December 4, 2022

Trading Indian Interests

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh shaking hands with his Pakistani Counterpart, Mr. Yousaf Raza Gilani during a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of the 15th NAM Summit, at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on July 16, 2009.

Indo-Pak Track-2 Dialogue funded by Britain, or for that matter any other foreign country, organisation or Think Tank, the Indian Government must take a call whether this type of nonsense should be allowed to continue, considering the adverse ramifications it can have to India’s national interests. If there is to be any Track-2, it should be under orders and funded by the Government of India (in concert with others as deemed fit), not a foreign power

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

On October 2, 2012, the Atlantic Council of Ottawa put out the news bulletin titled “India-Pakistan experts agree on confidence-building measures at Lahore meeting”. The bulletin stated that since November 2011, militaries of both India and Pakistan held several rounds of talks at Dubai (November 20-21, 2011), Bangkok (February 23-25, 2012) and Lahore (September 23-25, 2012) with additional working group meetings in Chiang Mai (April 21, 2012) and Palo Alto (July 30-31, 2012). This was the infamous Indo-Pak Track 2 that agreed for India to vacate the Saltoro Range in Siachen. Readers may guess where the funding for these meetings came – none from India.

It emerged later that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was seeking a peace prize by converting the Saltoro Range into a Mountain of Peace and his NSA Shiv Shankar Menon, former foreign secretary who served as ambassador to China, towed the line; putting Indian diplomats in the Track II in the back and military veterans in front – much like the 15 rounds of Corps Commander-level talks to resolve the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh.

Whether Menon ignored the immense strategic disadvantage to India by vacating Saltoro is not known but he did insert Balochistan in the text of the India-Pakistan joint statement after prime minister of both countries met at Sharm el-Sheikh on sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit on July 16, 2009. This not being part of the draft sent by our ambassador in Islamabad, the distraught ambassador sent a one line message to Menon saying “Sharm el-Sheikh mein sharam”.

On May 22, 2022, Manish Tewari, Lok Sabha MP and Congress leader, tweeted: “Chairing the Indo-Pakistan Track-2 Dialogue entitled Chao Track in Bangkok, Thailand @CSDR India. Serious work beyond Parliament and the Courts to build a unified South Asia.”  Another tweet by someone said that a similar dialogue is also on in London.   

Whether Menon ignored the immense strategic disadvantage to India by vacating Saltoro is not known but he did insert Balochistan in the text of the India-Pakistan joint statement after prime minister of both countries met at Sharm el-Sheikh on sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit on July 16, 2009

CSDR stands for ‘Council for Strategic and Defense Research’ based in New Delhi, whose website says they work on issues like foreign policy, regional connectivity, defense strategy, intelligence, strategic technologies, conflict resolution, peace-building, climate change and energy security.

It is noteworthy that the study mentioned by Manish Tewari was originally being done by another Think Tank and later shifted to the CSDR with the efforts of one ‘Deep Barman’ working at the British High Commission in New Delhi. Deep Barman joined CSDR at that time but all correspondence of CSDR does not mention him anymore, which is suspicious. Most significantly, Britain reportedly is funding this Indo-Pak Track-2 to the tune of £35,000-45,000 annually. Why would Britain with its known leaning towards Pakistan spend such amount on this Track-2?

The news about Rahul Gandhi signing a memorandum of understanding with China’s Communist Party (CCP) keeps cropping up periodically, which is obviously a MoU between the Congress and the CCP. It is impossible that our intelligence agencies cannot obtain a copy of the same, when classified government letters periodically appear in the media – both print and electronic. China anyway is not foolish to put anything suspicious in the MoU. There have also been reports of communist leaders from India frequently visiting China for liaison-cum-mentoring and collecting funds. The CCP is also known to have arranged Sitaram Yechury to visit North Korea from China.

On Buddha Purnima (May 16, 2022), BJP’s National President JP Nadda interacted with envoys of Australia, Bhutan, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Suriname and the US for more than three hours. The envoys were shown a short film on the BJP and were updated on BJP’s ideology, structure, functioning and the welfare works it has been undertaking. During the interaction with the envoys it was suggested that the BJP should increase “party-to-party interaction” with other countries.

It is noteworthy that the study mentioned by Manish Tewari was originally being done by another Think Tank and later shifted to the CSDR with the efforts of one ‘Deep Barman’ working at the British High Commission in New Delhi. Deep Barman joined CSDR at that time but all correspondence of CSDR does not mention him anymore, which is suspicious. Most significantly, Britain reportedly is funding this Indo-Pak Track-2 to the tune of £35,000-45,000 annually. Why would Britain with its known leaning towards Pakistan spend such amount on this Track-2?

French President Emmanuel Macron believes that a “European political community” should be built that would be broader than the European Union. This would be more at government-to-government level rather than individual political party level albeit it could also be both. Technically Indian political parties having contacts with foreign political parties perhaps cannot be faulted. But the problem is that morality is not in the lexicon of politicians, who for power will go to any extent. Mani Shankar Aiyar begging Pakistan to bring the Congress back into power in India is one example. A recent example of switching loyalties is Hardik Patel, who till recently was denounced as the JNU lout turned immoral politicians, being welcomed by the ruling party for Patidar votes.

The fact remains that any political party having links with foreign political parties would give priority to regain power when in the opposition albeit the same is also relevant for retaining power. In this context, individual interests of politicians would also come into play, with the peculiarity of our politicians to switch from one political party to another at the drop of a hat. All this opens up the possibility of India’s national interests being traded to foreign powers. The barter of our interests for foreign help can include exposing Indian vulnerabilities. This may even amount to revealing the identities of our intelligence agents in foreign countries.

When government-to-government contacts are in place, should political parties develop contacts with foreign political parties, some of which could do more damage than what is being done through NGOs?  Is this the reason why foreign envoys wanted the ruling party to increase party-to-party contacts with political parties of other countries; to promote interests of respective foreign countries. But being a democracy, India will perhaps have to live with this.

America’s Republican politician Robert ‘Bob’ Lancia recently tweeted: “If the Gilgit-Baltistan region was under the control of India, the US troops in Afghanistan could have received supplies directly from India, a friendly democracy, rather than depending on unreliable and double game playing Pakistan. Indian controlled Gilgit-Baltistan would also be a major blow to America’s number 1 rival, China, and China’s belts and road initiative, by denying China direct access to ports on the Arabian Sea”.

The fact remains that any political party having links with foreign political parties would give priority to regain power when in the opposition albeit the same is also relevant for retaining power. In this context, individual interests of politicians would also come into play, with the peculiarity of our politicians to switch from one political party to another at the drop of a hat. All this opens up the possibility of India’s national interests being traded to foreign powers. The barter of our interests for foreign help can include exposing Indian vulnerabilities. This may even amount to revealing the identities of our intelligence agents in foreign countries

Bob’s tweet is 20 years too late and possibly because he announced this year that he would run for the US House of Representatives in Rhode Island’s 2nd congressional district. Did Washington ever think like this past two decades before the US forces were routed by the Taliban from Afghanistan in August 2021? On the contrary, Washington and the CIA have been in league with Pakistan all along and the POTUS Joe Biden’s administration wants to revive strategic ties with Pakistan.

Getting back to the above mentioned Indo-Pak Track-2 Dialogue funded by Britain, or for that matter any other foreign country, organisation or Think Tank, the Indian Government must take a call whether this type of nonsense should be allowed to continue, considering the adverse ramifications it can have to India’s national interests. If there is to be any Track-2, it should be under orders and funded by the Government of India (in concert with others as deemed fit), not a foreign power.

Pakistani scholar Ayesha Siddiqa wrote on August 11, 2021: The British High Commission in Pakistan is the largest diplomatic mission that the UK has anywhere in the world, the British Chief of Defence Staff General Nicolas Carter is a frequent visitor to Rawalpindi; London is practically a second home and a natural refuge for Pakistan’s political class and elite Generals, Britain is tied to Pakistan due to both domestic political and security matters, and; the approximately 1.2 million British of Pakistani origin that are part of politics in Northern England, and even other places, make it imperative for British politicians to be conscious of Pakistan.

Admiral Tony Radakin has since replaced Nicholas Carter as the UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff, but the UK-Pakistan relationship would be unchanged, if not cosier. We need to examine Ayesha Siddiqa’s above narrative in context of Britain spending £35,000-45,000 annually on the Indo-Pak Track-2 dialogue. It is time for Government of India to act.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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