The former Chief of the Army Staff, General (retired) V.P. Malik, on Wednesday said the Pakistan Army, not its people or government, was a threat to India, and that India was fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan, a country vital to India's interests.

Gen. Malik was speaking at a seminar “Rising India: Challenges of a Troubled Neighbourhood” at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre, organised by the Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherjee Research Foundation here to commemorate the death anniversary of Syama Prasad Mookherjee. This was the first time such a function is being organised here.

“The people and the government of Pakistan are not a threat to India, but the Pakistan Army continues to be the threat for India,” Gen. Malik said. “The Pakistan Army is a threat and we need to be conscious about it. Also, when the democratic political leadership of Pakistan has total control over the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence], chances of peace with India will increase.”

Maintaining that Afghanistan is vital to India's interests, he said: “We need to have an open policy with the country. India is fighting a proxy war with Pakistan not only within the country but also in Afghanistan.”

He cautioned New Delhi on ties with China, saying: “India has to be cautious of China being more assertive and exploiting our appeasement, the more it grows and achieves strength. Although all political initiatives are a welcome step, we have to see that there are many pending disputes with China. We are also in a dilemma about China's benchmark of thinking when they talk about their country as a geographical unit.”

On the Naxal problem and internal security issues, he said: “The Maoist problem, the demand for Telangana, Maharashtra for Maharashtrians — we cannot concede to all this. We cannot empower the citizens of India by diminishing the country.”

Noted journalist M.J. Akbar criticised the notion of ‘Rising India.' “Is it India rising at 8 per cent or 8 per cent of India rising at 8 per cent?” he said.

The concept of majority and minority, Mr. Akbar said, depended on empowerment. “Brahmins, I think, are just 2 per cent in India, but they never consider themselves a minority. The Muslims, after the political depression in the 19th century, are still struggling in India, and the uplift of the Muslim community depends on Muslim women in India, who have been made slaves by religious preachers,” he said.

“The Muslims of India never voted for development. They always voted for fear,” Mr. Akbar added.

Former diplomat T.C.A. Rangachari said China needed to be understood on a preferential basis. “People should learn the Chinese language to understand China. The Kashmir University should have the facility of teaching Chinese. China is growing at a fast pace, but they don't want the world to feel their growth,” he said.

Kashmir University Vice-Chancellor Riyaz Punjabi emphasised need to strengthen the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Tarun Vijay, director of the Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherjee Research Foundation, said: “We have come to say hello to the youth of Kashmir and we also visited the Kashmir University to meet the youth.”