Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has been quite active during the past fortnight; when he addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), he held bilateral meetings with the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Indian diaspora in the US. As if discovering the ‘Indianness’, Jaishankar represents the breed of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership which is exceedingly emotional about projecting India as a ‘great nation’ even though the country houses the world’s largest poverty-stricken people and acts as a bully to its smaller neighbours. While trying to portray ‘greatness’, Indian leaders cross all limits of decency to trounce their opponents, especially Pakistan. Instead of humility, arrogance is becoming the hallmark of Indian diplomacy.
During his address at the UNGA, Jaishankar sounded sanctimonious when he portrayed India as a victim of ‘cross border terrorism for decades’. It was clearly intended to malign Pakistan. On his return home, while addressing a gathering at Vadodara in Gujrat, Jaishankar said: “just as India is an expert in information technology (IT), our neighbour is an expert in international terrorism (IT)”.
While in the US, Jaishankar had problems with the US for agreeing to supply spares to Pakistan for the F-16, estimated at $ 460 million. He patronisingly questioned the US on the rationale of having relations with Pakistan. He ridiculed the American justification for supplying F-16 spares to Pakistan to fight terrorism, implying that those aircraft would be used against India. Rightly so. If to pick up a leaf from the Indian book of ‘Chanakya tactics’, the Indian acquisition of heavy mechanised armour is justified against China, knowing full well that the Indian border with China is a mountainous region. However, the history of such heavy equipment shows that it had been used in the plains against Pakistan.
Jaishankar sounded like a peacemaker on the Ukrainian crisis emphasising that “India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there…we are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles…we are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.”
No doubt, his words were very noble as far as Ukraine was concerned. One wished that he had the moral courage to express similar sentiments for the immediate neighbours, or pleaded for peace or ‘respect of the UN Charter’, or ‘dialogue and diplomacy’ as a way out for the bilateral disputes. Regarding the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, he and his leadership were no different from any occupation forces, whether Russia in Ukraine, the US forces in Iraq or Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian land.
Unfortunately, the West has adopted double standards in the conduct of international relations. It is striving to convince the world about the righteousness of its stand on the Ukrainian crisis. It cajoles countries to support its contention in proving Russia as a villain deserving collective punishment. However, it looks the other way when people in Indian Occupied Kashmir are subjected to the worst kind of human rights abuses by India, including the killing of over one hundred thousand Kashmiris since the early nineties; fake encounters with ‘Kashmiri militants’, criminal silence over the fate of thousands of ‘half widows’ whose husbands are missing for years and the use of rape as a weapon by the Indian security forces to subjugate the Kashmiris fighting for their right to self-determination. Pellet guns have been added to the Indian brutalities by blinding the Kashmiris, especially the youth, for life. UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has been persistently denied access by the Indian government to probe into the gross human rights violations in the occupied state.
The UNGA is a forum where the international community’s attention is invited to various issues of common interest. It is also a forum to find solutions to the problems faced by the world community to maintain peace, security, and the membership’s economic well-being. For Pakistan, this is a forum where it can remind the world community of the promises it made to allow the right to self-determination to the Kashmiri people through an UN-supervised plebiscite. However, the words ‘Kashmir and right to self-determination’ are a red rag to the Indian leadership present on the eve of the UNGA’s session.
It should become a sheer embarrassment for the ‘world’s largest democracy’ to be reminded at the international forums by a neighbour of its obligations towards the Kashmiri people. Therefore, ‘cross-border terrorism’ is a pretext India uses to cover its embarrassment. It has indulged in various gimmickries to divert the world’s attention by claiming Kashmir as an ‘integral part’ of India. No doubt, the political expediencies of the major powers may buy some time for the Indians to keep the Kashmir dispute under wraps. Still, India cannot be allowed to subjugate the Kashmiris forever or coerce Pakistan to stay silent about a dispute to which it is a party.
India cannot hide lies and deceit on the terrorism issue as its record is chockfull in the neighbourhood. Indian consulates in Afghanistan (Kandahar and Jalalabad) and Iran (Zahedan) have been spy dens against Pakistan for many years. An Indian Navy officer, Kalbhushan Yadev, currently in Pakistan’s custody, is a living example of the Indian terrorist activities against Pakistan. He was running his operations from Chabahar (Iran) and admitted to having organised and funded terrorist acts in Balochistan province and Karachi, where dozens of innocent people were killed.
India deliberately blocked avenues for a negotiated settlement of issues between the two countries by raising the bogey of ‘cross-border terrorism’ in sheer disregard to the challenges Pakistan faced after 9/11, which cost over eighty thousand lives in Pakistan, including 8000 law enforcement agencies personnel. While Indians may be justified in asking Pakistan about the outcome of investigations into the Mumbai and Pathankot incidents, they are equally answerable for explaining the Samjhota Express terror act on February 18, 2007, in which 50 Pakistani passengers were burnt alive. Those involved in the gory incident were released after the Modi government came into power as the culprits belonged to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other organs of the Sangh Parivar.
While Pakistan could withstand the Indian intrigue and respond to India in the same coin, the bad luck of other smaller neighbours of India suffered at the hands of Indian bullying and terrorist activities ever since India became independent. India propped up Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka to blackmail the Sri Lankan government into falling in line. It is a different matter that LTTE became a monster for India and cost the latter dearly when a suicide attack took the life of Rajiv Gandhi, the architect of Tamil-Sri Lankan ‘rapprochement’. Nepal suffers Indian bullying now and then; India blocks Nepal’s transit trade whenever the Nepalese leaders take an independent stance. Bhutan and Maldives are virtually strangulated by India.
Mr Jaishankar’s hawkish stance and attempts to badmouth Pakistan in the US did not win him laurels from the American hosts or Pakistan. India has tried these tactics in the past without success; it may not succeed in the future.
The only path to peace and stability in South Asia lies through dialogue and resolution of festering issues in a spirit of cooperation. For the time being, peace does not figure on Mr Jaishankar and his ruling party’s menu.
Note: This article appeared in BOL, dated 09 October 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.