02 August, 2010

Shyam Saran on Pak's Vulnerabilities

Shyam Saran was asked : (http://www.asianage.com/interview-week/%E2%80%98exploit-pak%E2%80%99s-vulnerabilities%E2%80%99-367)

What do you mean by Pakistan’s vulnerabilities?

Ans. Over time, build negative and positive leverages with Pakistan. Take Kashmir, for instance. We can take the people in PoK (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir) and in Gilgit-Baltistan to be our citizens, as we believe that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is ours, and go in for a strong espousal of their case. Why do we not assert our claims in diplomatic terms? Do we have a strategy of engaging people in those territories?

Also, why should we be defensive about our independent Afghanistan policy? If we assert it, we will be building greater pressure on Pakistan. Our self-interest should be made explicit.

At the same time, while dealing with Pakistan, we should seek to expand the positive constituency in that country — say trade and business. This can be an instrument of positive leverage. Islamabad and the people of Pakistan should be made to understand that improving business and economic ties with India is in their own self-interest, and this can grow only if ties with India are positive


1. My perception is that to build both positive and negative leverages simultaneously in case of Pakistan would be next to impossible. We have to choose any one path. The moment we talk abt POK & Gilgit-Baltistan, we would be charged for Kashmir Valley. People who live in glass houses don't throw stones at others. Do we find regular cases of rioting in those areas?

Well, if we openly talk abt Kashmir in general & try to sort out the outstanding issue, then its a different matter altogether.

2. Its better if we pressurise them on the Balochistan issue but then we also have our Red Corridor and that would be probably mudslinging, leading us nowhere.

3. Mr Saran's second option regarding our Afghanistan policy is to be appreciated. We need to be more assertive, clear & unequivocal abt our Central Asia policy. The problem we face in that matter is the diplomatic pressure of US in spreading our wings in Afghanistan as that would hit Pakistani emotions.

Thus we may offer a military presence in Afghanistan in aid to NATO-ISAF. That would surely dent both Paki & Sino designs. Pure reconstruction might not work in the long run. China has also invested abt US $ 3 bn in that country.

4. Greater involvement in Afghanistan can surely be dangerous in terms of Jihadi attacks in mainland India. But we ought to take a risk. Everything simply cannot be hedged.

5. Only trade & business with Pak may work on a temporary basis, that too if we dont talk abt only POK etc. But we cannot expect the civil-military elite of Pak to allow free flow of goods & services between the two countries for a long period of time. We have seen the fate of Track-II level diplomacy in the past.

6. The crux of the matter is Kashmir and we just cannot shy away from it. If we talk kashmir, we can talk Afghanistan too & that to boldly and loudly.


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