By Ambassador Prakash Shah
Ambassador Prakash Shah was a senior member of the Indian Foreign Service, who rose to become India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Later he was UN Under Secretary General and Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Iraq.
Dear External Affairs Minister,
The tentative actions announced by the Government of Pakistan regarding closure of a couple of terrorist camps and arrests of a couple of leaders of terrorist organizations in Pakistan has undoubtedly given some cheer to the Government of India and the MEA. But, we all know that Pakistan, in the past, has taken cosmetic measures while secretly helping the terrorist leaders and their camps to be renamed, re-located and eligible for ISI to continue their terrorist training aimed at India. I hope that, unlike in the past, the government will not sit on its laurels for getting Pakistan to take some cosmetic measures and will continue to apply sustained, strong and coercive pressure on Pakistan to give demonstrable evidence of action to destroy all terrorist camps.
While the government will hopefully maintain such pressure, it is perhaps the right time to review and discard several of the flawed assumptions and myths of the 20th Century on which our Pakistan policy is based.
MYTH NO. 1
A strong and stable Pakistan is essential to India’s security and prosperity.
Reality: In the eight years of the 21st Century, Pakistan has deteriorated from a semi-stable country to a failing, if not failed, state. India, during the same period, has grown at an average rate of 8 per cent per annum, has been recognized as a responsible nuclear weapon power, is considered the second most important emerging power in the world and has developed a strong economic and military base. It is high time to discard myth No. 1 and to focus more on maintaining India’s security and prosperity rather than worry about our neighbours.
MYTH NO. 2
Indian policy must aim at preserving and nurturing democracy in Pakistan and support democratic leaders.
Reality: Stable democracy in Pakistan is an oxymoron. No country can create support for sustained democracy in another country, least of all in Pakistan. Moreover, in the less than half-a-dozen bouts of democracy in Pakistan, there has been no Pakistani policy either on Kashmir or of destabilizing India which has been different from that of Pakistani dictatorship. Regardless of democracy or dictatorship in Pakistan, our focus should be preservation of security and national interests of the people of India.
MYTH NO. 3
Pakistan is a friendly country, with friendly people, and the best way for peace with Pakistan is diplomacy and dialogue.
Reality: There may be a lot of people in Pakistan who are friendly towards India but not one of them has a say in Pakistan’s policy towards India. Pakistan is run by the armed forces, ISI, the extremist mullahs and a bunch of floundering Zardari-type, Johnny-cum-lately politicians, all of whom hate India’s stability, secularism, prosperity and unity. While diplomacy and dialogue has a place in the rest of the world, it has utterly failed with Pakistan (witness flawed “peace process” of the last 60 years), because Pakistani leaders have always considered India’s peace initiatives as a sign of weakness. The focus of our policy should be coercive diplomacy, with “all options are on the table” approach to strengthen and give a backbone to any future initiatives. Dialogue can only succeed if it is proposed from a position of unquestioned strength and power.
MYTH NO. 4
Pakistani government leaders are a bunch of nice, innocent guys, who are unaware of terrorism, infiltration and sabotage on Indian territory from Pakistani territory.
Reality: Pakistani government, armed forces, ISI, etc, are hand-in-glove with terror organizations comfortably settled in Pakistani territory and support and fund their terrorist activities against India. Please do not fall for its civilian government’s feigned innocence nor for the appeals for restraint by Pakistani supporters in the West.
MYTH NO. 5
India can have cosy diplomatic relations with Pakistan and exchange of visits by civil society, while expecting other countries such as the US to put pressure on Pakistan to behave.
Reality: No country in the world is willing to spoil its relations with Pakistan as long as Indian leaders and diplomats regularly sit with Pakistani counterparts for tea and cashew nuts. If India is serious about providing security to its own people, the government has to take the lead in ostracising the terrorist state of Pakistan before it can expect others in the rest of the world to do so.
MYTH NO. 6
A soft and friendly policy towards Pakistan will gain Muslim votes.
Reality: Indian Muslims want to live in peace and security, and participate in India’s prosperity as much as Indians of other persuasions. Strong, coercive and effective policy towards Pakistan, which will guarantee safety and security for all Indians, including Muslims, is the best way to gain their support in elections. I have, no doubt, Mr Minister, that my extremely capable ex-Foreign Service colleagues are giving you correct advice on similar lines. What I am saying in this letter will hopefully complement and add to their advice to the Government.
With respectful regards,
Prakash Shah can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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