Sunday, May 24, 2015

Jaswant Singh on Indian Foreign Policy's "Strategic Confinement"

"The principal purpose and objectives of our (India's) foreign policy have been trapped between four lines: the Durand Line,; the McMahon Line; the Line of Control (LoC) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC). To achieve autonomy, an absolute necessity in the conduct of our foreign policy, we have to first find an answer to this strategic confinement".   Former Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh of India.

Mr. Jaswant Singh's quote above captures the essence of the former Indian Foreign Minister's 2013 book titled "India At Risk: Mistakes, Misconceptions and Misadventures of Security Policy". The book covers nearly seven decades of India's policymakers' obsession with its two nuclear-armed neighbors.

The Partition:

The book covers a lot of ground starting from the departure of the British colonial rulers and the partition of the sub-continent to the current situation in South Asia. Like many of his fellow Indians, it appears that  Mr. Singh has still not reconciled with the reality of partition and the creation of Pakistan as a sovereign and independent state. In the very first chapter of "India At Risk", Mr. Singh writes:

"By doing so (agreeing to partition), we then effectively forsook, rather destroyed, the essential security of a united Indian sub-continent, bound by the Himalayas in the north and the east, and the Indian Ocean as a shield to peninsular India. We failed to maintain as physically inviolable our natural geographical boundaries. In consequence, we created great subsequent national security challenges. It is self-evident that because of this one act, this artificial and rather irrational vivisection, we created for ourselves, such fundamental problems as challenge us till today."

India's Wars:

Mr. Singh offers the standard Indian narrative of events ranging from the 1962 war with China (which he blames on Nehru), the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan (for which he holds Pakistan responsible), , Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998, Kargil conflict in 1999 and   the usual narrative of "Pakistan-sponsored terrorism" for precipitating the 2002 India-Pakistan stand-off (and his heroics in averting a war).

PNS Ghazi: 

Among all of these narrations of events by Mr. Singh, there's one real revelation for me: the PNS Ghazi, the Pakistani submarine lost in 1971, was not sunk by the Indian Navy as was claimed at the time; it actually sank as a result of an accidental explosion while it was laying mines to block the Visakhapatnam Harbor in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Durand Line:

Mr. Singh mentions Durand Line twice in his book; at the beginning and the end. It's the line that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan. While he writes at length about McMahon Line (along Tibetan section of China-India border) as well as Line of Actual Control (LAC between India and China outside the McMahon Line) and Line of Control (LOC in Kashmir between India and Pakistan), he does not elaborate on Durand Line at all. This begs the following questions:

Why does the Durand Line concern Indian policymakers?

Why is the Durand Line brought up by the author but not discussed?

Was Mr. Singh told  by Indian intelligence agencies  remove any discussion of it for fear of exposing their shenanigans along Durand Line?

What is India up to in border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan? Is it using Afghanistan as a "second front against Pakistan" as described by former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel?

Why is the self-styled Baloch government in exile (whose leaders travel with Indian passports) so vehemently opposed to the Durand Line?


Mr. Jasawnt Singh has covered a lot of ground and pointed out the failings of Indian policymakers in looking beyond India's immediate neighborhood, particularly their obsession with Pakistan and China. It also appears that he  been to forced by the Indian government to abstain from any discussion of India's proxy war against Pakistan via the Afghan territory.

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Shoaib said...

About PNS Ghazi I met an ex Navy personnel and he told me about a year ago when i met him as he had first hand information. He told me the Mines that we had were French Mines and they had 2 kind of switches at which they can be detonated at one position it would activate immediately whereas on the other setting it would activate after the laying ship at is at a safe distance and the unfortunate thing was that it use to come as a default on activating on immediate release and probably this was the reason that one of the mines it layed was the one that detonated and Ghazi was sank.

The unfortunate thing is that the gentlemen told me he talked to his commandant about it and he just gave him a shutup call may be due to covering up the reasons and the backlash could have ruined many seniors jobs.

Riaz Haq said...

A Reuters' Op Ed by Jaswant Singh:

The most pressing threat to India’s peace lies on its borders, especially the Himalayan border with China, the world’s longest disputed frontier – not least because uncertainty there facilitates inflows of terrorist forces bent on undermining India’s territorial integrity and sowing seeds of ethnic and religious conflict. While India has fought terrorism longer than any other country, the problem now affects the entire region, including Afghanistan, China, and Pakistan.

With Islamist terrorism spilling across its borders, India can no longer leave the turmoil in the Arab world to others to manage. Instead, it must take an active role in efforts to contain and ameliorate it – and that means developing new strategic alliances. Just as terrorists have created a kind of multilateral offensive, the countries that they threaten must construct a multilateral defense.

For starters, India should welcome – and foster – the thaw in relations between the US and Iran. Given that both countries are friends of India, and that all three share many strategic interests, a nimble Indian government has an opening to help facilitate a diplomatic rapprochement.

Meanwhile, a strategic alliance that supports peace in the Indian and Pacific Ocean region – for example, among India, the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Vietnam – could be shaped quietly and calmly, without impeding any of the partners’ ability to establish economic ties with third parties, including China. India must also work vigorously to renew its relationships in Southeast Asia, where it risks abandoning the field to China.

At the same time, India must develop a strategic understanding with China, Russia, and the US concerning the jihadist explosion in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Central Asian countries. Such an understanding would, of course, have rough edges, with India, Russia, and China simultaneously competing for influence in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, some sort of accord, whatever its gritty nuances, is both possible and necessary, given that preventing Afghanistan from relapsing into civil war or again becoming an export base for terrorism is in everyone’s interest, including Pakistan’s.

India’s next government must also nurture the country’s partnership with the US. Until recently, the bilateral relationship has tended to be guided by a transatlantic, trans-Eurasian perspective, while ignoring the trans-Pacific option. But India, blocked to its west by Pakistan, is increasingly looking east for trade and strategic partnerships. As it explores these possibilities, it can work with the US to shape a common perspective in Central Asia.

As for Pakistan, India’s NAM-driven inaction has given its nemesis the upper hand in isolating India strategically. This is extraordinary, given that Pakistan is the region’s principal protector of terrorist forces – and has now, sadly, become the victim of its home-grown militants.

America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will, in the short run, be a setback for the entire region. But, even as the US withdraws its infantry, it cannot ignore the threat that Islamist terror poses to America. That is why the US will increasingly depend on countries like India to ensure the success of its global anti-terror policy.

But the value of the bilateral relationship extends far beyond the war on terror. The US and India must also establish clear channels for technology transfer – military, industrial, and scientific, including with regard to space.

Any forward movement in US-India cooperation must be characterized by care and respect, with objectives that are unambiguous, practical, and achievable. If both governments devote the necessary time and energy to each other, they can create a partnership between the world’s two largest democracies capable of playing a key stabilizing role in South Asia and beyond.

Riaz Haq said...

Reuters Op Ed by Raffaello Pantucci:

The China-India-Pakistan trilateral relationship is a complicated one. All three need each other to succeed, but do not believe this to be the case, remaining fiercely independent in their outlooks and jealous when the other two appear to be moving closer together. On the one hand, China has the potential to act as an honest broker, offering economic investment to all while trying to help offer a platform for discussions. But in reality, China wants no part of a situation where it ends being responsible for brokering peace in such a fractious part of the world, and it continues to take advantage of opportunities to assert its dominance over its Asian neighbours. For India and Pakistan, history continues to be stuck in the legacies of partition.

Yet this is a trio of countries that together account for about a third of the world’s population and where future prosperity is likely to come from. The danger at the moment is the assumption that economic development and prosperity will resolve everything and is the goal that needs to be achieved for regional stability. In reality, all three powers need to shed their historical legacies, and find ways of ending the paranoid tensions that underlie their global outlooks. Until this has been achieved, the CPEC, BCIM and any other regional economic framework will be undermined and no long-term stability will be found in the heart of South Asia.

Riaz Haq said...

Is #India's #Modi's "Neighborhood First" Policy collapsing? #Nepal #Pakistan #Maldives … via @dailyo_

Ajit Doval, said to be “handling” Nepal, took his eye off the game. Presumably, he was busy with Pakistan and the NSA talks-that-were-never-held. Doval is also the PM’s special representative with China, which means he is fully updated with developments in that country. The episodic attention to Nepal was a readymade recipe for disaster.

Third, by the time a furious PM asked his foreign secretary to travel to Kathmandu to make amends, it was already too late. Jaishankar’s tough and unforgiving attitude made things worse, at least in the eyes of the Nepali leadership, whom he told in no certain terms that a Constitution that marginalises the Madhesis was a bad idea. As to the 117 Madhesi MPs from parties like the Nepali Congress who voted in favour of the Constitution — evidently, there was a party whip and they couldn’t refuse — he wanted to know why they had betrayed the cause.


The real problem with the PM’s Neighbourhood First policy is that it is excitable and episodic. The Pakistan story is too old to recount. Even the success in Bangladesh almost didn’t happen when the Assam BJP wanted to keep the state out of the land boundary agreement. Now rumour is that India is about to execute yet another about-turn with the Maldives —Sushma Swaraj is expected to visit soon — and make nice with its proto-dictator Abdulla Yameen.

Remember that PM Modi had cancelled his visit to Male when Yameen threw the democratically elected former president Mohamed Nasheed into jail. India is now petrified that Yameen is opening the floodgates to China and believes it must keep the dialogue going to try and prevent that from happening. Delhi remembers well the recent Chinese statement: “The Indian Ocean is not India’s.”

Although Ajit Doval is said to be also “handling” the Maldives, he and Jaishankar clearly agree that a democrat-president can be sacrificed for a pragmatic cause (read China). It is significant that the foreign secretary didn’t bother to visit Nasheed who was under house arrest (he is since back in jail) when he visited Male a few weeks ago. In fact, if pragmatism is the name of the game in Delhi, Nasheed is among the few who can really tell Delhi about the Chinese — and what happened when they tried to woo him.

So as the prime minister charms America, flanked by his two key aides Ajit Doval and S Jaishankar, the thought surfaces: Let him also spare a thought for India’s crisis-ridden neighbourhood.

Riaz Haq said...

India's obsession: India defining itself as "Not Pakistan"

Why #Indian identity would collapse without the existence of #Pakistan. #India #BJP #Modi #Hindutva … via @scroll_in

... the very definition of a failed state is an artificial category. Pakistan has failed as a state on many fronts – to curb terrorism, to provide shelter and food to its most vulnerable and to protect the rights of minorities, but then in other categories it was as much a functioning state as any other. Despite the horrible law and order situation, the private sector still survived, schools, hospitals and universities functioned, and people continued to live their lives in an ordinary manner. One could make a similar argument for India if one were to focus on certain aspects of the failures of the state. The Gujarat riots of 2002, farmer suicides, and the law and order situation in the North East and Kashmir are features that could identify India as a failed state. But that does not fit the broader framework of Shining India, of a secular and democratic India, as opposed to a battle-ridden, military-run Pakistan. Terror attacks and bomb attacks in India are perceived as an anomaly in the framework of shining India whereas similar attacks in Pakistan are perceived as fitting a larger narrative of Pakistan failing.

Something similar happened to me when I visited Delhi a year later for a conference. Shashi Tharoor was to make the first speech for this peace conference. It was an immaculate speech which lay the entire blame of India-Pakistan conflict on Pakistan. There was one line that stayed with me. He said, “Pakistan is a thorn on India’s back,” essentially implying that India wants to move on and progress whereas Pakistan is an irritant. I noticed a similar sentiment at the Bangalore Literature Festival that I recently visited. One of the most popular sessions at the festival was by the eminent historian Ramachandra Guha. The historian talked about how there has been a rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India similar to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. One of the members of the audience asked the question that given that India is surrounded by the “fundamentalist” Pakistan and Bangladesh, isn’t it inevitable that India would become fundamentalist.

Surprisingly, Ramachandra Guha's session also tapped this concept of depicting Pakistan as the “barbarian” other to depict India as “civilised”. I am not asserting that Ramachandra Guha said these words and, perhaps, neither was this his intention, but it felt as if he was unconsciously operating under the same framework in which India tends to look at Pakistan and defines itself as a secular liberal democracy. He was talking about the freedom of speech in India and explaining how that space was diminishing. Then, casually, he mentioned that India, despite the worsening situation, is still much better than Pakistan in terms of freedom of speech.

My intention is not to defend Pakistan or assert that Pakistan has freedom of speech. Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world, where dissenting opinions are often shot down or shut up in other ways. However, there are still various nuances which I feel a lot of intellectuals in India tend to overlook. There is an entire tradition of challenging the state and the establishment in Pakistan that is usually ignored when such statements are made. One needs to visit the work of people like Najam Sethi, Khalid Ahmed, Hamid Mir and Ayesha Siddiqa to understand that there is a space in Pakistan, and has always been, to challenge the establishment. There is no doubt that the situation, like in India, is changing rapidly. But the point that I am trying to make is that Pakistan is not the “barbaric” other that it is usually understood as, compared to India the “tolerant” one. The truth is both countries have more in common than they would like to admit, yet they continue to view the other as its exact opposite.

Riaz Haq said...

Durand Line: Myths and Facts
By: Shah Zalmay Khan
Durand Line is the 2200+ km border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, from Wakhan-GB-Xinjiang Confluence (where Pakistan, Afghanistan and China meet) in the North to Chagai-Nimroz-Zahedan confluence in the South (where Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran meet). The border was jointly drawn up in the 1890s between the Govt of British India (predecessor of Pakistan) and the Ameer of Afghanistan, according the provisions of the Durand Line Agreement.
The Durand Line Agreement was inked between Sir Henry Mortimer Durand (on behalf of British Indian Govt) and Ameer Abdul Rahman (Ameer/King of Afghanistan) on 12 November 1893 at Kabul, Afghanistan.
Ever since the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Afghan govt has time and again announced that it doesn’t recognize the Durand Line as an international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
For their part, the Afghan side presents several arguments to support their view on the issue. Here we examine each of these arguments critically and on the basis of FACTS.
Argument # 1) Durand Line Agreement had a life of 100 years, so it expired in 1993.
FACT: This is simply not true. Text of the original ‘Durand Line Agreement’ is attached here. It does not have any clause that makes it time-barred.

Argument # 2) Durand Line Agreement was signed by Ameer Abdul Rahman Khan against his will (under duress & British army pressure) and without consulting the other Afghan govt functionaries.
FACT: Durand Line Agreement was signed on 12 November 1893 but it was actually a brief ‘principal document’ with a few paragraphs (without any detailed surveys and real-time demarcation of the 2200+ km long border). The actual demarcation was carried out by four commissions constituted for the purpose jointly by the British Indian govt and Ameer of Afghanistan:-

Argument # 3) Durand Line Agreement was a ‘short term’ agreement made by Ameer Abdul Rahman with the British govt and it expired with his death in 1901.
FACT: As appealing as this argument sounds to the Afghans, facts in this respect are different. Durand Line Agreement was ratified by successive Afghan rulers after Ameer Abdul Rahman, as under:-
After death of Ameer Abdul Rahman, his son Ameer Habibullah Khan and British representative Sir Louis Dane reaffirmed the agreement by signing ‘The Treaty of the Mole’ (also known as Dane-Habibullah agreement), on 21 March 1905, at Kabul.
After 3rd Anglo-Afghan War, Afghan govt mission led by Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Khan signed the ‘Rawalpindi Agreement’ on 8 August 1919 which reaffirmed the Durand Line Agreement. Incidentally, it was first time that the Afghan Govt (not Ameer in personal capacity) ratified the Durand Line Agreement.

Argument # 4) Durand Line Agreement was between British India and Afghanistan. With the division of British India in 1947 (into Pakistan and India), the said agreement also expired.
FACT: The “Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties (VCSSRT)” deals with issues pertaining to succession of states. Article 11 of this convention clearly states that succession of states cannot impact
International border agreed upon in result of an agreement, and
Rights and obligations concerning international border created through an agreement.

Point to ponder: Afghanistan’s borders with Central Asia (then Russia), China and Iran were demarcated by the British (not even by Afghans themselves). How come Afghanistan’s Establishment circles (historically led by Tajiks / Uzbeks / Hazaras) only have issue with the Pakistan border (demarcated with Afghan rulers’ consent) and are perfectly okay with all other borders in which Afghans had no say at all? Why does the Afghan Establishment pitch the Pashtun population of Afghanistan against their Pukhtoon counterparts in Pakistan, on such clumsy myths as those deconstructed above? This is a point for Afghanistan’s Pashtuns to ponder. I rest my case.

Riaz Haq said...

Jaswant Singh, India’s former foreign minister, who died on September 27 after six years in a coma from a fall at his home, was carrying a history-making sheaf of typed papers in his briefcase on July 16, 2001, in Agra, papers of immeasurable importance to the future history of South Asia.

So powerful were the contents in Jaswant Singh’s draft he had agreed with his Pakistan counterpart that it had the potential to forestall any future war between India and Pakistan. Singh’s far-right colleague and home minister LK Advani torpedoed the draft pact moments before Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf were to accept it.

The sabotaged Agra summit could have saved India and Pakistan an endless need to procure military hardware at prohibitive costs to their poverty-stricken masses. Had history not played truant that day in Agra, there would be a hoard of money available for healthcare and education for both countries – saved from scandal-tainted Rafale jets in India, for example – which in turn would have enabled both to better fight the coronavirus menace, and perhaps even spare precious resources for the less endowed neighbours.

The French Rafales were meant to deal with the military contingency in Ladakh with China, one might argue. Yes and no. Jaswant Singh’s peace deal carried the power, in fact, to vacate the need for even India and China to think of war or to send hapless men to inhospitable climes for guarding their ill-defined frontiers. There would be perhaps no deaths from frostbite or avalanches in Siachen either. There would be no need to interdict the Karakoram Highway.

There is a humanitarian catastrophe brewing in Jammu and Kashmir. An Agra pact would have made unnecessary the subjugation of Jammu and Kashmir last year. True, there were howls of protest from Hindutva nationalists when Jaswant Singh proposed in a subsequent TV interview that India could accept the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir as a hard border and thus end a core dispute with Pakistan.

The protests had less to do with the logic of peace between nuclear rivals, rather they were needed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its assiduously nurtured hatred for Pakistan. A worried Arun Jaitley, the late partisan of the RSS, told the Americans in as many words, according to WikiLeaks, that good relations with Pakistan were detrimental to Hindutva’s political constituency in northern India. The instructive core of such an argument can imply that the December 2001 terror attack on the Indian parliament or the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai harmed India but helped the BJP. The logic again came into play with the Pulwama attack last year.

To loosely translate an Indian saying, the horse cannot befriend the grass. That is a likelier reason for the failure of the Agra summit – because peace with Pakistan would destroy the BJP’s plank to win votes. It goes to the credit of Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh that they did not see their politics through the prism of perpetual communal hostility.

Riaz Haq said...

'Pakistan isn't Collapsing, India Should Focus on Silver Linings. Boycott or War Aren't Options'

In a 30-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire to discuss his book ‘India’s Pakistan Conundrum’, Sharat Sabharwal ( ex Indian Ambassador to Pakistan) identified three preconceived notions that the Indian people must discard. First, he says it’s not in India’s interests to promote the disintegration of Pakistan. “The resulting chaos will not leave India untouched”.

Second, Indians must disabuse themselves of the belief that India has the capacity to inflict a decisive military blow on Pakistan in conventional terms. “The nuclear dimension has made it extremely risky, if not impossible, for India to give a decisive military blow to Pakistan to coerce it into changing its behaviour.”

Third, Indians must disabuse themselves of the belief that they can use trade to punish Pakistan. “Use of trade as an instrument to punish Pakistan is both short-sighted and ineffective because of the relatively small volume of Pakistani exports to India.”


Historically, the relationship between India and Pakistan has been mired in conflicts, war, and lack of trust. Pakistan has continued to loom large on India's horizon despite the growing gap between the two countries. This book examines the nature of the Pakistani state, its internal dynamics, and its impact on India.

The text looks at key issues of the India-Pakistan relationship, appraises a range of India's policy options to address the Pakistan conundrum, and proposes a way forward for India's Pakistan policy. Drawing on the author's experience of two diplomatic stints in Pakistan, including as the High Commissioner of India, the book offers a unique insider's perspective on this critical relationship.

A crucial intervention in diplomatic history and the analysis of India's Pakistan policy, the book will be of as much interest to the general reader as to scholars and researchers of foreign policy, strategic studies, international relations, South Asia studies, diplomacy, and political science.