By Iqbal Khan
India’s hostile attitude towards China and Pakistan is not sustainable; therefore India’s signaling keeps jumping positions between hostile statements and friendly overtures. Recent weeks have witnessed another round of mixed signally from Indian side.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s the tall talk of unilaterally withdrawing from the Indus Water Treaty (ITW), a meeting is likely to take place at the Permanent Indus Commission level; thanks to World Bank’s urging, which is underwriter of the treaty.
Though Modi has articulated his wish to have Pakistan declared as terror sponsoring state, Indian government has disowned a recent private bill by an independent parliamentarian seeking to declare Pakistan a terrorist state; and a bilateral agreement to exchange information to reduce chances of nuclear accidents has been extended for another five years The India-Pakistan bilateral pendulum may appear edging back to normalcy—at least for the time being. However, India is simultaneously keeping the tender box in tact should electoral dynamics in state elections raise the necessity of Pakistan bashing. For example, India has asked China to drop its objections on declaring a Pakistani cleric Masood Azhar a terrorist.
Modi is reported to have recalled his December 2015 trip to Lahore in a positive stirde. He has acknowledged that there were positive forces in Pakistan and expressed optimism that talks should resume. He also indicated that he wanted to extend a hand of peace towards Pakistan.
Pakistan and India have agreed to extend their bilateral agreement on “Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons” till 2022. Agreement was reached in 2007, and was later extended for a period of five years in 2012. This agreement is a part of nuclear Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) agreed between the two countries aimed at promoting a stable strategic environment of peace and security. Such measures indicate that both sides are responsible nuclear states. This agreement envisages immediate exchange of information in case of any accident relating to nuclear weapons, which could create the risk of radioactive fallout, or create the risk of an outbreak of a nuclear war. “In accordance with Article 8 of the Agreement … both countries have agreed to extend the agreement for a further period of five years,” a statement issued by India’s foreign ministry read..
An independent member of India’s upper house of parliament has Rajeev Chandrasekhar introduced a private member’s bill to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. Bill seeks to impose legal, economic and travel sanctions on citizens of countries which promote terror. While presenting the Bill, he said, “For decades, India and other countries in the region have been victims of terror attacks from organizations and individuals based in and with the support of elements in Pakistan. … It is time that we stop running to other countries to declare Pakistan a terror state and stood up and did this job ourselves.”
However Indian government would oppose the bill. Home ministry has communicated its intent as such a move would jeopardizes international relations under the Geneva Convention. “We have diplomatic relations with the neighbouring country which includes High Commissions as well as trade relations. It will be not prudent to declare any country as a terror state as India is bound by international norms,” said a senior government official. Besides, in principle it is very rare that government supports any Private Member’s Bill,” a home ministry official said.
Notwithstanding, at the same time, Indian Home Minister Raajnath has called arrest of Hafiz Saeed as sham and eye-wash and unacceptable. He accused Pakistan for non-seriousness and demanded handing over of Hafiz Saeed to India. Pakistan’s foreign office aptly reacted to this development: “Indian attempts to play victim would have credibility if Indian allegations were not motivated by the desire to malign Pakistan and India’s own record was clean. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and suffered hugely, both in terms of human and economic losses. Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan is well known. Confessions of Kulbhushan Yadav and Swami Aseemanand are a manifestation of that fact. Pakistan is fighting terrorism like no other country has done. India needs introspection. India must realize that peace in the region is in India’s own interest as well”.
In an illogical statement Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar, during recent bilateral talks with China stated that “burden of proof in Azhar case not on us”. By saying so Jaishankar was trying to counter argue China’s demand for “solid evidence“ against Masood Azhar, saying the “burden of proof “ was not on India as the Jaishe-Muhammed chief ‘s actions were well documented. He said India had overwhelming support from the international community for Azhar to be sanctioned by the UN Security Council’s 1267 committee, and that Beijing’s may be a minority voice… The burden of proof is not on India”. If the burden of proof is not on India, then India should take a back seat and let the matter take its due course through the well-established international procedures and practices.
Moreover, China has indicated that it was not yet ready to significantly change its stance on India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), but said it has an “open approach“. Chinese officials said “there are still issues of procedure and processes” that needed “further clarification and discussion” because of which they were “not in a position to bring it to a definite conclusion”. The issue with India’s approach towards NSG expansion is that it wants to gatecrash NSG through a country specific criteria, while ensuring that Pakistan is kept out. During this meeting the Chinese side strongly raised the issue of President Pranab Mukherjee inviting the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, to President House, who heads a separatist movement in Tibbet.
Prime Minster Narendra Modi has taken an erratic stance with regard to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is purely an infrastructure related project to facilitate regional connectivity and trade. Though India has setup a fund to disrupt this project, eventually it may have no option but to join the project.
A quality change in India’s relationship with these two neighbours could only come about when India transforms its expediency driven day to day erratic actions with a long term prudence based policy.
The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at [email protected]