Leon Klinghoffer, aged 69 and wheelchair bound, died on 8th October 1985 on board the vessel MS Achille Lauro, sailing off Egypt. He and his wife were celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary on a Mediterranean cruise. What’s the big deal, one might ask. The big deal was in the manner of his death and what happened afterwards.
For Leon Klinghoffer, American citizen of Jewish origin was singled out from amongst other passengers by a group of four Palestine Liberation Front terrorists, during the attempted hijack of the said vessel. He was then shot in the chest and forehead and then thrown overboard, wheelchair included. The terrorists, having returned the vessel at Port Said, then negotiated safe passage on board an Egypt Air Boeing 737 to Libya.
US President Ronald Reagan, who had been monitoring the episode, ordered the 6th Fleet based in Italy into action. No less than seven F-14 Tomcats, aided by electronic intelligence located the aircraft carrying the terrorists and surrounded it in total radio silence. The pilot was probably given the choice to land or else be blown to bits with passengers, crew and all. When the Boeing landed in a NATO base in Sicily, US Navy Seals were waiting.
Reagan’s response, ladies and gentlemen, shall forever illustrate the majesty of the American State and its determination to seek justice for each and every one of its wronged citizens.
On 8th January 2013, a Pakistan Army “Border Action Team” crossed the LOC, violated Indian Territory, and ambushed an Indian Army patrol and killed Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh. The barbarity that followed is too well known to be repeated. The strongest response our honourable Prime Minister could muster was that there “cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan. I can imagine PM MMS going home to 7 RCR after having delivered this earth-shattering statement, drinking his bedtime glass of milk and falling into a contented sleep, after what would be for him, a good day’s work.
When the leaders show the way, could the people be far behind? After all doesn’t the maxim say “Yatha Raja Tatha Praja”? In fact, a certain citizen of our fair and wondrous land goes one better. Here’s how.
These shameful incidents were just two among many which show up the pretensions of the Indian State, its citizenry, its “leaders” and all those who strut around, assuming to have arrived on the world stage. India likes to mention itself in the same breath with the US with that often misused word – democracy. What a contrast between these two democracies.
This lengthy preamble was necessary to highlight one simple truth. A country that has ambitions of being a super-power (economic or otherwise) should first think and act like one. Super-powerdom too, not unlike poverty, is a state of mind.
The Defence Minister’s flip-flops after the latest killings and the foreign media’s lukewarm response to it, once again show up India’s paucity of ideas when dealing with the perennial problem of Pakistan. Wishful thinking, muddle-headedness, verbose & bureaucratic pronouncements and a tendency to peddle routine processes (such as talks and engagements) as substantive results have come to characterize Indian Foreign Policy as practiced by the UPA-II government. This is especially so when it comes to China and Pakistan.
The current lot – MMS, Salman Khurshid et al – are clutching at straws.
Let us rewind to mid-May 2013, when it was apparent who would win the Pakistan general elections. Our worthy PM could hardly bear to wait. The media houses outdid each other in falling over themselves. All this even before the man took office. 26/11, what 26/11??? How could such trifles come in the way of the all important “Peace Talks”? Any pretence to pursuing national interests was buried with such an approach.
UPA-II has sunk to such new lows after the latest attack that it prompted forty former military top brass, civilian officers and diplomatic officers to voice their concerns in an unprecedented manner. One look at the list of signatories says that some of the best strategic minds in the country are worried about the state of foreign affairs.
Generals Vishwanath Sharma, NC Vij, ACM S Krishnaswamy, Ambassadors KC Singh, G Parthasarathy, Kanwal Sibal, among others are the keenest of minds when it comes to national security, diplomacy and defence. This is not a right-wing rant that can be facetiously dismissed as a “knee-jerk” reaction, as some worthies tend to do. This is a carefully thought out and worded statement that gives food for thought on several counts.
1. By citing both 26/11 and the beheading the strategic community has shown its grave concern and perplexity by this current theme of “de-linking terrorism from the peace process”. Evidently, that is a no-win approach.
2. By mentioning “structural impediments” and insisting on the need for “concrete actions on the ground” the statement highlights what is common knowledge to everyone but the Indian political establishment. That is the fact that Pakistan’s professed desire for “peace” does not translate to verifiable and time bound actions on the ground. Is “Peace” is a state of affairs when Pakistani interests are protected, no matter what?
3. By exposing the vacuous “promises” of the “civilian government” in which the Government of India and certain media celebrities seem to place great trust, the statement just stops short of calling Pakistan as duplicitous. By recalling the insulting denials and excuses, the statement exposes Pakistan for what it is – a bullying failed state.
4. This is the killer. “Such a policy of appeasement has manifestly failed to deliver results – as indeed all appeasement must fail. This is the ineluctable lesson of history”. Truer words were never written about the India-Pakistan relationship. Why does this exercise in futility remind me of this one here?
5. Another damning indictment. I have to quote this verbatim – “The way forward is for all Indians and the government in particular, to develop a national consensus on issues of national security, counter-terrorism and defence preparedness, de-linking them from electoral politics. Ill-advised attempts and measures to denigrate and undermine the functioning of vital institutions like the Army and the Intelligence Bureau through motivated assertions and leaks to the media are a cause of serious concern.
These inflict incalculable damage on vital security institutions and systems and on the morale of the personnel concerned.” What a resounding slap on the face of the Congress, its stooges and its divide and rule policy. Need anything else be said? The experts have laid it out in pretty stark language, but are the worthies reading?
6. Impose a cost on Pakistan and change the cost benefit calculus of these policies. As Jaideep Prabhu explains here, even for talking peace, Pakistan must be made to pay a price. The strategists are clear, the intellectuals and academicians like Arun Shourie and Brahma Chellaney are clear, the armed forces are clear, the common people are clear, Pakistan is clear that there has to be pain inflicted on Pakistan which will make them desist. Sadly GoI chooses to listen to some vested interests – exposed in grand style by the One Man Army Mediacrooks – and remain unclear.
7. Another key phrase “Abjure language that equates our problems with terrorism with those of Pakistan”. Self-explanatory.
In the words of certain other prominent thinkers, “India’s approach to Pakistan has periodically swung between the extremes of comprehensive engagement and almost complete disengagement.” Clearly, the solution to Pakistan is not to love it, or hate it or ignore it, but to deal with it.
I will be presumptuous enough to suggest a few means that India could consider. I make no claim that these are original suggestions, but just that they be seen in the light of recent happenings and that a comprehensive view be taken.
Ranging between revoking the Most Favored Nation status and cancelling all trade (even through the Dubai route). India-Pak trade is currently about USD 2.85 Billion with about USD 500 Million Pakistan exports with a trade balance favoring India. Pakistan’s exports are chiefly rice, cement, dates and leather. Nothing critical here. With a total external trade of only USD 57 Billion, the India component is sizable for Pakistan. With an external trade profile of USD 800 Billion, India could swat the trade component with Pakistan like a pesky fly and be done with it.
Indus Water Treaty: During the wars of 1965, 1971 and 1999 India did not revoke or even re-consider the treaty. India had shown a distinct lack of imagination in doing so. In the words of Dr Brahma Chellaney, perhaps India’s foremost expert on Water Security, the IWT is the most favourable treaty an upper riparian state has given to a lower riparian state. Considering that the Indus river system accounts for 77% of Pakistan’s fresh-water, India should consider using the Baglighar Dam and the Kishanganga Project more creatively.
Pakistan’s defence budget is USD 7 Billion. By contrast, India’s is about USD 46 Billion. This is expected to grow to USD 100 Billion in the next decade. A USD 100 Billion cheque-book, when waved in front of US, France, Israel and Russia can be helpful in imposing certain pre-conditions to arms sales, which need not be restricted to arms sales to Pakistan. Russia has stopped sale and France is sympathetic to Indian concerns, the US less so. Hence small suppliers like Ukraine, who sell their wares to both India and Pakistan, should be made salutary examples of. Once some contracts are cancelled, the bigger boys will get the message. Oh and btw, don’t spend the entire 100 billion bucks on trucks and choppers. Get some hi-tech toys.
Recent pronouncements have more or less made the LOC as the de-facto starting point for any discussion. Such thinking needs to change. India shall need to re-assert its claim based on the Instrument of Accession, which would cover what is today called as Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Both AK & BG were forcibly occupied by Pakistan in 1947 and by holding onto which Pakistan breaks the condition for the UN recommended plebiscite. The travesty is that they present it to the world as though India is shying away from a plebiscite. The Indian main-stream media, loud and cacophonous otherwise, is strangely muted on this con-job. Instead, it partners with the government in shamelessly depicting these areas as part of Indian Territory in maps and graphical representations. India should make it a precondition for other countries to recognize AK & GB as Indian Territory for suitable concessions, trade etc. In other words, make a Taiwan out of J&K.
Pakistan is a rational player that thrives by wearing a cloak of irrationality. Similar irrationality would be helpful. The “no first use” policy for nuclear weapons professed by India needs to be reviewed. A mere statement of intent to review the NFU will bring a change in behaviour.
I will not talk about secession in Baluchistan or “limited-strikes” on “terror-camps” as those are best left either to the experts or to the Indian TV media. The points listed above would be apparent to any casual observer of the India-Pakistan strategic equation. Why they are not evident to the powers that be in Delhi is a mystery.
Post Script 1: Apart from all the above, there is one measure that India needs to take soon. That is to get rid of its insufferably pompous foreign minister. He seems to be the most mediocre minister in recent memory. To receive such a singular distinction, when surrounded by such august company, is stuff of legend.
Post Script 2: The title is from Aesop’s timeless fable. I leave it to MEA to figure out who is who.
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