Modi Must Find Formula to Dismantle Monstrous Diplomatic Machinery
In technical jargon, Track II always runs opposite to Track I. Moving parallel, they never meet. These trains of thought also end up at different platforms of the same station—precisely what has been happening with Indian diplomacy for the past few decades. Why and by who was Track II invented is anybody’s guess. While changes occur in governments, Track II members, promoters and financiers remain unchanged. In fact, it has become a sinecure for retired, tired and fired civil servants, diplomats, opinion-makers and recovering journalists. Last week, when the country was outraged over the flirtatious rendezvous between former hack Ved Pratap Vaidik and proclaimed terrorist Hafiz Saeed, questions were raised over the motives and intentions of Track II diplomacy. Vaidik may be justified in meeting Saeed as a former media maven, it was undeniably inappropriate for him to make out a case for J&K as an independent country.
His two-week undisclosed cross-border visit brought the spotlight on not just his hosts but also Indians who have been granted multi-entry visas to Pakistan. The Pakistan institute is run by former military officials, including a few from ISI. It has been inviting liberal and secular Indians for promoting peace and dialogue between India and its duplicitous neighbour. Some of them genuinely feel that India should engage Pakistan in a dialogue even if Pakistan-sponsored terror groups continue to kill innocents in India. On other hand, it is not a coincidence that those opposed to the idea of ‘Paki-Hindi Bhai Bhai at any cost’ are denied visas to visit even relatives or places of birth. ISI is so powerful that it can defy its heads of state or government when it comes to granting visas to independent journalists.
Instead of working towards a single mission, there has been a serious dissimilitude between Track I and Track II over the past decade. If the official line is to demolish terror camps working within Pakistan, Track II interlocutors have been espousing liberalising the visa regime and to give Pakistan free access to Indian market. PM Narendra Modi has been hinting at possible military intervention if terror attacks don’t stop, but India’s peacenik perambulators have been pleading for restraint so that they can grab more airmiles to Lahore for red carpet welcomes followed by biryani and bootleg Scotch. In fact, the new government is now examining the number of visits made by members of various think tanks to Pakistan and other countries, as well as their presentations. The idea is to ascertain whether these self-appointed ambassadors have taken a stand at variance with official policy. An analysis reveals that at none of the conferences or seminars in Pakistan did any of the Indian participants raise the issue of closing down terror camps. Strangely, many of these talking heads have much in common—conflict resolution, peace initiatives, terror and unknown sources of funding. The NDA government has started the process of identifying their financing patterns and ensuring that government funds are not being diverted through devious methods. They acquire legitimacy because Indian missions are obliged to organise receptions in their honour and even facilitate meetings with kindred souls in Pakistan. What has baffled senior ministers is that even after the change of regime in New Delhi, none of these interlocutors make it a point to brief the government before or after their visits, unlike their Pakistani counterparts.
Another revelation is that the number of these think tanks rose during UPA regime. Though it was Brijesh Mishra, a former diplomat and Principal Secretary to Atal Bihari Vajpayee— one of the most powerful ever—who encouraged Track II, the UPA under Manmohan Singh patronised legions of the intransigent interlocutors. Most were promoted by former diplomats and military officials, since serving officers who worked under them make it a point to oblige their former bosses by creating opportunities to indulge in non-stage diplomacy. This has dangerous implications. These retired diplomats get informal access to sensitive information from their colleagues in the government. There are many examples of individuals working as go-betweens for decades after their retirement—even after governments changed. The Track II establishment is so powerful that it can influence any government to follow its advice and ignore views of its ministers. Surprisingly, the composition of Track II phalanx defies any logic. It consists of individuals from all parties who are known for defiance of party or government line. Their only virtue is their consistency in keeping their honeymoon with Pakistan alive. They are found haunting residences of the Pakistan and UK High Commissioners and ambassadors of the US and China. They include senior media personalities known for their soft approach to Pakistan. But it is not that these think tanks are working only for a dialogue with Pakistan. Some have taken upon the responsibility of disarming the world by fighting against nuclear proliferation. Their only mission is to discourage India from becoming a nuclear power so that Western nuclear equipment manufacturing companies can capture Indian market. No wonder, their membership comprises those who share the doctrine of ideological junketing.
Surprisingly, these intellectual itinerants of both India and Pakistan are like MACs ( Mutual Admiration Clubs). They invite only those from each other’s country who are ideologically, culturally and politically compatible. For them, any change of government hardly makes a difference. An analysis of their writings or presentations reveals that all of them follow the same line of argument even if they come from different parties or outfits. They are so organised that if any non-MAC member makes a contrarian move, they move heaven and hell to gag the disagreeable point of view using their connections. Modi’s challenge is finding the right formula to dismantle the monstrous machinery, which has destabilised and undermined South Block with fraternal finesse. He has to take a call to merge both Tracks so that national interest prevails over culinary and travel preferences of retired apparatchiks who try to transcend oblivion with undying ambition.
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