India’s Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh in his second avatar is seized by one singular mission, “speed”. He has enjoined his ministerial colleagues to perform or perish in the next 100 days, forgetting that actually this will boil down to only 70 given that Indian babus work only 5 days a week.
His own pace was evident in the speed diplomacy that he conducted at the Russian town of Yekaterinburg during the recent BRIC-SCO summits. In less than 48 hours, Man Mohan had separately met President Hu Jintao of China, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, President Zardari of Pakistan and President Medvedev of Russia apart from attending the two Summits.
The meeting with President Zardari of course invited maximum comment. They met for about 40 min most of it alone confirmed the Foreign Secretary to the media. The Prime Minister had perhaps set the agenda prior to the meet when in front of the media he said that he wished to see how Pakistan could fulfill its assurance that Pakistani territory is not used for terrorist attacks on India as such an assurance has been given several times.
The Indian Foreign Secretary indicated that Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Zardari had a detailed discussion where they reviewed India - Pakistan relations. The Foreign Secretary said, “Prime Minister conveyed to President Zardari full extent of our expectation that the Government of Pakistan takes strong and effective action to prevent the use of Pakistani territory for terrorists attack on India. That it acts against the perpetrators of the past attacks and it dismantles the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan. The President of Pakistan explained to Prime Minister some of Pakistan's efforts to deal with it in this manner and also explained the problems that they faced in this regard.”
The Prime Minister indicated separately that Pakistan is dealing with the Taliban at different levels thus, “I explained to him (Mr Zardari) that whereas Pakistan has now taken effective action against Taliban and Al Qaeda, we have a feeling that those elements who are actively engaged in perpetrating terrorists acts in our country, they are not being brought to justice”. Thus this perception of New Delhi may have been highlighted by Mr Manmohan Singh to Mr Zardari.
The agenda for the meeting of the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries would be focused on terrorism which will be discussed before a meeting of the two leaders at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, on the sidelines of the NAM meeting in the mid of July. However thereafter mixed signals are coming from Pakistan as the attendance at Sharm-el-Sheikh has since been downgraded from the President to the Prime Minister, while Mr Gillani himself denied that he will attend the NAM meet.
The occasion of the BRIC and SCO was also utilized by the Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese President Hu Jintao for a bilateral meeting to discuss Sino Indian relations. The two leaders stressed on sustaining the strategic and cooperative partnership. An early meeting of the Joint Economic Group led by the Commerce Ministers of both sides is likely to be scheduled. The gains made in defence cooperation leading to building of trust between the armed forces were also discussed. Indian foreign secretary stressed on emerging convergence between India and China thus, “On a number of global issues we share common concerns and aspirations such as the creation of a new global architecture, climate change, strategies which support development in other words sustainable development and the new global financial order”.
On the Sino Indian boundary issue it was decided that Special Representatives should meet on 7th - 8th August in India. The Indian President will be visiting China and high level visits from China are also expected to India. The Foreign Secretary emphasized that there is effective coordination in the G 20 with China, “We coordinate very carefully. We also discuss in some detail in BRIC. The Finance Ministers meet before every round of G20 Meeting and we have coordinated that in some detail among ourselves. We have a separate channel to do that”.
Dr Manmohan Singh who is extremely time conscious did not attend the SCO summits earlier as he did not want to have coffee outside as leaders of member states confabulated would indeed be satisfied with the intense quality interaction he had this time around with the SCO and BRIC leaders in a Summit that lasted less than two days. It would have indeed been a fulfilling experience for the Prime Minister of India who conveyed his concerns of terrorism in blunt terms to President Zardari raising a storm in Islamabad. It is obvious that a new and confident Dr Manmohan Singh will lead Indian foreign policy in the years ahead.
We have to pity his ministers and their secretaries who will have to do catch up with the Prime Minister in the days ahead; the good old advice of burning midnight oil is solicited for Man Mohan also taught at Oxford.