That names can be misleading is proved by “Azad Kashmir”, that part of the state which remained in the custody of Pakistan after Prime Minister J.L. Nehru and Deputy Prime Minister V. Patel agreed to Governor-General Lord Mountbatten’s proposal for a ceasefire beginning 1 January 1949. For the reality is, the only “azaadi” in that part of the globe is from Kashmiris, who have been almost totally replaced by Punjabis, the ethnic group that dominates Pakistan because of its control over the military. These days, there is some attention being paid to the policy differences between India’s first PM and his deputy, but there were many core issues on which the two agreed, including on the preservation of the colonial system of government and laws. If anything, Sardar Patel was even more convinced of the need to protect the prerogatives and power of the Imperial Civil Service (ICS) than was Nehru. Had Patel resisted the Mountbatten proposal, Nehru would have had to permit the Indian Army to recover the whole of the state, thereby giving India much greater strategic ability to influence Central and Western Asia than is the case at present.
Whether it be the 1950s’ refusal to replace China in the UN Security Council or the rejection that same decade of the Sultan of Oman’s offer to transfer Gwadar to India, or indeed the horror in both South Block and North Block that greeted the 2003 US proposal that India should station a division of its finest soldiers in the Kurdish region of Iraq (then and thereafter the quietest region in that country) or the continuing coyness about participating in the war on Daesh (ISIS) in a manner other than verbal, policymakers in this country have established a tradition of roaring like lions, while acting in the manner of mice, with all rare exceptions such as Indira Gandhi’s 1971 assistance to the Mukti Bahini to liberate that country from a genocidal army of occupation from Pakistan. As for Indira Gandhi, after bursts of courage (such as the 1974 Pokharan nuclear tests), she lapsed back into acquiescence in the wishes of international bullies, of course loudly protesting the opposite all the while. The 1974 tests (or indeed, those of 1998) were not followed by others designed to affix India firmly in the pantheon of global powers. Instead, the persistent fear of retribution that forms an affliction universal among Lutyens’ Zone policymakers in India, led to surrender after surrender of the prerogatives that independent effort by clusters of citizens had made possible for the country.
Although he has never been given credit, the fact is that it was Durga Prasad Dhar who was the architect of the India-USSR pact, which made intervention in Bangladesh feasible, as indeed he was for stiffening the spine of the Prime Minister, although later, in Shimla, the more emollient Parameshwar Nath Haksar got the upper hand and persuaded Indira Gandhi to make concessions to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that has convinced the Pakistan establishment ever since that what is lost on the battlefield to India can always be regained at the conference table. This lack of fear of long-term consequences is what motivates countries to commit deeds against India with regularity, such as China’s decision at Seoul to block India’s entry into the NSG. Thus far, apart from sending home three Xinhua journalists (at least one of whom, Tang Lu, has consistently been a booster of India), nothing seems to have been done to ensure that Beijing feels any pain at ignoring the expressed wishes of India in the NSG meeting, not to mention Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin has lost face in India and elsewhere, because of the way in which his request to Beijing to give up its opposition to India was ignored with contempt by that capital.
Forty-five years ago, there was a geopolitical need for an India-USSR pact wth military overtones. In the present era, there is a requirement for a similar arrangement with the US, that would increase the feasible retaliatory options for India once Daesh launches a mass terror attack within this country. Should such an agreement be reached on terms that are of mutual benefit to both the biggest democracies on the planet, the range of options in dealing with geopolitical challenges would substantially multiply.
Pakistan needs the backing of the US and China to continue to escalate its war of attrition on India. There is evidence that Washington may finally be getting more real so far as the generals in GHQ Rawalpindi are concerned, although as yet, China seems ready to place the interests of GHQ above that of good relations with India or even the request of Vladimir Putin, a leader who has gone out of his way to align Moscow with Beijing. If Islamabad is a tad less effective in international mobilisation on trouble spots such as Kashmir than was the case in the merry 1990s, it is because Delhi and Washington have come closer thanks to Narendra Modi and Barack Obama. Both being the leaders of countries with more than a sprinkling of lawyers, what is needed is to place such ties on a formal footing. Such an action would damp down optimism in Rawalpindi and concentrate minds in Beijing, who this far have taken as a joke any blowback for consistent actions designed to place India in the same box as Pakistan, rather than with China itself, which is where India belongs. Just as the 1971 showdown with Pakistan needed to be preceded by a military agreement with the USSR, the next showdown with that country has made mandatory a formal understanding with the US.
However, as yet, there does not seem to be any D.P. Dhar within the Lutyens’ Zone who could ensure that a 1971-style pact suited to the security needs of the present be worked out and signed by Prime Minister Modi and President Obama.