We are making fools of ourselves like some nanny state asking hardened generals to brush their teeth before going to bed.

Indo-Pak fencing at UNGA Adverbs Adjectives Invective and Absurdity
Voices Opinion Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 18:49

The country that matters as much if not more than the United States (US) in this particular case among the P5 is China. And China stands firmly behind Pakistan. Also, post Uri, none of the P5 – France, US, United Kingdom, Russia and China – has stated that they unequivocally stand behind India come hell or high water.  All of them have however condemned the attack but stopped far short of cutting aid to Pakistan. China is muted, very muted. India is spending too much time and energy thinking what Pakistan is thinking, thus wasting precious resources and goodwill. How many times does the world's largest democracy where over 800 million people renew their lawmakers every five years need international assurances that it is not wrong in calling Pakistan a country that exports terror? Kashmir is Pakistan's meal-ticket - that too is well known. 

The only interest in foreign policy is self-interest. All self-respecting countries couch that in many ways but when push comes to shove, that’s what it is and should be. Economic and military strength or both are major factors in statecraft.  Pakistan has neither but its use is the abuse - military and otherwise - it can hurl at India. I am not qualified to comment on any military options whatever their level and intensity. So when I hear of diplomatic, economic and military options as a package India must mount against Islamabad, I am taken aback as their strike rates are diverse and different. Embargoes have never worked. They have encouraged black markets as the most recent one against Russia following the Crimean crisis showed. Almost all of Europe and some in North America opened alternate routes. The most scandalous one was the oil-for-food swindle during the Gulf War which was overseen by the United Nations (UN). Business will always find ways, legal and illegal to work around government rules.  

The ‘excitement’ over calling Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a liar is like taking coal to Newcastle. Indian news networks and opinion-makers have emptied the dictionary in search of words to describe his speech yesterday at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) as if life depended on it. Even a cursory look at the India-Pakistan debates at the UN (whether they be at the headquarters in New York or at the European headquarters in Geneva) reveal a tedious pattern, so old and rickety now, that it groans under the weight of absurdity. Let us stop this ‘India hits out’, ‘India slams’, ‘India shames’ language which does us no favour. It is a bad idea to become victims of what may be called India’s ‘Davos Syndrome’ – the peculiar Indian assumption that everyone is talking and thinking about India each waking hour.

For decades, the rinse-repeat scenario is this. Pakistan sends terrorists across the border, India condemns the actions, holds up evidence of men and materials from Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (POK), both countries exchange dossiers and high officials, recall diplomats, summon ambassadors, by this time the UN assemblies come around and we in the media raise the pitch about ‘exposing’ Islamabad’s double-speak at the world forum. Having reported from the UN in Geneva for over a decade, I’ve done this too - it made good copy in the days of faxes and teleprinters. The next generation has brought newer terms and better technology without any change in the root cause. Announcing now that India has managed to isolate Pakistan diplomatically is to have a poor reading of political history and economic interests.

Pakistan is able to do what it has been for decades in POK because it has backing from Beijing and Washington and their satellites. The snub on Wednesday when Nawaz Sharif could not meet President Barack Obama was just that – a snub. Other leaders telling Pakistan to stop terrorism is old hat and time-pass remarks. If the US stops military aid (not embargo) to Pakistan and declares it a terrorist state, then we are talking. Till then, let us stop this slamming, shaming language as it reduces the world’s largest democracy to the level of a clumsy but terrifying dictatorship which cannot live in peace with most of its neighbours. Besides, the UN has not solved a single problem in the world, be it wars, disease control, poverty reduction or even agreeing on what is the most basic of rights – human rights. All this to say that India will have to solve the Kashmir issue on its own, like a mature nation with or without the help of any other country but with hindrance from a few. 

The most unsettling of offers among the recent ones from New Delhi, also reported in the media, is to give Pakistan DNA samples of terrorists who crossed over to the Indian side. This assumes that such a database exists on the other side. Worse, it assumes that even if one were to exist, New Delhi would take Islamabad’s word for it. Do terrorists give a saliva swab before they are sent off to India? How many people do you know who have stored their DNA samples? This is beyond absurd and we are making fools of ourselves like some nanny state asking hardened generals to brush their teeth before going to bed. This is not the first time – all governments in Delhi have made these offers which must at the very best tickle Pakistan’s blood-thirsty army establishment. 

India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj will be speaking at the UNGA next week. The world is not waiting with bated breath to hear her and that may not be such a bad thing. In the aftermath of Uri, it would be impossible for her to not speak about Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. But other ways must be found to place Pakistan into diplomatic oblivion where the only time the world hears of it is when it has engineered another act of terror. The Baloch overture is one such discourse-altering initiative. There are other initiatives that India has launched. The focus needs to shift there because beyond a point India cannot influence what other countries want to do with Pakistan. We can chart a new course by playing up our assets which includes potentially the world’s largest free market, for example. If India were to start speaking about market access and responsible trade at every international forum and not just at trade meets, we would be talking as a global leader, not a whiner. Harsh words maybe, but who said geopolitics was easy.


(Note: The views expressed in the article are the personal opinions of the author.)