Some years ago there was considerable talk about the emergence of a Shining India. What the nation has been reduced to instead is a Whining India. Nothing brings this out more painfully than the current reaction to the death of Sarabjit Singh in Pakistan jail custody. There is national outrage. The details attending this tragic event are too fresh in mind to bear repetition. New Delhi’s impotence and Islamabad’s callous contempt have inflamed public opinion.
But can India only whine?
India has already lost precious time. The moment to act is now. The government shows neither enough daring to make peace, nor enough courage to break talks. The government prefers to drift.
Never mind the government, even opposition leaders and media pundits have done little more than splutter in rage or bluster impotently. Critics demand strong action, the use of an iron hand, and so on. Not one politician or media channel spells out in clear terms what needs to be done to deal with Pakistan. Bluster without specified action amounts to whining.
After Pakistani troops beheaded two Indian soldiers on the Indian side of the border, I advocated adopting the hard option against Pakistan unless Islamabad immediately agreed in principle to confederating with India by accepting Indo-Pak joint defence as former President Ayub Khan had once proposed. I have been proposing the hard option for years. I believe that the artificially created and unnatural state of Pakistan can be made to implode through diplomatic moves without firing a shot.
At the start of January this year I wrote:
“The hard option will consist of breaking all cultural and trade ties with Pakistan, cut our diplomatic contacts to the barest minimum, and reduce our embassy in Islamabad to virtually an empty building… China may be left free to prop up a crumbling Pakistan. Meanwhile, India should respect the wishes of the people of Baluchistan who have sought independence ever since the Khan of Kalat demanded it from Mohammed Ali Jinnah… India should oppose the US and recognize Afghan claims on the Durand Line Treaty which lapsed in 1993, by which much of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province would revert to Afghanistan and thereby unite the Pashtun tribes across the present Afghan-Pakistan border. All Afghans ranging from President, Hamid Karzai to the Taliban are united on this issue… If India were to pursue the hard option … it would merely have to secure its borders firmly against a potential Sino-Pak axis, which it has had to do for years now. With such a break between India and Pakistan , China … would be driven to choose between Pakistan and India, which provides a substantial export market to Beijing. How will Beijing tilt?”
I have no doubt that a substantial section of Pakistan welcomes close and cordial relations with India. Equally I have no doubt that a powerful foreign directed fifth column has penetrated the commanding heights of the Pakistan establishment and at the same time indoctrinated a critical mass of the lumpen element to hold sane sections hostage through terror. The problem is that the sane sections cannot muster the will and daring to confront the fifth column. India has been bleeding through cross border terrorism for decades. Whatever sympathy it may have for the peace seeking sections of Pakistan’s civil society India cannot afford to wait any longer. That is why this writer has been repeatedly urging the government to make or break the peace dialogue with Pakistan by first offering the soft option of joint defence leading to a South Asian Union, failing which the hard option should be adopted. Making a formal offer of joint defence is necessary for offering the pro-democracy elements in Pakistan an opportunity to act. I am hopeful that if India gave an ultimatum for peace, the response from Pakistan would be positive. And India-Pakistan partnership would give South Asia global relevance.
The time to act for India is propitious. China is for the first time genuinely facing rising militancy in its Xingjian province. The peace pact that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) made with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in the 1990s to set up the telecom system in Taliban ruled Afghanistan in exchange for non-interference in Xingjian collapsed after Beijing armed the Shiite militants of energy rich Iran. The Sunnis of Pakistan reacted by targeting Chinese in their nation leading to the Lal Masjid crackdown. Subsequently militancy in Xingjian is no more a spurious propaganda ploy by Beijing to befool the world but a reality. In other words, Beijing may well be in a mood to reappraise its relations with Pakistan for its own security.
Whether it is Chinese encroachments in Ladakh or Pakistan’s brutality with Sarabjit Singh, the time has come for India to take the initiative for attempting a final settlement with both troublesome neighbours. If either or both neighbours do not respond positively New Delhi has a hard diplomatic option to fall back upon.
India has already lost precious time. The moment to act is now. The government shows neither enough daring to make peace, nor enough courage to break talks. The government prefers to drift. And the drift is continuously downward.