Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Lesser Devil 5

Pakistan and Foreign Affairs

Long time due, worth the effort.

It is generally implied that much of India's Foreign Affairs revolve around Pakistan and the Kashmir issue. Let me examine the NDA's record vis-a-vis Pakistan. In February 1999, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India, went to Pakistan, amidst much fanfare and symbolism, on board the then newly-introduced bus service between India and Pakistan. And then, Kargil happened.

Pakistan-supported militants infiltrated into India and occupied the peaks of Kargil. We lost the lives of 527 soldiers in the subsequent military operations to drive out the invaders. What happened then, was a sheer travesty of humanity. The NDA politicized the Kargil incursions and the subsequent conflict to win the 1999 general elections. What probably was a military operation to counter a humiliating invasion by Pakistani army irregulars and militants was blatantly glossed up into a victory over Pakistan. In the aftermath of Kargil, ties with Pakistan were severed for almost a year.

Meanwhile a coup helped the military regain power in Pakistan. General Musharraf was now in command. Worse, India followed a blow hot - blow cold policy instead of engaging the General in full earnest. The relations reached a ground digging low in the period after the Parliament attack. Instead of overhauling the intelligence infrastructure, the Government resorted to yet another nationalism-inspired facade - mobilization of our army! To what end, nobody knows.

Neither did India invade nor did it send its troops across the LoC to strike at terrorist camps.
In 2003, Prime Minister Vajpayee blew the peace bugle yet again and called for a summit. The Agra summit, that consequently happened, resulted in nothing substantial. Apart from a routemap for frequent meetings between officials, nothing substantial resulted.

Compare this with the present Government. It has not flinched once from its politically mature stand of peace with Pakistan. In fact, it was mature enough to continue with the Vajpayee initiated ceasefire (Nov 2003), fully cognitive that BJP could walk away with the credit. Consistency in our interactions with Pakistan has been lauded by the international community as the factor contributing most to the resilience of South Asia, economically and politically. The slew of confidence building measures undertaken with Pakistan has paved the way for greater trade and people to people contact. It has regenerated the hope for an unified South Asia, with its two biggest nations showing the way.

Foreign Affairs has been in the limelight for most of the UPA's tenure. If not Pakistan, then China. If not China, then the USA. Our engagements with the Chinese have been fruitful, if one measures in terms of bilateral trade. The most significant of them was the no-decision to move a motion against the safeguards agreement in the IAEA meeting on Friday (China abstained). India walked away with most of the goodies in the Indo-US nuclear deal (controversial, will deal with it in another post). People in the US cried foul over the exceptions made for India vis-a-vis nuclear technology. Our relationship with Russia continues to travel north. (The Gorshkov issue was a business issue and nothing more. Russia mis-estimated the costs involved in retrofitting the carrier and therefore, charged more. India was reluctant to part with the extra money.) Iran has re-affirmed its commitment towards sharing a cordial relationship with India despite all the hullaboo raised over our supping with George Bush.

The UPA Government has been seasoned in its external affairs policies and decisions. The world is welcoming India with both hands. But will the opposition understand? I do not think so.

Internal Security is up next.

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