters in India like Mr Mani Shankara Aiyer. Fortunately there are no Mani Shankar like diplomats in the present set up as otherwise there would have been any number of notes put up for taking soft line approach to stan even after repeated back stabbing by that country.How can any one forget that the root cause of the Kashmir issue was Mr Pandit Nehru who bungled with the matter unilaterally without Cabinet Approval & unilaterally announcing cease Fire embaring the leaders like Sardar Patel & also negating the valiant efforts of the Indian national Army.What better can be expected from any of the Congressmen if any sound advice were to be sought if at all? Mr Mani for God's sake please keep your mouth shut as people very well know what is right & what is not.
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                              1. B
                                bennedose
                                Aug 20, 2014 at 4:16 pm
                                Sophistry Aiyer saab. Sophistry. You say " India accepts that there is an external dimension to J&K, and stan that dealing with these issues is strictly remitted to the bilateral, not multilateral, sphere of diplomatic interaction."An external dimension in a bilateral issue. Pardon me, but what the heck do you mean by that? There is a third, "external" dimension to a bilateral issue? How would that be bilateral then? To me that sounds like snake oil that you are selling to p off your parochial views.
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                                  B.D.SINGH
                                  Aug 20, 2014 at 12:38 pm
                                  With whom should India talk? We talk to Pak Govt. who have no power in external affairs particularly with India. As soon as talk starts, Pak army starts problem on boarder. Once talks are derailed, the tension is over. It is good to wait for the day when Pak Govt. can control army, till then we should only keep vigil. Moreover, if stan army is not in control of Pak Govt. what India can do and what will be result- like Kargil again? If Pak can live without India, what for we are so impatient? USA is talking with Pak for the last 14 years. What US got with these talks and even with a help of millions of dollars to boot. It is needless to talk with Pak till there are multiple power centres like, PM, Army, IIS, Terrorist, LeT and so many.
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                                  1. F
                                    fdsouza
                                    Aug 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm
                                    Mani is not exactly known for intellect. Even after given oppurtunity to learn from Rahul for so many years he has not learnt anything and shows no potential also. Rahul must dismiss him from the party as he brings only disrepute by indulging in anti national activities. People will start to believe wrongly that Rahul is also not intelligent if he continues tolerating people like Mani
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                                    1. R
                                      Rishi
                                      Aug 20, 2014 at 9:17 am
                                      His chaiwala remark on modi helped modi become a PM. Naturally mani shankar would be frustrated.I think India has taken a correct stand. We can always meet when relations improve. 2015 is not too far. We have nothing to gain by suddenly having good relations with stan. Good step by modi
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                                      1. D
                                        Dilip
                                        Aug 21, 2014 at 12:02 am
                                        all this people stan talking is stani agent.Mr,Modi is is right
                                        Reply
                                        1. D
                                          deen
                                          Aug 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm
                                          The author is playing muslim-vote-bank politics ... and needs to understand that peace with stan is not at all possible especially when stan have promised a 1000-year Jihad against India. This molly-coddling of stan by UPA govt has not done any good to India, and therefore this charade needs to stop. There should be no place for terrorists such as Hurriyat in talks between two sovereign countries. Modi has done well to call stan's bluff!
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                                          1. K
                                            Kolsat
                                            Aug 20, 2014 at 11:31 am
                                            Mani Shankar Aiyar has been on the wrong side of many issues. For example it was he who asked that Indian Patriot Veer Savarkar's photo be removed from Andaman jail where Savarkar was held by the British and told Indians he does not respect our freedom fighters. Now that the Congress is defeated he has no platform from where he can sprout his views so he has taken up this issue to achieve some notoriety. In this article he has ridiculed Modiji by commenting on his 56-inch chest which was unnecessary and showed MS Aiyar for what he is a lover of stan.
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