“We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given, and the Maharajah has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.” Speech by the Prime Minister of India, Mr Jawaharlal Nehru, 2 November 1947. Unfortunately India backed out of Mr Nehru's undertaking, which is why Kashmir has been recognized internationally as a disputed territory for almost seven decades. And there is no point in it being claimed that it is not so recognized, because the UN Security Council determined on 20 January 1948 (Resolution 654) that in regard to Kashmir (and of course elsewhere), the UN “may investigate any dispute or any situation which might, by its continuance, endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.” The UNSC Resolution 726 of 21 April 1948 was explicit in noting “with satisfaction that both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.” Neither of these resolutions has been repealed. They remain in force, and until such time that the UN
Security Council formally retracts or annuls them, Kashmir remains on the legal books and the moral conscience of the world. To mediate in the dispute, the Security Council established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) in January 1948, and in the Karachi Agreement of 27 July 1949 it was decided by the two sides, with mediation by the truce Sub-Committee of UNCIP, that there should be establishment of a Cease Fire Line (CFL) in Kashmir along, which the Commission “will station observers where it deems necessary.” (The meeting was cordial, as chronicled by one of the UN members, Lieutenant General Maurice Delvoie, whose son Louis was Canada's High Commissioner in Islamabad when the writer served there as Australian Defence Adviser.) The following January, the first officers of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) arrived in the region, tasked to take a hard and impartial look at what was going on and report the facts to the fledgling UNHQ. Although observers were stationed where the UN decided they were needed, and there was no restriction on their movement, they were not empowered to intervene in local disputes between the opposing sides. In the event these were comparatively rare, and in time it became the duty of observers to facilitate meetings between the sides, which was a sensible way of dealing with differences.
Impartiality was the keynote of UN involvement in the Kashmir dispute in those days, and when it appointed the distinguished Australian judge Sir Owen Dixon to mediate between the sides they could have hardly chosen a more independent and even-handed figure. But even Sir Owen, a patient and painstaking man, was in the end “convinced that India's agreement would never be obtained to demilitarization in any form, or to provisions governing the period of the plebiscite of any such character as would in my opinion permit the plebiscite being conducted in conditions sufficiently guarding against intimidation and other forms of influence and abuse by which the freedom and fairness of the plebiscite might be imperilled.” So wrote the future Chief Justice of Australia, frustrated, as others have been, by India's apparent acceptance of agreements which, then being regarded as nationally inconvenient, are later sidelined. There was, too, to be a decided change in the attitude of Australia to the Kashmir question. Following the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, the Soviet Union mediated between the sides, to their mutual satisfaction, and under the auspices of Moscow they signed the Tashkent Declaration on 10 January 1966, stating among other things that they “will exert all efforts to create good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan in accordance with the United Nations Charter.” There was no mention of evasion of United Nations Security Council Resolutions concerning Kashmir, and it was gratifying that both nations confirmed their willingness to abide by the Charter to the effect that, as laid down in Article 33, “The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.” And further, in Article 37 that “Should the parties to a dispute of the nature referred to in Article 33 fail to settle it by the means indicated in that Article, they shall refer it to the Security Council.” The Declaration confirmed acceptance that the UN, as represented by UNMOGIP, had a precise role to play in Kashmir, and it performed this role effectively for six years, while the region's population waited for action at the international level in order that their status and fate could be decided. Then in 1971 the countries went to war again and there was an interesting outcome so far as Kashmir was concerned, which boded ill for the future.
To this day, exchanges of fire continue across the Line of Control in Kashmir, which is regrettable because, as always, innocent people are killed in this sort of affray. There is no point in attempting to apportion blame about violations of the accord of 25 November 2003 in which India and Pakistan “agreed to observe a ceasefire . . . along the international border, the Line of Control and the Siachen Glacier.” That initiative was a welcome indication of flexibility, moderation and attempted confidence-building in a dispute which should be settled by common sense application of measures to ensure that wider conflict will not arise. Which is why the United Nations Organisation continues to have a major part to play in the Kashmir dispute, and UNMOGIP, if permitted by India, could properly monitor the dividing line between the existing Kashmirs, preparatory to the UN Security Council insisting on action in accordance with existing resolutions. India has the laudable ambition to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council and is supported by many nations including China (albeit with a caveat), Russia, and the United States. After the leaders of the US and India met in Washington in September 2010 it was stated that “the United States looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council with India as a permanent member; President Obama and Prime Minister Singh agreed that both their nations bear a responsibility to ensure that the Security Council continues to, effectively, play the role in maintaining international peace and security envisioned in the United Nations Charter.”
These are admirable sentiments, but there seems to be a lack of will to transform aspiration into practicality. The Kashmir problem has not been solved. It remains a UN responsibility under Article 33, yet there is no wish by India to abide by UN principles, in that “Should the parties to a dispute of the nature referred to in Article 33 fail to settle it by the means indicated in that Article, they shall refer it to the Security Council.” As India's Mr Nehru said in 1960 when discussing a crisis in Congo, “The role of the United Nations is a mediatory one . . . We are convinced that these questions cannot be dealt with on a bilateral basis, or even by a group of countries. They are of immediate and vital concern to the entire world.” Quite so: and his reference to the UN being “mediatory” cannot be brushed aside or swept under a Kashmir rug, for that matter. But sweeping seems to be the drift of the moment, as indicated by India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid who pronounced that, “There is no way in which India will accept any intervention on an issue that is entirely accepted in the Simla Agreement as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.” But it wasn't “entirely accepted” in the Simla Accord that there is exclusion of mediation. The meeting of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi at Simla in 1972 resulted in a joint undertaking that the Line of Control be established and that “the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the countries,” and, more specifically, that “the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.” In accordance with the UN Charter there is no bar to mediation and specific note is made of the desirability of “any other peaceful means.” Certainly it would be preferable for India and Pakistan to solve their differences bilaterally. This would indeed be a civilised manner in which to settle a disagreement. But they haven't managed to agree on much for over 65 years, so it's more than time for another approach. And there could not be a better solution than agreeing to mediation by the United Nations to whose ideals and principles both nations unconditionally subscribe. India's Defence Minister, Mr Antony, has declared that, “We are not in favour of involvement of any third country in talks between India and Pakistan.” But the United Nations Organisation is not a “third country.” It is a world body dedicated to attempting to stop countries going to war with each other. Certainly its ethos can be at variance with national vanity, and its verdicts may offend those against whom it might decide. But its judgements are the closest the world is going to get to international reason.
As noted by UNMOGIP itself, “Given the disagreement between the two parties over UNMOGIP's mandate and functions, the Secretary-General's position has been that UNMOGIP could be terminated only by a decision of the Security Council. In the absence of such an agreement, UNMOGIP has been maintained with the same arrangements as established following December 1971 ceasefire. The tasks of UNMOGIP have been to observe, to the extent possible, developments pertaining to the strict observance of the ceasefire of 17 December 1971 and to report thereon to the Secretary-General. The military authorities of Pakistan have continued to lodge complaints with UNMOGIP about ceasefire violations. The military authorities of India have lodged no complaints since January 1972 and have restricted the activities of the UN observers on the Indian side of the Line of Control. They have, however, continued to provide accommodation, transport and other facilities.” Both countries have provided Field Stations in military areas, in which modest accommodation 2-4 UN Observers are based, and although India has declined to abide by United Nations principles, in the past, many local problems were resolved with the help of UN officers. For some years since 1972, the Mission was able to monitor the Line of Control fairly effectively from the Pakistan side, but bit by bit the rot set in, and India managed to convince several countries that UNMOGIP was a waste of time. What New Delhi was seeking, of course, was disbandment of the Mission, as part of its campaign to remove the UN from the Kashmir agenda entirely. Australia was one example of success in this regard, and in the early 1980s its Defence Adviser in India was persuaded jovially by Indian officers that the Mission – “the Srinagar Rod and Gun Club” as they referred to it disparagingly – should not receive Australian support. Indeed this went so far as having the High Commissioner himself, while on holiday in a Kashmir lake houseboat, declining to meet any of the six Australians in UNMOGIP. This included me, as deputy head of the mission and staying for a weekend in the houseboat next to his. The tactics worked, and shortly after I left the Mission, the Australian contribution was withdrawn. India's campaign continued, and some field stations on the Indian side were closed, not because UNMOGIP wanted this, but because the Mission was given no support from UN HQ New York, where the mantra of the “Srinagar Rod and Gun Club” gained traction. It was made more difficult, week by week, for example, for the little twin-engined UN aircraft to get flight clearance from Delhi and eventually it had to be withdrawn. Movement over the UN road crossing-points became, on the Indian side, unaccountably more difficult to negotiate. All immature stuff, of course – but effective in demonstrating that India calls the shots as regards the operation of a Military Mission established and still maintained by the UN Security Council of which it seeks membership.
There seemed to be hope in November 2008 when Mr Obama said, “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.” But “The Kashmir crisis” then vanished from the view of President Obama and, it seems, from the horizon and ideals of the United Nations, leaving UNMOGIP in the wings when it could and should be centre stage. Mediation is defined as “a form of conflict management in which a third party assists two or more contending parties to find a solution without resorting to force.” As I have emphasised in other forums, mediation does not demand capitulation. Acceptance of independent judgement is not declaration of weakness, and the parties involved could, with profit, bear in mind Mr Nehru's advice to “Let us be a little humble; let us think that the truth may not perhaps be entirely with us.” It would be admirable, were the countries to demonstrate restraint and realism by referring the Kashmir dispute to the UN for consideration, while placing their own arguments before it, which they are perfectly entitled to do. The matter remains on the books of the Security Council, and India has no hope of becoming a permanent member of that body if it continues to adhere to the misleading notion that its own disputes fall outside its compass. After all, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2011, it examined (for example) the problem of the Congo (like Mr Nehru a half-century before), and voted for the Resolution that “Demands that all armed groups . . . immediately cease all forms of violence.” As observed by Mr Nehru: “in ages long past, a great son of India, the Buddha, said that the only real victory is one in which all are equally victorious and there is defeat for no one. In the world today, that is the only practical victory. Any other way will lead to disaster.” It is up to his successors to follow his wise advice.
While, Pakistan is engaged in combating terrorist networks in the tribal regions, new super powers alliances are emerging in Asia. Russia and China both neighbours and the USA, European Union and allies are bracing up to throw challenges to each other in Asia and more specifically in Central Asia and South Asia. US President’s recent visit to India and US-India defence agreement with US intent to transfer nuclear technology and co-production of state-of-the-art weapon systems to enhance India’s war fighting capability (against China and Pakistan) is one major strategic development in South Asia. The US shift in policy at a juncture when her forces are pulling out from Afghanistan has multiplied the security challenges not so much for China but definitely for Pakistan.
The US global policy shift puts Pakistan in a dilemma for balancing her diplomatic relations with USA. One wonders what the Indian sentiments were at the time of swapping Russia with USA? Russia was India’s time tested ally that had equipped more than 70% of Indian defence forces with state-of-the-art weapon systems/ technologies and supported India at every plane of interest? India must have in her calculus adjudged Russia as declining power and a history while USA viewed as future power for a greater US-India power projection role in Asia. The strategic shift in US policy in favour of India – the country known for bitter relations with neighbouring countries – requires Pakistani policy planners to be extra vigilant on diplomatic, economic and military fronts.
Pakistan’s ties with both USA and China have been friendly since Pakistan economically and militarily benefitted from both the countries. But now it appears, Pakistan’s relations with China may not have been viewed well by opposing global/ regional powers. What diplomatic options Pakistan should exercise now in new scenario is a matter of serious deliberations. Should we outrightly join Russia-China strategic alliance or maintain delicate balance in our relations with China and USA. Another policy option can be to continue maintaining relations with US while overlooking US-India strategic collaboration. The answer to these options may be governed by our long term national security concerns, economic interests and more logically proportionate to the quantum of US physical transfer of nuclear technology and modern weapon systems to India. Pakistan’s energy requirements are linked to gas pipe lines from Central Asia and Iran. Likewise, our defence orientation that has remained so far towards USA and the West is more likely to undergo reorientation towards China and Russia in future. The Central Asian States shall also depend on Pakistan’s sea ports via Afghanistan for business and trade ventures. While in case of India our dependency is linked to Indian controlled origins of fresh waters in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) that can be regulated by India to control flow in our river system. Thus it is our compulsion to maintain cordial relations with neighbours along both the borders for not only economic development but also for successful elimination of terrorist networks in the country.
Russia-China friendly relations and their fast growing influence in Central Asia has mainly started with Chinese funded gas pipeline project from Russia to China and collective interest of both the countries to establish multi-polar world for limiting strategic pressures from US in Asia-Pacific regions. Both the countries have unfailing interest in oil, gas and mineral resources in the Central Asia that will sustain future economy of not only Russia and China but also the entire world. Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are abundantly rich with oil and gas resources but economically less developed. These countries after independence from erstwhile Soviet Union have been receiving economic aid from USA and the EU but in meagre quantity. Resultantly, frustration exists among the people of these states who after independence from Soviet Union (now Russia) expected greater economic support from the West for developments. Pro-West orientation in Central Asia is now gradually fading and vacuum exists for Russia and China to fill. Anti-US public mood in Afghanistan and Pakistan is also no more a secret. Another factor that has drawn China and Russia closer is US- Russia bitter relations on Ukraine and Syrian crisis and US focus in the Pacific region to contain China. In case, US sponsored Indian defence forces build-up gains mammoth proportion, Pakistan will be left with little choice but to join China-Russia alliance. Our diplomatic and defence relations with Russia would see a new turn and radically improve in future. Pakistan has so far not enjoyed warm relations with Russia. Our relations vacillated between cool to hostile and failed to promote any meaningful social, economic, defence and technology cooperation. Our foreign policy remained influenced by Soviets’ pro-India policy. Our relations with USA remained friendly but at the cost of distancing away from the Soviet Union (now Russia). India however exploited the situation by portraying her stance as non-aligned country and acquired state-of-the-art Russian military weapons/equipment and abundant economic aid so far.
Russian geographical location, size and quality of human resource have much to offer to us in future. Geographically, located mainly in Asia and land borders with European countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and others like Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, North Korea, the Russian nation is recognized for her courage, sacrifices and distinct achievements in the fields of sciences, technology, education and economy. Victories against the King of Sweden, Napoleon Bonaparte, Hitler and others established her unchallenged supremacy in the region. It became Russian Empire after territorial acquisitions/ expansions towards the Pacific, Baltic, Europe and Asia. Two successive defeats during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 and the WW-1 spread poverty. Violent agitation popularly known as Russian Revolution ended with overthrow of imperial regime and ushered in new era. World War-2 inflicted yet another stream of devastation and havoc to the country but valiant stand against the German Army and victory at the cost of deaths of millions of people raised the stature of Russia in the comity of nations. The USSR was developed economically, militarily and in other sectors so extensively that alone she could rival the USA. The Communist regime crumbled in early nineties due to military setback in Afghanistan followed by glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) policy pursued by Mr. Gorbachev that eventually led to disintegration of the USSR. Fourteen states declared independence and what we have at present is Russia – still most powerful country after the USA. Vladimir Putin has pursued economic reforms agenda that has contributed substantially to overcome economic crisis. One may not be surprised, when on any day he may announce his long due visit to Pakistan with new vision and free of pro-Indian mindset/biases. Russia has recently expressed desire to strengthen relations with Pakistan. Likely sale of MI-35 and MI-28 helicopters to Pakistan could be the beginning of more to follow in terms of enhanced military and economic cooperation.
Pakistan is desperately in need to develop trade and energy corridors with Central Asian States that comprise Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. All these states collectively have population over 65 million and predominantly Muslims. Whichever country, i.e. USA, Russia or China can facilitate development of oil, gas and hydro power lines and road infrastructure via Afghanistan to these states and with Iran as well would be a genuine friend of Pakistan. And whichever country out of above can mediate and bring about amicable resolution of Kashmir and water issues with India and also assist in overcoming menace of terrorism shall be an equally respectful country for the people of Pakistan. Pakistan has now entered into the fourteenth year of fighting terrorist networks that have hit nearly all sectors of our national life. A significantly large contingent of Pakistan Army has successfully engaged these networks in FATA and settled regions bordering long, open, mountainous and most complex western borders. However, the safe sanctuaries of their command structures and outfits inside Afghanistan and other Central Asian States adjoining Afghanistan beyond our operational jurisdiction can only be dismantled with the joint effort of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Pakistani nation does hope that US-Pakistan relations shall not be strained and regional power balance will not tilt in favour of India that may trigger yet another arms race at the cost of other regional priorities in South Asia.
That these are trying times for Pakistan was fully proved during the last decade or so in general and last few years in particular. These weren’t issues related to the economy or unemployment or education alone – it was terrorism and security of Pakistan which was at stake. Common people have been the sufferers and so have been the personnel of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). With LEAs working day and night in nabbing terrorists and eliminating menace of extremism from Pakistan in wholehearted manner, somewhere something lacked. The public awaited to watch the terrorists and their perpetrators being punished and executed. But against around 50,000 deaths of Pakistanis during a decade or so, not even 50 terrorists were punished despite hundreds of them were arrested for their crimes after much efforts and sacrifices by LEAs.
Either it was weak prosecution, or no one was ready to appear as witness out of fear, or the problem in the judicial system but the problem presisted. The public critically noticed that terrorists were arrested one day and acquitted few months later. And of late, people demanded one thing – speedy justice and punishment to the terrorists. However, as the war against terrorism moved on, it appeared that law courts lacked the essential elements of conducting a trial and convicting the hardcore terrorists apprehended during operations.
“Hand him over to the family, not agencies,” a newspaper quoted Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench’s judgment of October 3, 2011 directing the Superintendent of Adiala Jail to ensure safe return of Muhammad Illyas alias Qari Jamil to his family. But it is interesting to know the profile of Qari Jamil. Arrested by Rawalpindi Police in March 2009 while carrying huge explosives and weapons, Qari Jamil was tried for his alleged involvement in three terrorism cases: the February 2008 suicide attack on Surgeon General of Pak Army, June 2008 terrorist attack outside Danish Embassy, and another suicide attack on policemen in July the same year at Melody Chowk, Islamabad. More disturbing is the fact that Qari Jamil was convicted by the lower level court with seven years imprisonment, a conviction that was set aside by the High Court.
In 2011, a jointly prepared report by Punjab Public Prosecution Department, Counter-Terrorism Department and Punjab Police, revealed some shocking facts. Report stated that between the years 1990 and 2009, a total of 311 terrorism cases were filed and later tried. Out of these cases, 231 resulted in acquittals which amount to 74%. This report also stated that 27% of the cases ended because witnesses were threatened and hence they changed their statements out of fear. An equal number of the witnesses also refused to show up in the hearings at all. Situation didn’t change if not worsened in the preceding years. In 2012, the conviction rate in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, the province most affected by terrorism, was 4 %, whereas in Punjab, 414 out of 559 terror suspects were acquitted.
As per media reports, from 2007-2013, as high as 1,964 alleged terrorists were acquitted on one pretext or the other. Reportedly, 722 out of those who were released have rejoined terrorist groups while 1,197 are still actively involved in anti-state activities. During the same period, 12 of the these acquitted terrorists were reportedly killed – four of them in drone attacks in the FATA and eight during the operations conducted by security forces whereas 33 of those acquitted were re-apprehended. While analyzing overall figure, so far a total of 14,115 terrorism related cases were heard and bails were granted to 10, 387 people. A recent survey conducted by World Justice Project presents the same depressing picture of the rule of law in our country. It states that Pakistan not only ranks one of the lowest around the globe (96/99) but also fifth among six regional countries in overall rule of law experienced in everyday life, hence leading only Afghanistan, a war-ridden country.
In such grievous circumstances, it is difficult to fight against terrorists at one end, and watch them being acquited on the other. But to wait for another decade to see revolutionary reforms in the judicial and prosecution system too does not sound practical. Where does the solution lie then? Indeed, the quickest way to speedy justice was establishment of a system, though temporarily, that would not only bring culprits to justice but would also provide protection to the prosecutors, witnesses and the victims of injustice. After deadliest attack on school children on December 16, 2014 at Peshawar, relying on military courts seems the quickest and perhaps the only option for the time being. USA, the oldest democracy of the world, too introduced USA Patriot Act after 9/11 to combat domestic terrorism. Similarly after 7/7, and riots in UK, necessary legislation was carried out. In such a situation when around 50,000 lives have been lost in war against terrorism (compare it with loss of 12,800 lives in two wars with India), and apprehended terror suspects getting a clean chit, let alone conviction, the establishment of military courts for a period of two years had become the need of hour. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing ‘All Parties Conference’ on December 24, 2014 in Islamabad commented about military courts, “This is historic occasion for our nation… Our resolve to fight terror is a strong message for those who want to destroy Pakistan. Time for half baked decisions is over… We have to act fast and whatever is agreed we have to implement it immediately... This agreement is a defining moment for Pakistan and we will eliminate terrorists from this country.”
Realization that we are in dire need of bringing the terrorists to justice is momentous. This realization is significant. But while counting on military courts, our political leadership, policy makers and the judiciary itself, have a primary responsibility to figure out long term solutions for this problem and to ensure speedy and fair justice to the terrorists so that military courts are not required again. There should be no doubt that malfunctioning of both the judicial system and policing and imperfections in laws promote terrorism as a consequence of injustice. Today military courts are conducting trials and convicting hardcore terrorists for the bloodshed, but a comprehensive action plan to improve the process of investigation, pre trial scrutiny, and process of trial after two years when military courts will cease to function, is the need of hour. We must not forget that suicide bomber does not recognize anyone including those who acquitted them. We know that courts have already been targeted by the terrorists. Why not remember the day, just nine months before Peshawar School massacre, March 3, 2014, when two suicide bombers attacked districts court complex with grenades, fired bullets, and killed dozens of innocents.
Establishment of military courts has been approved by the Parliament, which is the supreme institution of the country. It has the backing of people and political powers. We all are with our forces in their decisive battle against terrorism and also trust them for ensuring speedy justice through military courts.
It is the time for tough decisions and the nation looks up to the government and the armed forces to bring lasting peace in Pakistan.
The writer is a journalist and works for a private TV channel. Twitter: @Farhat_Javed
Were India and Israel supposed to be friends? Not necessarily, when one looks at history. It is, perhaps, forgotten today that New Delhi had voted against the creation of Israel at the UN in 1947. Still in the United Nations' General Assembly, it voted for ‘Resolution-3379’, defining Zionism as racism. This position was rooted in the Congress' vision of India as a country defined by non-alignment in the Cold War, and by the natural sympathy a former colonized country could have towards the people defending its rights on its land. But Israeli diplomacy had never assimilated India as a hardcore enemy, as there was no such strong expression in this country, and as its position was clearly seen not only as moral, but also as political. It was clear that the pro-Arab and anti-Israeli position defended by the Congress and the Indian diplomacy were thought as a way to counter Pakistan and any possible feeling of a natural mutual solidarity between Islamabad and the Arab world.
Understanding those reasons, Tel Aviv tried to win it over by offering some clandestine support during its war in 1962 against China, but also during the conflict with Pakistan in 1965. Still the Cold War was strongly defining the diplomatic choices of each state, making a pro-Arab continuity in Indian foreign policy, the most logical one at the time. It changed once the USSR fell: at this period India suddenly lost its most important ally. The international shock that was the end of the Cold War helped redefined alliances. It was easy to do for India for several reasons. First, it was tempted by an economically liberal policy already at that time. Second, there was a general deception about the pro-Arab diplomacy in the Indian elites: in terms of trade, it was not as fruitful as they had wished, except on energy issues; besides, Arab investments in India have been negligible; and politically, New Delhi was not able to obtain from its Muslim allies, a strictly pro-India position on Kashmir. Last but not the least, the bitter memory of India being ejected of the OIC Summit in 1969 (after having been officially invited) was just one example of the fact that politically, a strong relationship with the Arab and Muslim world was not giving to India all that it could, especially on its opposition to Pakistan.
Besides the desire for economic and diplomatic gains, it is clear that this diplomatic evolution towards stronger links between the Hebrew State and
India has been inspired, at first, on New Delhi's side, by a political ideology promoting the idea of “Clash of Civilizations”. As expressed very openly by the “Vishwa Hindu Parishad” (the World Hindu Forum, VHP) after 9/11: “Hindus have been waging a relentless war against Islamic terrorism for the past 1,000 years but it is only now that the world has come to realize, the threat Islamic terrorism poses to the forces of peace.”
The “Bharatiya Janata Party” (BJP) has also promoted this vision of the world, and was even doing so before 2001. It explains why, after coming to power in 1998, it has been the one advocating strong bilateral relations with Israel. Its Minister of External Relations at the time, Jaswant Singh, during an official visit to Israel in 1998, made this ideological position clear when he said that the way Congress Party was dealing with India's foreign policy was linked to the “domestic politics of the Muslim vote bank”. Of course, it would be a mistake to think that such position is the point of view of all the Indian elites: such a declaration was strongly criticized by the Congress and the other parties in the opposition. But more importantly, it would be a mistake to imagine that ideology alone has led to such a diplomatic change. In this new, post-Cold War relationship, one should focus on the practical side of the India-Israel relationship to understand why it is here to stay: India has been interested in Israel because of its military technology, and because it wanted to build a stronger relationship with the US, again to have access to military and nuclear technology. To follow the former Indian policy towards the Palestinians would have created tensions with the White House that could have made such a rapprochement difficult. As for the Israeli diplomacy, it saw in India the backing of an important country, and a great market for its military equipment. This last part is particularly relevant, as this Israeli industry needs to export at least 70% of its production to stay economically viable. More importantly, creating links with India could mean putting the India-Iran relationship at risk, isolating Tehran, even more the only real opponent to Israeli policies left in the Middle East.
When one looks at the diplomatic situation nowadays, it is without question that the relationship between India and Israel is extremely strong: trade volume between Israel and India has reached $6 billion for the period 2012-13; public diplomacy and people-to-people relations are also satisfactory now for those two states. A poll made at the end of the decade 2000 showed it clearly: there is an Indian popular support for Israel, more important than the ones supporting in the US, in Russia, or in China (56%, 52%, and 48% respectively, against 58% in India). One can question the results of such polls, but it is without question that the links between the two countries, not only between states but also even among people, are very important. And Israelis have made sure to target with public diplomacy, not only the Hindu majority but also the Muslim minority in India. For example in 2007, a visit of prominent Indian Muslim leaders to Israel was organized, following the visit of a group of Rabbis to India. Israeli public diplomacy seems to have reached its objective as it saw Maulana Jamil Ilyasi, president of the ‘All India Organization of Imams and Mosques’, calling for Pakistan to establish official relations with Israel during this visit.
But more than on diplomatic and economic grounds, the bilateral relationship is strong because of military-related issues. Israel sells around $1 to 2 billion worth of military merchandise to India every year. Once arriving in power, the Congress party did not stop or reduce the importance of the India-Israel relationship: on the contrary it deepened such relationship once the BJP lost power, and it is partly due to the Indian interest for Israeli weaponry. But of course, such particular trade is not only about money, not even only defence, but also about politics and diplomacy. The best example of such fact is the sale of the Phalcon Airborne Early-Warning and Command and Control Systems, in 2004.
A few years earlier, the US had stopped a similar sale from Israel to China. But it had nothing to say against this technology transfer worth around $1 billion at the time. Such attitude was a clear sign that India was considered as a true ally of America for this beginning of 21st century.
Trade related to defence industries is also the best way to obtain cooperation of a state against an enemy. An example of such fact was given in 2009: in April, India launched an all-seeing all-weather Israeli-made satellite, to spy the borders with Pakistan and China. It is difficult to get documents proving a correlation, but it seems that part of the deal for this satellite was for India to launch the same spy satellite for Israel in January of the same year to spy Iran. Hence the attraction of Israeli military technology was strong enough for India to downgrade its historical relationship with Iran. And Israeli importance on Indian military affairs will not dissipate any time soon: indeed at the end of 2013, it was said that Israel will work with India's ‘Defence Research and Development Organization’ (DRDO) in producing high-tech systems for the Indian Army, related to its F-INSAS (Futuristic Infantry Soldier As a System) programme. Such market alone is worth $3 billion.
Does it mean that one could talk about an “alliance” here, the way this word was used in the 20th century? It is a mutually beneficial relationship, but it does not mean that Israel and India are blindly following one another. It appears clearly that even after 1998, some Indian officials made it clear to Arab diplomatic visitors that even if New Delhi is now a friend of Israel, it does not make it an enemy of the Arab world. How could it be? After all, India is strongly dependent on Arab and Muslim nations for its energy needs.
New Delhi is particularly close to Saudi Arabia: this country is its largest supplier of crude oil (one-fifth of its imports for 2012-13), and trust between these two nations is strong enough for them to have signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation’ on the 26 February 2014. Such MoU should not be taken lightly, and is definitely not seen this way by the Israelis: this defence cooperation pact will allow exchanges of information, military training and education, as well as cooperation in different areas proving that New Delhi and Riyad are not in a “strategic relationship”, as it was decided during Dr Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2010.
Besides, the Muslim world, and most importantly the Arabic peninsula, is employing no less than 6 million Indians (2.88 in Saudi Arabia alone). And on the side of the Arab and Muslim world, there is also the desire to keep good relations despite the India-Israel relationship. If the OIC has criticized India for the situation in Kashmir, bilateral relationship between numerous Arab and Muslim states and India are rather good. An example of this fact was the reappearance of the proposal to offer India to join the OIC, made by a Qatari diplomat, during the 2003 summit of such organization. Such proposal was pushed aside out of respect for Pakistan, but in January 2006, during a visit to Delhi, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia expressed his support to the idea of India being an 'Observer' state. Hence now India is able to have a special relationship with Israel without sacrificing its links with the Arab and the Muslim world.
Actually the diplomatic choices India and Israel make are sometimes seen as extremely troublesome by one another.
From an Israeli point of view, even more than the Indian position on the Palestinian rights, it is the still-cordial relationship with Tehran that is disturbing. As for New Delhi, it can only be unhappy with the rather ambiguous relationship Israel has sometimes with China: it appears that on the Phalcon issue reminded earlier, as well as on the discussions between Israel and Beijing in order to upgrade Chinese drones (2004), it was more the American opposition than the Israel-India special relationship that protected Indian interests. It appears clearly that Israeli and Chinese markets are more complementary than the Indian and Israeli ones. Nowadays China is the 2nd largest foreign market for the Israelis. Such situation does not mean that the relationship could fall apart anytime soon. But we are not in a “Cold War” diplomatic situation anymore: even special relationships are not exclusive.
Here again, one should ask: what are the lessons Pakistani military and political elites can get from such analysis?
First it is maybe a good example to illustrate the way world diplomacy will work in the 21st century: India is able to build a close relationship with Israel, getting the best of it, but it does not make of New Delhi an enemy of Saudi Arabia, and it does not even stop Indian diplomacy from some symbolic gesture of support to the Palestinian people when it is in its interest. Outside of what is the heart of the national interests of a country, every diplomatic relationship is possible. In many ways, the “victors” in the first decades of the 21st century will be the states able to talk to everybody, getting the best of all relationships in a “multi-vector” diplomacy trying to get the best of all without making unnecessary enemies. Such approach would mean for Pakistan, regionally, to avoid any tensions with its neighbourhood outside India, the only country with which it has important disputes. And internationally, it means not to take side in any tensions between Great Powers, and to be able to keep talking to all. Because of Pakistan's geographical position, such approach is actually more vital than for India. Its neighbourhood means the necessity to make friends with all, without committing too much to any against any other. In a way, we come back to basics of international relations the way it has always been: it is about Pakistan first, about protecting its national interests.
Another interesting lesson of the India-Israel relations is the mix of ideological reasons and Realpolitik for this relationship. It is clear that if it was just ideology alone, it would not work, it would not have lasted that long. One can see that diplomatic “friendships” based only on ideology (for example the Arab League, even the IOC) has not been really successful: culture alone, religious/civilizational closeness alone, does not make good effective diplomacy. It does not mean that it has no impact: it can actually be used as a powerful symbolic tool. But it needs to be mixed with realpolitik, with economic, trade-related, and diplomatic issues of interest for the states part of this relationship. It explains why for Pakistan to have an “Islamic” diplomacy is not necessarily a bad idea: Pakistan is born to protect the South Asian Muslims from possible persecution from a Hindu majority after independence from the British.
For Pakistan to be now active in all issues of interest for the Muslim world could be a good way to have an influence internationally. But of course, priority needs to be given to an “Islamic” diplomacy that would make sense from a realist point of view. With such a mix in mind, a particularly interesting bilateral relationship for Pakistan would be with Indonesia. The good relationship between the leaderships of the two countries in the 1950s and 60s at least, are well known. Indonesia did not hesitate to side with Islamabad during the 1965 war. Trade has been growing between the two countries, reaching $1.65 billion in 2012. And there is still room to make this bilateral trade grow in the future. On the diplomatic front, to have Jakarta and Islamabad working together on subject of mutual interest could make them one of the most important (and representative) voices from the Muslim world. A voice that could be better heard as much by the East (as they are two Asian countries) than by the West (as Indonesians and Pakistanis are not in systematic opposition with the US, contrary to the difficult diplomatic relations Iran has with Europe and America for the time being).
Last, but not the least, the India-Israel relationship should be a great reminder of the importance of the China-Pakistan friendship. Of course, diplomatic relations can never be as perfect as individual ones, and Beijing does not have the money the Americans can use to promote their interests anywhere they want in the world. But China has proved its diplomatic friendship very regularly. And it has the same basic interests as Pakistan: to defend a geopolitical vision of South Asia, a region at peace, developing well economically, and avoiding the tyrannical rule of one state on all the others. Beijing, like Islamabad, could never accept an Indian “Monroe Doctrine” on South Asia, a notion that the Indians have already promoted with their “Indira Doctrine.” India and Israel are important allies because they respect each other's position on diplomatic subjects, and help reinforce each other's security. It is very similar to the China-Pakistan relationship nowadays.
Hence, besides the idea of an “Islamic” diplomacy Pakistan could promote, more than ever, diplomatic ties with China should be a priority for the beginning of the 21st century.
And like the India-Israel relation again, it should not be limited to the relationship between state: people-to-people relationship should also be promoted. Efforts are already being made, with more and more Pakistanis learning Mandarin. Such an approach should receive even more support from the state, and Chinese students should be received with open arms and as much help provided as possible to come to Pakistan to learn Urdu, English, Punjabi, or even other languages like Persian or Arabic. Over time, Pakistan should be the preferred cultural and linguistic door for the Chinese to better understand the Muslim world.
India looks to develop a strong relationship with Israel and the US: Pakistan has already a strong relationship with the Asian Great Power of the 21st century, it should make sure to nurture it as much as possible.
The writer is a Visiting Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). He is in charge of the Programme on Iran and South Asia at IPSE (Institute for Prospective and Security in Europe).