By Tufail Ahmad, New Age Islam
06 December 2016
History rarely offers a golden opportunity to nations to secure their future. On January 20, Donald Trump will take over as the president of the United States. Intellectually, Trump shares India's viewpoint on Pakistani terrorism. With Donald Trump in power, a golden opportunity has emerged for India to get its Pakistan policy right. India can persuade the Trump administration to declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, which is the single-most problem India faces currently.
In the mid-1990s, the then US president Bill Clinton was about to declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror but India was not willing to do so. Before expecting Trump to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism on India's behalf, it will be extremely foolish if India does not declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror. It can be said therefore that the next four years are the biggest challenge for Indian diplomacy. And we will see if Indian diplomacy squanders this golden opportunity of next four years offered by Trump's election to the US presidency.
There is a section of Indians such as those represented by the Hindu fringe which worries about Pakistani terrorism and India's integrity. To them, I would like to say this: for the first time since the Mauryan Empire which lasted from the 4th through the 2nd centuries BCE, for the first time in more than 2000 years, India is militarily the strongest state which has the capability to fight both Pakistan and China at the same time. But wars are not won by the force of weapons alone. Wars are won and lost by the intellectual judgement of political leaders.
Victory is not always achieved at the battlefield. Sometimes, victory is achieved after a war is over. During the post-1947 years of our history, most Indians are taught to think that India won all the wars against Pakistan – in 1947-48, in 1965, in1971, in 1999 Kargil, and so on. But this is not true. The fact is that we lost all these wars to Pakistan. In 1947-48, if the Indian leadership had exercised good judgment, today we would have a trade-by-road via Skardu in Pakistan all the way to Europe. In 1965, India handed over the Haji Pir Pass to Pakistan. In 1971, India returned 96,000 Pakistani troops almost for nothing. True, these wars were won by the Indian military, but we did not achieve victory. Military success and victory are not the same thing.
Our political leaders failed subsequently to derive any benefit from these military successes. A military success alone is not victory. Even after the 1999 Kargil war, as per those involved in Track II diplomacy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was ready to formally hand over PoK – the Pakistani-occupied Kashmir – to Pakistan. This is an intellectual trend that has continued. In December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi surrendered by visiting Lahore, perhaps because the US State Department and the Pakistani lobby of Delhi took over our foreign policy. This intellectual failure has long roots.
Before he became president, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam summed up India's experience with the world in these words: "In 3000 years of our history people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards, the Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation."Kalam's words must force us to think why foreign powers invaded us, and we surrendered before them and continue to do so.
Mahmud Ghazni launched 17 attacks on Indian cities during 1000–1027 CE, through known means, through known routes, seizing the Somnath temple in Gujarat in the final invasion. But each time we waited for him to do so, we did not go beyond our borders to prevent him, to tame him, to fight him, to eliminate him. As a civilisation, are we trained to fight only among ourselves as in Mahabharata – but not against foreign invaders? Is it our sense of pluralism and co-existence that disempowers us from fighting foreign powers? Why do we host invaders?
Is India's celebrated co-existence really good? On 3rd October 2014, Vijay Dashmi, RSS Chief Dr. Mohan Bhagwat delivered a speech to mark the founding of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He spoke of India's rising status: "The entire world is today waiting for this eternal nation to stand up in its own form." Dr. Bhagwat celebrated Indians who travelled "from Mexico to Siberia… without attempting to conquer any empire or without destroying way of life of any society, prayer systems or national identity." This speech should worry every Indian. It means India’s intellectual thought is caught in relativism in which Indians nurse a value-neutral worldview. The Indian mind is incapable of moral judgment.
Dr. Bhagwat's speech also means this: Indians going to work in Saudi Arabia will accept its Burqa-based value system that subjugates women. The issue here is not Burqa or the Saudi Arabia, but the serious issue is the Indian inability to choose and reject. Dr. Bhagwat defined Hindutva as an "unbroken current of national thinking" that "assimilates and accepts all of them with full respect." Should the new generation of Indians give "full respect" to other cultures that promote polygamy, Halala and Burqa? I see relativism not only in Dr. Bhagwat's speech but also in the Chicago speech of Swami Vivekananda. In his address of 11th September 1893, Vivekananda said: "We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true."This line of intellectual thought, whether coming from Mohan Bhagwat or Swami Vivekananda, must be rejected forthwith.
Now, India is also changing rapidly. In 2007, newspapers in India published photographs of Indian women, in military fatigues, their feet dug in boots and machineguns hanging on back shoulders, landing at the Monrovia international airport in far-away Liberia on a peacekeeping mission. In India where women are brought up to do household chores like cooking, washing and tending to husbands and children, these images illustrated fundamental transformations. India has a record of military interventions in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and in wars with Pakistan. As India emerges as a Great Power, it will need to do more than peacekeeping and being an ally of the US.
In a situation created by the rise of China, India needs the US. The US needs India. India-U.S. relations will continue to grow irrespective of which party rules in Washington or New Delhi. Whether Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama or Donald Trump be in Washington DC, or AB Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh or Narendra Modi rule in New Delhi, the India-US relationships are set to grow. This is because the India-US relations were authored by the US military. In 1996, the US Defense Department produced a document called Joint Vision 2010, which was later revised as Joint Vision 2020. These documents stress that the US must upgrade defence capabilities and provide military supplies to its new allies in anti-access environments.
As part of this vision, the US introduced a new term "Indo-Pacific." As part of the new scenario, and as Chinese military seeks to undercut India's traditional dominance of the Indian Ocean, India's relationships have strengthened with Vietnam, Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and other like-minded countries through joint and multi-lateral military exercises. Basically, the structure is ready for a NATO-like Indo-Pacific Security Alliance in our region which India should welcome. But there are two points to think: one, in future will India become how Europe has been used as part of NATO? Two, the worry is also that India is sleepwalking with the US; Indian diplomats are not trained to speak loudly or engage in brinkmanship. India’s relations with the US should be a journey, constantly evolving, constantly changing, not permanent alliance. However, the real test of Indian diplomacy will be regarding Pakistan.
Former BBC journalist Tufail Ahmad is the Executive Director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. This article is excerpted from his speech on "India's Place in the Geopolitics" delivered at Lokmanthan 2016 in Bhopal on November 12-14, 2016.