With Smart Diplomacy and Smarter Politics
The country that the world had, at best, learnt to live with, and at worst, expected only poverty, superstition and illiteracy from, India, has surprised even its most virulent critics in the past decade. While its contribution to the world's technological progress both in quality and quantity is, to put it modestly, remarkable, in other areas, too, it hasn't been found wanting. That India has bred exceptional scientists, doctors, engineers, thinkers, writers, sportsmen, artists, is no secret; that we offer a range and depth in these areas even an ostrich would find it difficult to ignore. And yet much needs to be done.
India needs to take confident strides forward to join the top ten nations of the world. Unlike other nations, however, India has the baggage of its spiritual traditions and roots to keep it in check so that its progress does not exact a price in another area of life. It must embrace the future but bow to the past, in the challenging times of the present.
While many might scoff at the astrological forecast putting India on the global center-stage by the year 2011, one does not need an astrologer to predict India's increasing importance in global affairs.
Important Task ...
One of the important tasks before India is to secure a permanent seat in the expanded United Nations Security Council. And if indications are anything to go by, efforts in this direction are soon to bear fruit. Of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, we have already received the clear approval and support of France, Russia and the UK. The USA is positively inclined; the last hurdle is China. India needs to persuade it to see that China cannot represent all of Asia's concerns especially since India has a democratic population of one billion plus.
One of the important tasks before India is to secure a permanent seat in the expanded United Nations Security Council. And if indications are anything to go by, efforts in this direction are soon to bear fruit. Of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, we have already received the clear approval and support of France, Russia and the UK. The USA is positively inclined; the last hurdle is China. India needs to persuade it to see that China cannot represent all of Asia's concerns especially since India has a democratic population of one billion plus. While China would be loath to share its privileged position with a less powerful India, it is not a formidable task for our diplomatic and political leaders to achieve it. The successful recent visit of the Chinese Prime Minister to India ended with promises of better co-operation between the two major powers of Asia. It is easier to convince China today that it has ever been in the last fifty years. This is only because, like India, China is seriously inclined towards economic progress. It's a matter of time before Indian strategists and diplomats succeed in breaking down China's resistance. Brahma Chellaney in his piece in the Washington News of the 5th of February 2002, commented on China's unhappiness with the new closeness between the US and India. While he could well be right, he is overlooking the fact that China is also mature enough to remember its own Most Favored Nation (MFN) status with the USA. That ought to leave them no doubts whatsoever. India may be the new kid on the US block but it would take years for India to threaten China's position. Having said that, India must still attempt to reassure China in this area by spelling it out gently. It must hear of India's singular commitment to economic growth. Sitting at the Number Two slot in Asia is, for India, not an act not of goodwill but of pragmatic clear-headedness.
India needs to evolve into a non-interfering ally of China. It would help if at this time we don't hear gaffes such as the post-Pokhran one from the well-meaning but politically naive George Fernandes. Such off-the-cuff remarks damage any possibilities India may have for better relations with China. Diplomacy must be used to project India as a no-nonsense, tech-savvy nation of one billion people on the move.
Happily, Japan and Germany, the other two contenders for the sixth seat at the expanded Security Council have not made serious efforts to secure the seat as India has; India's diplomatic campaign has been focused and relentless. Once China's approval is gained, the seat is ours. Pakistan might continue protesting India's inclusion but more on Pakistan later.
One risks being barbecued for this by the Sangh Parivar on this issue, but if the securing of the seat even requires India to concede a part of Kashmir in exchange, India should consider the exchange seriously. The Permanent Seat at the SC will change the perception of the world; India's words will carry weight, its actions will move mountains. No longer will the two nations, India and Pakistan, be equated in people's minds.
On the issue of Pakistan I am reminded of something I heard a year ago on television. A Pakistani official remarked smugly to an Indian journalist, 'You can do whatever you please but you can't do one thing: you can't take us out of your neighborhood!' It struck me then that Pakistan is not unhappy to have us near them, on the contrary our nearness is a source of great joy to Pakistan. This is not because it shares good feelings of brotherhood with Indians, but, on the contrary, proximity to India helps it in damaging India day by day, month by month, year by year. It was only then that I understood that, 'Bleed India!' is not an Islamic agenda but a Pakistani one.
Its various covert and overt attempts to de-stabilize India, its attempts to block India's progress because it cannot succeed, are reminiscent of spoilt-brat behavior. One brother is studying while the other one is doing his best to prevent him from doing so. He is making so much noise in their shared room that the studious one drops his books and spends his energies in stopping the brat. Because of this he will be an unexceptional student and that is exactly what the brat wants. He does not want him to excel in the exams because he himself has done nothing to prevent failing in the exams.
However, Pakistan is not entirely to blame for the situation. For a long time, it served the US well to inflate the Pakistani balloon beyond its natural capacity in order to contain and counter Russia. Having dismantled the USSR, the USA became indifferent and cold to Pakistani concerns. The popularity of the madrasas and the mullahs are rooted in this very argument: bitter with the US betrayal, the Pakistanis turned to their own identities and found answers within Islam that would unite and keep them from getting despondent. War-cries energized them. While this kept self-analysis and despair out, it became second nature by the time September 11, 2001 happened. It was already too late. Frankenstein's monster was threatening to devour him!
The USA deluded, inflated and abandoned Pakistan. Pakistan became a victim of its own delusions. It could not face the harsh truth that it had been a mere puppet in US hands. Today this is on the wane but it still remains; it still flexes its muscles to India while it seems to ignore the begging-bowl in its other hand.
Only self-delusion rooted in false vanity can make Pakistan imagine that it can take on the Indian giant and succeed. True, it might meet with limited success in a hijack here or a bomb-blast there. True, these events also make for great press coverage. But all these only give the flu to India, not cancer.
While General Musharraf has understood these realities well enough, he is still hemmed in by pulls and pushes from various factions within his own army that have, for long, been closely linked with the ISI. Since the raison d'etre of the ISI has always been to 'destroy India' the real difficulty of the self-appointed President is to deal with these elements and root them out once and for all.
Pakistan should be thankful to General Musharraf for having rescued it from the venality of the political leadership that both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto symbolized. Whatever one may accuse the ex-General of, his integrity, honesty and sincerity to move Pakistan forward are all beyond question. Setting aside concerns about democracy for a moment, he is the best thing to have happened to Pakistan. A media-savvy leader with a vision, with seriousness of purpose, with honesty and decisiveness as his strongest points, a diplomat par excellence, he is exactly what the doctor ordered. India must seize the moment and try to understand Musharraf, the individual. Because it really boils down to this: Pakistan suffers from an inferiority complex. And the President recognizes this. India must harness his clear perception of the ground realities and veer him around to trust it. Once again India must appear to be part of the Pakistani solution to its economic problems, it must offer creative answers for its deprivation and confusion. It must facilitate Pakistani progress and not put hurdles in its path.
We are dealing with a new Pakistan. The leader is the nation, in this case. The General is a man of clear thoughts accompanied by goodwill. His visit to Mahatma Gandhi's memorial speaks volumes for his daring and bold initiatives. To my mind, it is time for India to accept a mediator in the Kashmir issue. If the US appears too much of a biased party we could agree to Russia. Let Pakistan refuse. The international community will then view India kindly. It is also time for India to not only BE in the right, but be PERCEIVED to be in the right. In this day and age of live television coverage, perception is king. India needs to stop using its clipped British accent and start shooting from the shoulder.
Also, India needs to urgently re-think its strategy on Kashmir. Accept a mediator and name Putin. Let Pakistan take it from there. We are open for business, our words and deeds must say. We are willing to negotiate, we are reasonable and fair. This should be our stand.
The reason for India to be in a compromising, negotiating mood is not far to find. It is difficult to create, easy to destroy a city, a region. India wants to grow and get out of its difficulties. The last thing both India and Pakistan need today is war. In the Frontier Post of Peshawar of Feb 02, 2002, the journalist Muhammad Ahsan Yatu says '
'Out of the nine billion dollar exports, cotton contributes six billion. So we are basically a one-commodity economy, and the commodity in question is not as precious as energy'.an indigenous base for knowledge and technology is a necessity'.The first step should be an educational revolution. We have neither the institutions, nor the teachers, nor the students available neither in number nor in quantity'.China reached the present stage only after it made the economy a priority. It reduced its defence spending to one percent of the GDP, and the saved money was invested in infrastructure, including education. The Indians too did the same. Their average expenditure on defence since 1947 comes to less than two percent of the GDP. Our average is around seven percent. They are presently spending about 2.6 percent which can be reduced anytime'. The issue is how do we come out of this economic chaos'. To do the magic the President.. can at least define a positive direction for this nation. Elimination of religious extremism, devolution, and structural changes in national and provincial politics are experiments that will only be perceived as yielding desired results when the economy is out of depression. That will not be possible unless there is a lot of internal and external investment. The instant remedy that can generate an investment-friendly environment is peace at the borders. What is required of the President is take a bold step. Peace with India would cure most of our ills. He must struggle to achieve it, through dialogue or through diplomacy or through reconsideration of the existing policies.'
It could not have been better analyzed. And for similar concerns, India, too, needs to give warmongering and the rhetoric a rest. It is time for a secret agreement to be made between Vajpayee and Musharraf; an agreement that would reduce the tensions, stop the hate-rhetoric, halt everything else so that their economies might become stronger. Musharraf is the right man to do it on behalf of Pakistan; Vajpayee is the perfect man to do it for for India.