Saturday, August 20, 2016

All Indian PMs Think They Will Drive A Change With Pakistan

Circumstances have forced the government to change its policy towards Pakistan. The elements of the new policy appear to be:

1. That India regards cross border terrorism specially in J&K as the central issue between the two countries.

2. That discussion on this central issue should precede discussion on any other issue.

3. That in future India will raise the issue of the illegal occupation by Pakistan of PoK and Gilgit and Baltistan as this is the only remaining issue in the 'final settlement' of the issue of J&K, and

4. That India will now openly raise the issue of violation of human rights in Baluchistan in global fora.

To this I would add the issue of the illegal transfer by Pakistan of the large chunk of the territory of the Riyasat of J&K to China and which China has gladly and wrongly occupied.

The new approach of the government has already come under criticism by the peaceniks in India. Some are pointing out that this is a departure from the earlier stand of the BJP, which had criticized Manmohan Singh for including a reference to Balochistan in the infamous Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement. This accusation is clearly misplaced. I was in the forefront of the attack on the then government on this issue and it was I who had famously said in Lok Sabha that even all the waters of the seven seas would not be able to wash this stain. Why had I said this? I had said it because implicit in the reference to Balochistan was the fact that India was somehow involved in creating mischief in Balochistan and Pakistan could raise this issue in bilateral talks. It is not the same thing as India raising the issue of human rights violations by Pakistan in Balochistan.

I have been critical of the Prime Minister in the past for his Pakistan policy. But on this occasion, I would applaud him for this change in India's policy towards Pakistan. But I wish to raise another point. Is it necessary for every Indian Prime Minister to reinvent the wheel? And is it necessary for us Indians to celebrate every time an Indian Prime Minister makes a move towards Pakistan, whether out of cordiality or out of hostility?

Remember how enthusiastically we had celebrated when our Prime Minister decided to suddenly visit Lahore on his way back from Kabul in December last year? When he embraced Nawaz Sharif, it seemed as if he was embracing a long-lost friend and brother. We had imagined that once again we were on the verge of history, once again an Indian Prime Minister had shown the world how different we are. It was a masterstroke of diplomacy.

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