Two recent events highlight the delusional make believe world of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). First, Pakistan announced that the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status would be granted to India. Secondly, China’s Governor of Xingjian province visited India to establish direct trade links between his province and India. Both events understandably generated much cheer in official circles and in the media. The same day developments jolted enthusiasm on both counts.
Pakistan’s decision to grant India MFN status was reportedly cleared by the Pakistan army. But very soon the tune changed. Later Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that normalization of trade between both nations would be established. The reference to MFN status was deleted. The good vibes emanating from the Xingjian Governor’s visit were also marred by the conduct of the Chinese Ambassador to India Mr. Zhang Yan while he was hosting a reception in honour of the Governor’s visit. A reporter’s pointed questioning about Chinese maps that showed J&K and Arunachal Pradesh being outside India provoked the usually affable Ambassador to snap at the journalist: “Shut up!”
Failing to appreciate the underlying reason for the jarring changes on both occasions leads the MEA to make a basically false assumption in its dealing with Pakistan and China. Unless this false assumption is rectified India will continue to drift in its relations with both governments. The Chinese Ambassador betrayed immense tension to snap at the journalist in such undiplomatic fashion. The Pakistan foreign ministry was constrained to dilute its first announcement regarding the MFN status. The two slip ups happened for the same reason. Both China and Pakistan are each following two incompatible agendas while dealing with India.
One agenda in both cases is being pursued by ineffectual civilian governments that is positive and seeks enhanced trade and cultural ties with India. The other opposing agenda is being pursued by the respective armies of both China and Pakistan that seek territorial and hegemonic domination of India. Unless this dichotomy of approach is recognized and addressed effectively by MEA there is no good future for India with either nation. It has repeatedly been pointed out in these columns that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the ultimate decision maker in Beijing and it is pursuing a subversive, hegemonic and adversarial role against India. Only recently has Indian Intelligence agencies started to acknowledge this truth reiterated in these columns for many years.
The same applies to Pakistan where the army and ISI can overrule and dictate policy to the civilian government. The Pakistan army is at present little more than the PLA’s cat’s paw to implement the strategy laid down by China’s generals. It might be noted how far the Pakistan army trained by the British like the Indian army has traveled from the traditions and culture imbibed from the British. Like the PLA Pakistan’s army personnel are dabbling in business and land deals to augment personal financial fortunes and clout. They have adopted the traditional warlord culture of the Chinese army.
If the present trend continues by which India permits dual policies to be pursued by both China and Pakistan, the nation will be a heavy loser. Enhanced trade will tie us down to both nations. It will disable our ability to counter the adverse consequences of the aggressive policies followed by the armies of China and Pakistan. India will end up as much a client state of Beijing as is Pakistan today. Beijing’s stranglehold on the subcontinent would be complete. To end the present dangerous drift MEA must throw a carrot to Pakistan and wield an economic stick before China to end the nefarious designs of both armies.
The carrot for Islamabad would be the offer of a formula on Kashmir that Pakistan cannot refuse. It must visibly obtain the consent of the people of Kashmir and address the core interests of India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. That formula does not bear repetition. It has been written about earlier. Let it suffice to observe that the citizens of Germany and France have more rights when in each other’s country than the citizens in the rest of India presently have in the state of J&K. It might also be noted that if a greater quantum of autonomy would suffice for J&K it would not prevent New Delhi from granting equal autonomy to all the other states of Union. That would entail a review of the way our Constitution is implemented. It would result a change of system without a change in the Constitution. It would also end the special status of Kashmir.
The economic stick to wield before Beijing would be to block all exports from China. Our system could withstand the challenge. It would impose an unbearable strain on China and could induce the army to heed its own civilian government. Ultimately it is up to the civilian governments of both Beijing and Islamabad to prevail over their respective armies. India must dare to pursue policies that strengthen the hands of both civilian governments against their respective armies. If MEA fails to do that and persists with the present drift India could end up as another client state of China.