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Indians should stop pining for a single-minded strategic culture, look where that got Pakistan
Indian ex-foreign minister Jaswant Singh, in his latest insightful book India at Risk (2014), laments that “ersatz pacifist” Nehru didn’t fight China properly in 1962 “and security got relegated to a much lower priority”. As a consequence, “independent India simply abandoned the centrality of strategic culture as the first ingredient of vigorous and bold national policies.”
Let’s accept that Nehru didn’t fight properly, but has that hurt India? Pakistan fought India “properly” and has got badly hurt. There was something right about Nehru and his pacifism; there was something wrong about Pakistan’s militarism.
Pakistan fought India and gave its people the “strategic culture” Singh wanted for India under Nehru. Obsessed with “strategy”, Pakistanis are still not able to start trading with India to improve their lives. Singh should recall his former BJP colleague, Yashwant Sinha, who actually told Pakistan in 2003 that by not being “revisionist” towards China, India had benefited economically through trade. He had said: “I hope our western neighbour [Pakistan] will not keep its eyes for ever shut to this truth.”
Nehru was probably right in not fighting China. And the smaller leaders that followed him were right to not let India become “revisionist”, for ever locked in conflict like Pakistan while the economy went belly-up. India has had its defeats and there are thinking men like Singh who compel India to meditate on them. Does Pakistan have the same capacity to review its defeats?
Some say Pakistan can’t take stock because the wars it fought were inconclusive and the “fall of Dhaka” was blamed on India and therefore not analysed. One reason for that was the extremely negative third-party analyses, like the recent book, The Blood Telegram. The textbook therefore still sacralises revisionism, pledging exegesis of even the future defeats as victories. Except that an army officer, whom I have quoted in an earlier article on East Pakistan, the late Major General Hakeem Arshad Qureshi, disagreed with the textbooks in his book titled The 1971 Indo-Pak War: A Soldier’s Narrative (2002).
Qureshi indicted the military rulers of Pakistan for handing down a flawed strategic explanation of why East Pakistan was not normally defended. He stated two facts that Pakistan ignored to its cost: East Pakistan lacked a strategy of credible defence; and Pakistan fought its wars half-cocked because it lacked a resource base needed for a coffer-destroying war. (Pakistan used to celebrate the 1965 “victory”, but has stopped after some generals wrote books to dismantle its triumphal spin.)
The blunder of 1965 was repeated in 1971 and 1999. Qureshi acknowledges that “defence is a superior operation of war played out on familiar turf”; on the other hand, “revisionist” offensive action is a “leap in the unknown”.
It is obvious that if the status quo is not continued…