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Decoding Rift Within Cabinet
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Most politicians pursue petty, personal career options. Most politicians unknowingly serve interests of bigger players. Only a few knowingly further the agendas of powerful global players. In the aftermath of the recent Indo-Pak foreign ministers meeting which ended as a fiasco I wrote on July 18th: “India is continuing with a fruitless dialogue in order not to displease America. Pakistan is wrecking talks to please China. Both governments behave like pawns on the Sino-US chessboard.” Transnational pawns are not divided because they merely belong to different nations. Often opposing pawns serve their masters knowingly or unknowingly even within the same government. Let us see if this applies to India. Let us see if the current confusion within the UPA regarding the Indo-Pak dialogue can be decoded on this premise. Consider some stray facts. Connect the dots. Then see if a picture emerges.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on April 27th this year that Dr Manmohan Singh was interested to continue the dialogues process with Pakistan but the Congress party was coming in the way. In the Congress who else but Sonia Gandhi matters? For a minister to publicly comment thus on the alleged internal differences within a foreign government was most unusual. Around the same time Mr Hamid Mir, a well connected Pakistani journalist, claimed on an Indian TV channel that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured Prime Minister Gilani in a private conversation that he would become powerful after July after which he could play an effective role!
On the eve of Foreign Minister Krishna’s departure for Islamabad to talk with his Pakistan counterpart India’s Home Secretary appeared in a hastily improvised dialogue exchange with one newspaper during which he made his observations regarding Headley’s disclosures and Pakistan government’s complicity in terrorism. From all appearances he enacted a command performance. Given the official’s reputation for sobriety and rectitude it is most unlikely that he could have spoken without the Home Minister’s prompting.
Despite Pakistan Foreign Minister SM Qureshi’s wrecking performance in Islamabad after the talks ended Foreign Minister Krishna had little to say about it. Instead on his return he criticized India’s Home Secretary for the bad timing of his statement before talks.
American sources implicitly criticized Indian authorities for going public on the contents of the Headley disclosures which were meant to be confidential.
Now let us see if dots can be connected and the rift decoded to provide a rationale for cabinet ministers pulling in different directions. The PM has staked his reputation on achieving a breakthrough in the Indo-Pak peace process. The US has vested interest in the success of these talks because of its commitment to withdraw from Afghanistan. The PM is seen as an instrument of the US agenda. Therefore it may be reasonably inferred that the PM and Krishna serve American interests by persisting with the peace process despite Islamabad’s provocations.
What about Home Minister Chidambaram?
During the recent revival of the Telangana demand it became transparent that he was acting solely as the hatchet man for Mrs Sonia Gandhi who had blundered in dealing with Jagan Mohan Reddy after the death of his father. Mrs Gandhi’s revival of the Telangana demand in an effort to contain the young Reddy badly misfired. Chidambaram as a loyalist did all he could to retrieve the situation even if that meant he personally became the target of criticism. From where does Chidambaram draw strength to thwart the PM by impeding the Indo-Pak dialogue? Given recent Telangana events it is reasonable to infer that his strength derives from 10 Jan Path.
The PM is popularly perceived as America’s man in India.
What about Mrs Sonia Gandhi?
Is it without significance that neither the Indian President nor the Prime Minister was even invited to the Beijing Olympics but Mrs Gandhi alone with her family was given the place of honour? Is it without significance that Mrs Gandhi’s children have periodically visited Hong Kong from where they were whisked away as tourists across China by the Chinese government?
To conclude, America wants the Indo-Pak peace process to continue. China would like Indo-Pak discord to continue. Both nations have their conduits inside Pakistan. In India Dr Manmohan Singh and SM Krishna would like to persist with the dialogue. Sonia Gandhi and Chidambaram may not be sorry to end it. The first furthers the interests of the US. The latter aids the interests of China. Are both sides willing pawns or manipulated dupes? It does not matter. What matters is that neither side serves the interests of India. Neither side dares to explore innovative policies to resolve the Kashmir dispute which Pakistan insists is the core issue. Alternatively neither side dares a diplomatic break with Pakistan.
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