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Why it's time to be blunt with Pakistan

By Colonel Anil Athale (retd)
July 14, 2010 18:44 IST
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Colonel Anil Athale (retd) recommends that Extrnal Affairs Minister S M Krishna should tell Pakistan that the current exercise in peace building is possibly the last chance for the country to avoid a second Bangladesh like situation.  

As External Affairs Minister S M Krishna journeys to the Land of the Pure, there is very little expectation of any breakthrough in relations between the two countries. He is lucky that most of the work for him will be done by the garrulous foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as far as propaganda is concerned.

After the era of Gohar Ayub (foreign minister from 1997-1999), Indian diplomats were missing a chronic foot in the mouth person in Pakistan. Krishna can discourage the Pakistani proclivity to hyperbole by first of all debunking the bogus theory that without peace with Pakistan, India cannot progress. Indian economic progress of the last several years despite unrelenting Pakistani hostility is proof enough. He should also tell them that the current exercise in peace building is possibly the last chance for Pakistan to avoid a second Bangladesh like situation. The way the Afghanistan situation is building up, this is the logical outcome as recently pointed out (external link) by former US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill.

But are the modern Gandhari-putras (estranged brothers, a la Gandhari's children in the Mahabharata) ready to listen? In the epic Lord Krishna had made one last effort when he went to the Kauravas and offered to compromise if they gave just five villages to the Pandavas. But the Kaurava Prince Duryodhan's famous quote -- 'not even land that can occupy a pin head will be given' -- set the stage for the devastating battle of Kurukshetra. The wisdom and examples from that epic continue to shape perceptions in large part of the subcontinent to date. The latter-day Krishna indeed has a very daunting task. But may be, just may be, if some home truths are told to the Pakistanis, they may save themselves from the brink of an impending Kurukshetra. 

The Pakistanis must also be told that merely arresting a few people connected with terrorist activity against India is not the long-term solution. The question really is: are they ready to change the mindset that has been deeply ingrained for last 60 years? We also ought to point out that yes, like Pakistan, we also have extremists in out midst. But they cannot be equated with Pakistani extremists as even the venomously anti-Indian Urdu media of Pakistan has not accused Indian extremist's hand in the terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Indian extremists are paper tigers while their Pakistani counterparts are bristling with AK-56s! This difference must be brought out since Pakistan has often pointed fingers at our brand of extremism.

He may also tell the Pakistanis that the wahwah brigade and Lahore alumni is a dying breed and most Indians do not care about Pakistan. All that they want is to be left alone to pursue economic goals. The new leadership that is likely to be at the helm of affairs in India very soon may well revise the age old Indian formulation about a stable Pakistan being in Indian interest. Krishna would do well to remind them that under a young Rajiv Gandhi, India was far more assertive.

He could also drop a hint that the visit was a favour to the US that was keen on Indo-Pak rapprochement and that his own foreign office was sceptical about the outcome. So realistically speaking, Pakistan does not have too many allies within the Indian establishment now. After the Sharam (shame)-al Sheikh episode, even his nominal boss was rather circumspect.

A diplomat has been defined as a person who lies for his country. Krishna may well stay true to this definition and may not say anything written above. Diplomacy is thought to be by many to be conducted in ambiguous language. When General George S Patton was once criticised for his blunt language, he had famously said, 'I indeed use blunt language, but I do not know of a single instance where diplomatic language has achieved any result.'

It is indeed time to be blunt with Pakistan. But will Dr Krishna do it? On the success of this peace mission will depend whether the Af-Pak area becomes a permanent testing ground for American weapons, Russian intrigues and Chinese intrusion or it embarks on a path of peace.

However, chances are that they are unlikely to see reason and like Lord Krishna's mission 3,500 years ago, the modern Krishna may also have to come back empty-handed.

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Colonel Anil Athale (retd)