Lessons for MEA
What's wrong with India's Foreign Policy on Kashmir
IMPRESSIONS BY BINOO JOSHI
Something is definitely wrong with the Indian Foreign Policy. It is in a habit of crying over spilt milk. It has made an issue of the Hurriyat Conference leaders of Kashmir meeting with gorgeous Foreign Minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar. True, the leaders or others from Kashmir who met, are technically citizens of India, because all of them are the Indian passport holders and they have traveled abroad at one point or the other. Barring Shabir Shah, all the other rebels or those claiming to be “representing aspirations of the people of Kashmir,” have been meeting with the Indian leaders or the men of the Indian establishment. They have also been meeting Pakistani leadership and establishment. The observers of the two countries know the meaning of the establishment that work on either side of the border. And, the Hurriyat leaders know it better than anyone else.
Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna would have been justified in raising the issue of meeting of the Hurriyat leaders with his Pakistani counterpart, had it been the first meeting of these leaders with the visiting Pakistani dignitaries. Krishna can be exempted. Diplomacy is an art of men with vision and the knowledge of the world affairs and that of their own country. And the Indian foreign policy is direction less, this is to put the things mildly.
Talking tough or talking absent-mindedly is not the diplomacy. There should have been wider objectives at stake while dealing with Pakistan. Either you lead or you befriend neighbours. Wars are option of 20th century, and both Delhi and Islamabad know it very well that it has not resolved the matter.
I am not sure how much knowledge Ms. Khar had about Kashmir but her demenaour and brief talk showed that she was better informed about the affair in Kashmir than her hosts. The tragedy of the Indian foreign policy experts is that their knowledge is confined to the inputs that they gather through officials. They have no cell to monitor the developments and study implications of the internal developments at the international level, leave alone Kashmir.
Hadn’t foreign policy expert known that the Hurriyat leaders would rush to Delhi to meet Hinna Rabbani Khar. If they had, they could have gone an extra mile and invited them over a cup of tea and had separatists declined, their meeting with Ms Khar in itself would have been criticized both back home and in rest of the country. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs, MEA, would have pre-empted many things. But that, perhaps, is not the forte of the MEA.
Leave alone, separatists for a moment, what was the harm in talking to the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, whose knowledge about his state and the foreign affairs is admired even by his critics, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, or for that matter PCC chief Saif-ud-Din Soz, the leader who had made a breakthrough in 2005 and 2006 in arranging the talks between separatists and the Central leadership, including Prime Minister. All these leaders are Kashmiris, and whatever point of view they have, is frankly speaking more realistic. And if the counter argument is that MEA was knowing everything about Kashmir and the view point of Omar, Soz and Mehbooba, then what they did and the way they reacted on Hurriyat-Khar meeting, showed that their knowledge was superficial.
Now a little bit of history, may be MEA overlooked these pages of history.
At the height of the Indo-Pak tensions, when the militancy was at its peak, and Kargil was still fresh in the minds of the people of the country, then President of Pakistan and military dictator Pervez Musharraf was invited to India. Before he flew to Agra, the city of Taj Mahal, for the talks with the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, he held meeting with the Hurriyat leadership. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who later became the bitterest critic of Musharraf, had hailed him as hero of Pakistan and the great sympathizer of Kashmir. Eyebrows were raised and the political rhetoric was used as a reaction, but the talks were still held, though those failed. All that happened in July 2001, when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was in power at the Centre. The government had Omar Abdullah as its minister of state for external affairs.
Four years later, the Hurriyat leadership and JKLF chairman Yasin Malik, were allowed to visit Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Again Shabir Shah didn’t go for he wanted his nationality to be written as “ Kashmiri” on the passport, and Geelani declined to visit because he saw no usefulness in the visit. Those who visited not only visited Pakistan administered Kashmir but also Pakistan. They were treated as VVIPs, flown in special choppers and when they returned they were overloaded with gifts. The government of India did not raise objections. Earlier, that year Musharraf had again met these leaders in New Delhi.
Omar Abdullah and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti also met the Pakistani leaders when they visited Pakistan. There was an outcry in some sections of Pakistan that how come the mainstream leaders have been allowed to touch Pakistani soil. But the matters drowned after a while.
The July 26 episode, too, would be forgotten. But the MEA needs to learn lessons from it. There are doubts.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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