NEW DELHI: Asserting that past handling of Pakistan raises many questions, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said the 1972 Simla agreement resulted in a “revanchist” Pakistan and continuing problems in Jammu and Kashmir, as he hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “bold moves” in dealing with the neighbouring country.
The minister also said that “holding the feet to the fire” is very important in dealing with Pakistan and asserted the neighbouring country has built “an industry of terror”. Delivering the fourth Ramnath Goenka memorial lecture, Jaishankar advocated a foreign policy that appreciates change and is not status quoist as he cited key past incidents in Indian history such as the defeat in the war with China in 1962, the Simla agreement, the “inaction” after the Mumbai terror attacks to contrast it with India’s more dynamic stance post-2014.
Giving a historical perspective to geopolitical issues, Jaishankar said, “For years India’s position on the world state seemed assured, but the 1962 conflict with China significantly damaged India’s standing.” “India’s record includes dark moments like the 1962 defeat against China. Or tense ones like the 1965 war with Pakistan. There are enough dichotomies in our past to generate a spirited debate on successes and failures,” the minister said.
“Two decades of nuclear indecision ended dramatically with the tests of 1998. The lack of response to 26/11 is so different from the Uri and Balakot operations. Whether it is events or trends, they all bear scrutiny for the lessons they hold,” he said. Jaishankar asserted that the purposeful pursuit of national interest in shifting global dynamics may not be easy, but it must be done.
The real obstacle to the rise of India is not anymore the barriers of the world, but the dogmas of Delhi, he said in his lecture on the topic ‘Beyond the Delhi Dogma: Indian Foreign Policy in a Changing World’.
“There was also little awareness in the 1950s that we were dealing with a battle-hardened neighbour to the North. Or of the strategic significance of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This approach to world affairs continued even thereafter,” Jaishankar said while explaining six phases in Indian foreign policy. “Thus, in 1972 at Shimla, India chose to bet on an optimistic outlook on Pakistan. At the end of the day, it resulted in both a revanchist Pakistan and a continuing problem in Jammu & Kashmir,” he said.
The Simla Agreement was signed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972 seeking to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war. It was a comprehensive blue print for good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan. The External Affairs Minister said the time taken to link talks with Pakistan to cessation of terrorism speaks for itself.
After the lecture, Jaishankar also engaged in a conversation on stage and took several questions on neighbourhood policy, Pakistan, Indo-US ties and abrogation of Article 370 provisions and bifurcation of the J&K state.
Speaking on the government’s move to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Jaishankar said the discussions around it were ldeological and there was “liberal fundamentalism at work” in the discourse.
“My reputation is not decided by a newspaper in New York,” Jaishankar said over criticism of the government’s move by foreign media.
“As we move decisively to combat separatism in Jammu & Kashmir, there is some talk of its internationalization and hyphenation of our ties with Pakistan. This is thinking from the past, reflecting neither the strength of India, the mood of the nation or the determination of the government,” he asserted in the lecture.
Uninformed comments abroad on India’s internal affairs is hardly internationalization, Jaishankar said.
“The reputational and real differences between India and Pakistan puts paid to any hyphenation effort. In reality, these fears are but a thinly disguised advocacy of inaction. Their intent, conscious or otherwise, is to legitimize a status quo that has now been overtaken by history,” he said.
Jaishankar also hit out at the handling of Pakistan in the past, saying it raises many questions. “Our past handling of Pakistan, a society which we are supposed to know well, also raises many questions. These are not exactly hypothetical situations and are cited to underline the contention that emergence as a leading power requires great pragmatism,” he said.
“That can be further strengthened by more sophisticated narratives that help reconcile divergences. After all, our emphasis on sovereignty has not prevented us from responding to human rights situations in our immediate region,” he said.
India had allowed the narrative to focus mainly on a dialogue with Pakistan, when the real issue was stopping crossborder terrorism, Jaishankar asserted. In the last five years, however, a different normal has developed and global conversations on crossborder terrorism have become more serious, he said. Lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “bold moves” in dealing with Pakistan, Jaishankar said his visit to Pakistan was “extraordinarily” risky, not just politically but also physically.
Jaishankar also cited the FATF pressure on Pakistan over terror activities emanating from its soil and said India needs bold moves to deal with the neighbouring country. On the economic slowdown in India, Jaishankar said, “We shouldn’t be so faint-hearted. Two-quarter slowdown doesn’t mean the world is coming to an end. We have been through that before.”
The Ramnath Goenka memorial lecture has been organised by the Indian Express Group. PTI