Pakistan’s ‘approach is one of getting even, an eye for an eye, or death by a thousand cuts.’
‘The entire effort is to be the equal of India. Unfortunately, the reality is that this can never be the case.’
‘India will always be the bigger, economically stronger, technologically more self-reliant country.’
‘Therein, lies the dilemma Pakistan faces which leads it to perennial enmity with India,’ notes Ambassador Gautam Bambawale in the Air Marshal Y V Malse Memorial Lecture 2019.
IMAGE: Imran Khan with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in New Delhi, December 2015. Photograph: @MEAIndia/Twitter
The topic for today’s lecture is ‘Rising India and the China-Pakistan Axis’.
It is a great honour and privilege to be invited to deliver the Air Marshal Y V Malse Memorial Lecture 2019.
Thank you for bestowing this recognition on me. Late Air Marshal Malse was and even today, is, a favourite son of Pune having grown up here and then gone on to achieve great distinction in the Indian Air Force.
He also served in other important positions later in his life some of which include being a member of the senate of Poona University and director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. As we all know, he was a founder member of Pune’s Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies.
I would like to share with this august audience, that I too, grew up in Pune and went to school and college in this city. Thereafter, I joined the Indian Foreign Service and was away for about 35 years.
During my service, I had the great honour of serving India as her Ambassador to Bhutan, Pakistan and China. On retirement, I have come back to my roots. Therefore, in a small way, and only to a very limited extent, my story replicates that of Air Marshal Malse.
I would also like to take a moment to reflect on the location of today’s memorial lecture at Yashada, which is the premier institution in Maharashtra for the training of civil servants. Over these past few decades, it has grown in size as well as stature, and today has a reputation for good governance and imparting excellent training.
Therefore, Yashada itself is a success story in institution building, which is so important in the life of a nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Pune has always played a very important role in determining India’s views on issues of national and international importance. This was true in British India, it was definitely true during India’s freedom struggle and we must, even today, ensure that ideas continue to emanate out of Pune, which eventually become part of the national mainstream.
This is a very important role that Pune has played in the past. All of us, present here today, must work towards ensuring that this role continues in today’s resurgent and rising India. All the institutions in the vicinity, that is Yashada, Pune University and the Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies, as well as many others in Pune must carry forward this vision of our city being a well spring of new ideas, which then permeate into the pan Indian consciousness.
I will divide my lecture into 3 parts. First, I will talk on Pakistan and India’s relations with that country.
Second, I will focus on China. Last, I shall concentrate on how India can tackle the increasingly close axis between both these neighbours of ours.
The Pakistan of today, is a country which of course is in search of an identity.
The big question that animates some of the thinking in Pakistan is how is it different from India.
Religious identity is the very obvious answer, even though it may not be completely satisfying as India herself is multi-religious.
Apart from this, the decision making elite there think that India has never come to terms with the creation of Pakistan and will try to undo it at some time.
The 1971 War and the creation of Bangladesh from the erstwhile East Pakistan is a case in point. Their argument then goes on to the next step that India is a perennial threat to Pakistan.
Add to all this negativity, the feeling that Kashmir should have been a part of Pakistan.
This thinking and approach to relations with India is a toxic mixture which has led Pakistan to their policies of today, which is to foment terrorism in Kashmir in the hope that it will then become part of their country.
Ever since 1947, Pakistan has employed the ruse of sending raiders or tribesmen or non-State actors into India.
It happened immediately after Independence in 1947 in Kashmir, it happened again in 1965 before the more formal war between our two countries, it occurred once again in 1999 at Kargil when Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry units posed in civilian clothes as intruders.
Cross border terrorism and the utilisation of proxies or non-state actors is in the same mould.
Under these circumstances, it is only correct for India to highlight to the international community this intrinsic nature of our Western neighbor as a State which sponsors terrorism.
Our constant efforts, have indeed borne fruit as was seen in the assistance that France, the United States and the United Kingdom provided us in ensuring that Masood Azhar was recently designated as an international terrorist.
This cooperation which we received from 3 of our important international partners is a measure of our success.
When I served in Pakistan, many journalists would say to me that on the terrorism issue, India is bad mouthing Pakistan amongst the international community.
My response to them was that India did not need to do any such thing. Pakistan herself was making a very good case that it harbours terrorists.
To prove my point I would ask them where Osama bin Laden was found?
Where was the mastermind of 9/11 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed found?
Where was Mullah Mansoor of the Taliban found and killed by a US drone?
All in Pakistan. With that, I would rest my case.
Pakistan must realize that using terrorism as an instrument of State policy has to be forsaken if it wants to be a useful member of the comity of nations.
On India’s part, we need to take more steps and measures to ensure that terrorist groups do not cross our borders and make it in to India and to stop them or even liquidate them before they can carry out their heinous activities.
We are on this road, but obviously a lot more needs to be done.
One of the big questions facing India is whether we continue with our current policy vis-a-vis Pakistan that there can be no talks without an end to cross border terrorism.
In my opinion, and I am sure I echo the views of many of you here, Pakistan wants talks with India not to solve problems between our two countries.
Just the optics of dialogue between us is what pays dividends to Pakistan, especially amongst the international community.
Even while dialogue is on-going, there sometimes are terrorist incidents in India. Therefore, I am a supporter of the current policy that dialogue and terrorism cannot happen at the same time.
IMAGE: Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav (retd) who is currently imprisoned in Pakistan.
Recently, Pakistan has been trying to show and prove that India too is fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.
The Kulbhushan Jadhav case which is in the news at present is one such instance. Let me share with all of you my views on the recent judgment pronounced by the International Court of Justice in this matter.
India has been successful at the ICJ on three counts. First, the court turned down each and every argument made by Pakistan that the ICJ did not have jurisdiction in the matter.
Second, the ICJ ruled that Pakistan had violated its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by not giving India consular access to Jadhav as well as by not informing Jadhav that he had the right to access the Indian high commission in Islamabad.
The court has gone on to rule that Pakistan must immediately provide consular access to the Government of India to Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Third and most importantly, the ICJ has stayed the death sentence awarded to Jadhav by a Pakistan military court and asked that the case be reviewed.
What this implies is that ICJ is of the opinion that Jadhav was not permitted due process and that his trial by a military court did not afford him a fair trial.
This is a very important ruling by the ICJ the implications of which are very deep. Now, Jadhav will be given a fair and open trial with India having access to its national.
Such a fair trial will open up possibilities which augur well for Kulbhushan Jadhav.
The three decisions of the International Court of Justice when taken together are a very important victory for India, which we must be clear minded to see.
All of us can only hope that a fair and more public trial will enable us to get freedom for Jadhav.
IMAGE: Mohammed Naved Yakub, a Pakistani terrorist from the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, who was captured after ambushing a Border Security Force convoy near Udhampur in August 2015.
The unfortunate part of India-Pakistan relations is that decisions are taken by the Pakistan military or what is called by some as the Pakistan Establishment which has a very negative attitude to India.
Hence, their approach is one of getting even, an eye for an eye, or death by a thousand cuts. The entire effort is to be the equal of India. Unfortunately, the reality is that this can never be the case.
India will always be the bigger, economically stronger, technologically more self-reliant country. Hence, this quest for parity is doomed to fail. Therein, lies the dilemma Pakistan faces which leads it to perennial enmity with India.
Pakistan’s economy today is facing yet another foreign exchange crisis. The external sector is in great imbalance as she imports much more than she exports.
Hence, she is seeking yet another structural adjustment loan from the IMF. When one scratches the surface to see what the real structural problems of the Pakistan economy are, one quickly comes to the conclusion that the Pakistan military is garnering far too many resources for itself and for military activities, leaving very few resources for development including for education, public health and infrastructure construction.
Reducing the part of the cake which goes to the Establishment is the real reform required in Pakistan. Whether that step can be taken, and true economic reform of the Pakistan economy undertaken, when that very Establishment is calling the shots is a billion dollar question.
Finally, let me close on Pakistan by sharing with you what many international scholars, observers and followers of India-Pakistan relations ask me.
They say, Germany and France were at loggerheads for centuries, but are now allies in Europe.
Can’t India and Pakistan be that way? My answer to them is that France and Germany became partners and friends only when Germany became democratic.
Drawing a parallel, I can predict that India and Pakistan will have the maturity and the vision to deal with and solve their problems only when Pakistan becomes truly democratic and when the Pakistan Establishment is not determining the course of our bilateral ties.
Tomorrow: India and China: What Lies Ahead