Opinion » Lead

Updated: September 23, 2013 20:42 IST

Time for honest introspection

A. G. Noorani
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India’s diplomatic culture does not recognise any interest but its own, which is why the country is still saddled with the Kashmir dispute and the boundary issue with China

If you want a lasting peace, you have to negotiate with those who are firing on your soldiers; you don’t negotiate with those with no blood on their hands, because they are irrelevant. With these words, Charles de Gaulle dismissed suggestions that he talk to France’s “yes men” in Algeria (Beni Oui, Ouis). He negotiated a settlement with the FLN and got rid of an albatross round his country’s neck.

But, the culture of India’s diplomacy disdains negotiations. They spell a compromise and India does not recognise any interest but its own. Talks are not rejected; only meaningful summits are. The leaders meet, to use the hideous word, on “the sidelines” of an international conference.

Honest introspection on some constants in our diplomacy since independence will help to explain why we are still saddled with the 66-year-old Kashmir dispute and the 54-year-old boundary dispute with China. Both obstruct India’s rise to its full stature. Chief among the constants is the flawed doctrine on negotiations enunciated by Jawaharlal Nehru on August 14, 1962. “There is a world of difference between negotiations and talks … Talking must be encouraged whenever possible.” This was said in the context of the dispute with China, on which he had ruled out negotiations.

Flawed doctrine

Applied to Pakistan since 1948, the doctrine was followed by Indira Gandhi, Inder Gujral, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Manmohan Singh sought an escape but got stuck. When Nehru met Pakistan’s Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in London in October 1948 at the first Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, it was to secure acceptance of the status quo in Kashmir. Plebiscite was for public consumption. The pattern of meeting at “the sidelines” was firmly set.

In the wake of the war with China, in October 1962, Anglo-American pressure compelled Nehru on November 29, 1962, to agree to a summit with President Ayub Khan. The very next day he rejected “anything that involved upsetting the present arrangements” — the status quo.

On May 6, 1967, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said she was “ready to discuss all questions including the Kashmir question.” Four days later, she declared: “There is nothing to negotiate on Kashmir.” The Simla Agreement (July 2, 1972,) which bound the parties to discuss “a final settlement of Jammu & Kashmir,” remained a dead letter. P.V. Narasimha Rao would go no further than to agree to discuss “issues related” to J&K (October 19, 1993).

In the Joint Statement issued on June 23, 1997, India and Pakistan agreed “to address” eight issues, including “Jammu and Kashmir” and “to set up a mechanism, including working groups.” But Prime Minister Gujral resiled from a tacit understanding on a separate group on J&K. At the SAARC summit at Dhaka in 1998, he offered to Nawaz Sharif, incredibly, a simultaneous discussion of all the eight issues at the same place and on the same day in one go. All this, to avoid the slightest emphasis on Kashmir. Prime Minister Vajpayee revealed on May 24, 1998 that the Dhaka offer had been worked out by Gujral in consultation with him.

The ruinous consequences of the Nehru Doctrine were felt most acutely in the boundary dispute with China. A militarily weaker Pakistan can be dictated to. It was foolish to extend that treatment to China. Every edition of Aitchison’s authoritative compilation of India’s Treaties said that its “northern as well as the eastern boundary of the Kashmir State is still undefined.” Maps attached to two White Papers on Indian States (1948 and 1950) showed the entire boundary from the Sino-India-Afghan trijunction in the west right up to the Sino-Indian-Nepali trijunction as “undefined.” On July 1, 1954 Nehru ordered that “new maps” be published showing “a firm and definite” frontier “which is not open to discussion with anybody.” It is significant that it was Chou, not Nehru, who sought a summit on November 7, 1959. Nehru replied on November 16. He was “always ready to meet” but demanded prior Chinese withdrawal in Ladakh to the east of the boundary depicted in his own maps of 1954; the Aksai Chin road and all India would withdraw to the west of the Chinese line of 1956 — yielding positions it had never occupied. Even then he would not negotiate on the territorial dispute.

China’s reply of December 17 proposed accord by the PMs on “principles as a guidance to concrete discussions and settlement of the boundary question.” But Nehru asked on December 21 “how can we reach an agreement on principles when there is such complete disagreement about the facts?” He relented on February 5, 1960 though their stands “were so wide apart and opposed to each other that there was little ground left for useful talks”. There could be “no negotiations” on the basis that the boundary was undefined. Nehru had missed the point. Chou wanted a political settlement. The PMs would settle the framework (“the principles”) for the officials to follow up — the McMahon Line in the east and acceptance of the status quo in Ladakh. Nehru rejected this offer at their summit in April 1960. That divide on the basic approach has spelt stagnation for over half a century. China wants a political accord.

On Kashmir, Nehru’s stand and the war of 1965 rendered a plebiscite impossible until Pervez Musharraf came out with his four-point formula. Fortunately he had a sincere partner in Dr. Singh. By 2007, the accord was nearly a signature away when Gen. Musharraf shot himself in the foot.

On March 14, 2004, L.K. Advani said, “The BJP alone can find a solution to our problems with Pakistan because Hindus will never think whatever we have done is a sell out.” Defeated in the polls, the BJP warned visitors from Pakistan against “any haste” with hints of better terms; the PM was attacked for yielding too much. But we do not live apart from the wide world.

Mr. Vajpayee’s remark at Srinagar, on April 18, 2003, that Kashmir should be solved within the framework of humanity (insaniyat ke daire mein) drove some in the media to ecstatic praise. The orator was reading from a script written in the U.S. The Joint Statement issued by the U.S. Secretary, Colin Powell, and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on March 27, 2003, on “the sidelines” of a Bush-Blair summit prescribed a detailed procedure which India and Pakistan quietly followed — end to terrorism and respect for the LoC. “Both sides should consider immediately implementing a ceasefire and taking other active steps to reduce tensions including moves within the SAARC context.” They knew its next summit was due in Pakistan. Sure enough, on November 25, 2003, a ceasefire was declared in J&K and Mr. Vajpayee attended the SAARC summit in Islamabad in January 2004. He pledged, in his Kumarakom Musings of 2001, to pursue “a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem … both in its external and internal dimensions. We shall not traverse solely on the beaten track of the past”.

Destructive addition

This is precisely the course which his successor followed with sincerity and quiet grit, despite the Mumbai blasts of 2008 and his party’s despicable betrayal after the Sharm-El-Sheikh Joint Statement on July 16, 2009. Nor had he a partner in Asif Ali Zardari. He has one now in Nawaz Sharif. But, checkmated, Dr. Singh added a destructive Doctrine of his own to the Nehru Doctrine: summits can be held only if results are guaranteed in advance; they are a reward for good conduct.

He might learn from the U.S.-U.K. rift after 1945. Churchill wanted to meet Stalin to explore the avenues. The U.S. foiled him. As Kissinger writes “had he not lost the 1945 election, he might well have given the emerging Cold War a different direction.” The PM can yet do that to India-Pakistan relations. He cannot settle anything when he meets Mr. Sharif. But he can seek a revival of the four-point formula which spells no surrender by any side and will radically change the entire atmosphere in South Asia. As Abba Eban wrote: “It is unrealistic to expect political leaders to ignore public opinion. But a statesman who keeps his ear permanently glued to the ground will have neither elegance of posture nor flexibility of movement.”

(A.G. Noorani is an advocate, Supreme Court of India, and a leading constitutional expert. His latest book, Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011)

This article has been edited to incorporate the following correction:

“Time for honest introspection” (Editorial page, Sept. 23, 2013) wrongly referred to the former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, attending the SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2014. It should have been the SAARC summit of 2004.

More In: Lead | Opinion

Indian Government should provide the facilities to Indian army so
that they can withdraw the Pakistan occupied Kashmir as well as
China occupied Karakoram.

from:  vinod
Posted on: Sep 25, 2013 at 01:31 IST

Fully support Mr. Noorani's efforts to urge the Indian Government to take new initiatives and make major efforts to break the log jam and resolve these generations old disputes so that the national resources,energy and psyche can be used for more productive and beneficial purposes. As a nation, we just can't afford to remain mired in this quagmire. It is time to show maturity and practical intelligence.

from:  Virendra Gupta
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 09:24 IST

Very serious subject indeed and I fully agree with the readers' (Prabu Rathnam, Farhan, and Avinash Barnwall) comments. Our western masters will continue to use our political class who has nothing called "patriotism" in their blood.

from:  Cherian Mani
Posted on: Sep 24, 2013 at 01:42 IST

Recently India's diplomacy and foreign policy have become much
better. They have discarded idealistic approach of NAM bipolar world
and have take up pragmatic approach. Recent diplomatic initiatives(or
endeavours) by India have been handled exceptionally well.
Ironically, the idealistic approach which is usually faulted for our
earlier looses is often quoted as the reason that India has
established itself in international community. India's following among
African nations which comes from that idealistic reputation is what is
helping India to establish itself today.
This article is very rudimentary and completely ignores recent
progress in this sector. It seems that the author is still stuck in
old days while analysing the current situation in India.

from:  raman
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 13:37 IST

Sucha rhetorical and at times naive commentary on diplomacy. The
author portrays (for reasons unknown )that it is all India's fault!Firstly -To use the author's own quote , one must talk with those having blood on their hands , in case of Pakistan it is the military establishment and with the current state
of affairs there seems to be no inclination for it to be participating in any meaningful talks.Talks with the political establishment are futile in the long run.With the heavy violence in Pakistan and the anticipated turmoil in Afghanistan post 2014 there is no inclination for the powers that be in Pakistan to find any
meaningful solution to the Kashmir dispute(worse they might be waiting to leverage the unrest in south Asia for their benefit post 2014). Peace can only be made when the two sides are atleast receptive to it.
Now w.r.t China,it has been time and again clearly indicated by the
Chinese that it is entirely in their interest to keep the boundary
dispute alive.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 11:31 IST

Nothing will move - until any leadership has a concern for their nation and citizen. A strong leadership will have ideas and motive (evenif they goes wrong at some point, they will try to ammend.). We totally lack a vision - be it at diplomatic front or on domestic. When the elections are fought on caste-religion-regionalism, expecting any thing of even high degree sense is just halucination for me. By the way, I didn't understand what exact solution A.G.Noorani want to present? Diplomacy is a tool mostly for weak - for strong it is not too much required - at least in case of Pakistan, China, Nepal, Burma, Srilanka. Be just, kind and reciprcative to the provocation. Rest will follow the suit.

from:  Avinash Baranwal
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 11:17 IST

More power to Noorani's pen - both governments need to realize the
futility & destructiveness of continuing purchases of expensive military
hardware while ignoring the basic needs of their people. If India-
Pakistan can resolve their issues, they can become a potent diplomatic
force in the world and counter the destructive pattern of warmongering
imperialistic west. They should realize that their tussle harms only
themseleves and benefits everyone else.

from:  Farhan
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 11:06 IST

I am unable to fully comprehend the author. His consistent, though wrong, viewpoint is that the disputes with Pakistan and China are solely due to Indian aggression and inelastic behaviour. But, he also claims that Nehru wanted to 'accept' the status quo in Kashmir. Why did that not succeed ? He forgets who the aggressor was in 1947, 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 and therefore claims that "India dictated to a militarily weaker Pakistan". Until the Indian economic revolution in the 90s, it was always Pakistan which introduced game-changing military technologies and weapons in the region, helped as it was generously by the Americans. Pakistan held a qualitative superiority in war fighting capabilities until mid 1990s. It is also unclear what wrong the author finds with a very principled stand by Nehru on Aksai Chin. The Chinese cannot pretend to give up its claim on what was already an Indian territory in order to take over another Indian area. How can we negotiate on such a proposition ?

from:  Subramanyam Sridharan
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 10:45 IST

This article is a highly selective and biased reading of history. Consider:
1. At Gandhi's behest India gave away millions of rupees to Pakistan - a gesture that was never returned by Pakistan.
2. India and Pakistan signed the Indus water treaty which ceded water to Pakistan. Since, there was no benefit to India (all the rivers flow through India) this would never have happened if India's diplomatic culture didn't believe in compromise.
3. In 1965, Pakistan was the aggressor (remember Operation Gibralter) and yet India gave the territories that had been captured.
4. In 1971, India released more than 90000 prisoners without any tangible benefit.
5. In 1971, India also returned all of the territories captured in Rajasthan and Punjab.
6. Bhutan and Nepal exist as separate countries. Does the writer sees any comparable examples in China, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey etc.
Many additional examples can be given and yet Mr Noorani has convenient ignored them.

from:  gopal vaidya
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 10:15 IST

i dont know why we are talking of 'issues' even after 70 years of
independence. Its really really simple. Its what the Kashmiris want. To
join India, Pakistan or be independent. Thats it. Conduct a fair
plebiscite and the issue is solved. But whether the plebiscite will be
fair and transparent is the question. All the other issues become
secondary once this is solved.

from:  Ramachandra
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 10:08 IST

From above write up, it is my feeling that Mr. Noorani wants to be flexible and giveup anything for the sake of a settlement. On Kashmir issue,if India's partition agreement is not meaningful, then anything goes for sake of settlement: Why even consider the LoC as a status quo. On China side, McMahon Line being an imaginary line, let us agree to an another imaginary line. In fact India was divided by putting few lines in the maps and we all agreed to that. That way anything is possible: By giving up one;s position, it is very easy to solve problems: However, it may create more problems>

from:  Ganesh C. Bhuyan
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 08:53 IST

Sir there is an error as the statement" Mr,Vajpayee attended the saarc summit on
Jan 2004."
AS per Nehrus or Indira gandhis policies regarding Pakistan and China about
Nehru did not expect such response from China resulting the war of was a
shock for him as he and indians also believed that we are asian neighbours and
chini bhai.Today itself i read in a paper that the then Pm gave a book about the
China -india war to THE founding father of Singapore.we should be grateful to the
great leader(LKY) who is supportive to us.

from:  kvl shanta
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 08:40 IST

It is unfortunate that a person of the eminence of Mr. Noorani attempts to make a case for India seriously to negotiate on Kashmir dispute with Pakistan and the border dispute with China. Most decision-makers in India are aware of the facts and circumstances as to how these two disputes came about. Negotiations have to have basis on facts of history as well as on principles such as fairness, precedence, mutual accommodation, peaceful means of settling disputes, etc. Pakistan has altered the basis of the UN resolutions by its actions in POK in the last 60 years and by giving up some of the territory in the PoK (part and parcel of the state of Jammu & Kashmir) to China in the border agreement of 1963. As to China, Margaret Fisher, Steven Hoffmann and John Garver have done serious research into that border dispute and one may then get a better appreciation as to what motivated Nehru and Mao in those days of the 1950s and why it broke out into a bloody conflict.

from:  Prosenjit Das Gupta
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 07:42 IST

It seems since 1947 none of our Indian Prime Ministers came forward
whole heartedly to end the issue. Who knows it could be a political game
that our politicians using to betray the Indian public for their
political gains.

from:  Prabu Rathan
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 06:08 IST

India's political borders are an artificial creation - and bears no
relevance to the wishes of the people and neighbouring states affected.
In a democracy government can only succeed with the consent of those
governed or affected.

Nothing is written on stone and with time and changing balance of
power and interests, borders also change or need to be re-tuned.

Whilst it is necessary to maintain a strong military deterrent, and
used to defend, conflicts will only be resolved by finding win win
political solutions.

from:  Bonkim
Posted on: Sep 23, 2013 at 04:31 IST
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