Monday, August 25, 2014

PM Must Choose his Words ..... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/ August 24, 2014

PM Must Choose his Words and Weapons in Dealing with Pak and its Missionaries

Nawaz Sharif,Abdul Basit

For a while now, all Pakistan envoys posted in India have been nothing more than remote-controlled megaphones. Their mission is to blare out the bluster of their ventriloquists in Islamabad and they are rarely switched off. Conventionally, a diplomat is expected to convey even the nastiest news in the nicest manner. But Pakistani diplomats are trained to convey to India the meanest messages in the foulest fashion. Recently, when the elegantly balding, sharp-nosed Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, made a plea to include separatist leaders as stakeholders in the K-dispute, he gave an ugly face to diplomacy. His provocative contention was a direct intervention in India’s internal matters and violation of conventions. Despite a stern warning by India’s foreign office, he held meetings with self-styled Kashmiri leaders who have been rejected by the people of their own state. A section of Indian diplomacy firmly believes that most Pak high commissioners have been used to unintentionally sabotage dialogue between the two countries. Or was it an attempt to prevent the visit of Indian diplomats to Pakistan, who would have gathered first-hand information about its paralysed government? Opposition leaders like Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri are making it impossible for beleaguered PM Nawaz Sharif to function as head of the government. Hence it is a mystery as to who could have advised Pakistan’s foreign secretary to continue the dialogue with Indian delegation? Was it a move on Basit’s part to destroy India’s democratic milieu? After all, every Pak envoy is known for hosting parties replete with biryani and sufi concerts for Delhi’s cultural, social and political influencers who would then sing the same tune as the quarrelsome quwwals in Islamabad.

Otherwise what was the logic behind Basit’s move in invoking the right of those responsible for creating trouble in the Valley? By his action, Basit has defied Indian democracy. He has challenged the right of democratically established Indian institutions to decide on how to deal with hostile elements. Predictably, an envoy representing a failed state struggling to save its identity is trying to deflect international attention from the crisis at home. It is unclear whether he speaks on behalf of Pakistan’s elected government or some invisible parallel power centre. Democratically elected leaders hardly share the vocabulary exhibited by Basit. His speaking style resembled extremists like Hafiz Saeed and others better. While his symbolic political masters back home underplayed India’s decision to call off the Secretary-level talks on August 25, it was Basit who was painting India as a warmonger.
Basit and his predecessors have been liberally misusing diplomatic immunity by not only engaging with anti-India elements but also trying to infiltrate the capital’s high and mighty club. The Pakistani establishment always chooses suave high commissioners whose cosmopolitan charm makes them trophy guests in Delhi’s drawing rooms. During the past three decades, envoys like Abdul Sattar, Riaz Khokhar, Ashraf Jahangir Kazi and Salman Bashir were so effective at networking that none of those invited to the high commissioner’s residence would ever utter a word against their hosts’ direst diatribes. With huge funds at their disposal, the envoys were able to create pressure groups in India who would parrot the Pak point of view on cross-border dialogue. In the past 25 years, Pakistan’s top diplomats have directly or indirectly facilitated the participation of hundreds of powerful Indian opinion-makers in seminars, symposiums and similar fine-dining gabfests organised by think-tanks funded by unknown sources in Pakistan. It is possible that some of the frequent fliers to Islamabad and Karachi from India have strong feelings against the continuation of dialogue with the perfidious neighbour, but there are many others who refuse to find fault with terror activities sponsored by non-state actors from across the border. The Pak High Commission in Delhi has become the preferred rendezvous for all those who have either been convinced about or mesmerised into believing in Pakistan’s cause. Last week when Basit spoke about “stakeholders”, he found support from many internationalists from India, including corporate leaders, all of whom have been strongly building a case for enhanced cultural, economic and sports cooperation between the two countries. Surprisingly, none of the beneficiaries of Indian munificence—at home and in Pakistan—have ever spoken against terror camps in PoK and Pakistan. On the other hand, they were able to influence the Indian establishment to grant Pakistan ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status by ignoring the fact that border violations have been plenty in past two years. According to a latest report, over a dozen terrorist training camps are actively operating from PoK and other parts of Pakistan. What is worse is that there is no progress on India’s demand to hand over its known enemies like Saeed and Dawood hiding in Pakistan. In a widely televised press conference, however, Basit let it drop that his country is also a victim of terrorism and that over 1,500 civilians have been killed by terrorists. He conveniently forgot that the killers were Frankenstein’s monsters created by Pakistani agencies like ISI.
The response to Basit’s outburst only reflects that though the colour of the Central government has changed, its organs remain unwilling to strike or challenge the defiance of Pak diplomats. Knowing PM Narendra Modi’s style and intentions, he would have sent Basit packing, along with his team and taken the broom to pro-dialogue moles in his own establishment and the party. According to media reports, even External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was kept out of the loop regarding cancelling the dialogue. It is a fact that Swaraj has been pushing for a hardline approach against Pakistan, even when she was Leader of the Opposition. The new leadership, however, has realised that the primary reason behind the delay in the settlement of the Kashmir standoff emanates not from the political leadership but from diplomats and non-state actors who have a greater stake in the continuity of confrontation between the two countries. Even Western powers like the US allow that any settlement between a prosperous India and a peaceful Pakistan would end US machinations and destabilise its strategic interests in South Asia. Modi began well by inviting Sharif to his swearing-in. But Sharif and his establishment have returned the gesture with bullets and barbs. It is for the PM to choose his words and weapons in dealing with India’s nefarious neighbour and its missionaries and mercenaries in India.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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