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l June 2004 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 4, No 2 l


Natwar Singh: Foreign Policy Mess Up

What others say..........

Natwar Singh should never have been made the Foreign Minister in the first place. In less than a week, the self-opinionated Natwar has come close to undoing the good work done by the Vajpayee Government in the field of foreign relations. The former career diplomat has shown a remarkable lack of tact and responsibility in handling his new job.

With an ossified mindset, this haughty `cold warrior’ has proposed and then himself disposed in quick succession a lot of pieces on the chessboard of international diplomacy. He has given notice of re-ordering this country’s relations with the US only to assert a few days in the face of open disquiet in Washington that these ties will continue more or less as before. In one of his hare-brained ideas, he has talked of a common nuclear doctrine for India, Pakistan and China. Of course, both China and Pakistan were not interested in the Indian Foreign Minister’s proposal. China reacted with complete silence to Natwar’s idea to nix it fully while Pakistan politely dismissed it as `new and innovative.’

In the coming weeks and months you can trust Natwar to come up suo motu with many such `new and innovative’ ideas which he will be obliged to discard as soon as these leave his fervid mind. Arrogance in thought and behaviour makes for poor diplomacy.

But it is in the context of Pakistan that the new Foreign Minister indulged his weakness for verbal `innovation’ the most. Keen not to give credit to the previous Government for its bold initiative in devising the roadmap for peace with our western neighbour, Natwar needlessly harked back to the Shimla Agreement as the almost exclusive format for the Indo-Pak talks.

A petty mind had allowed petty politics to inform his response to the on-going peace process with Pakistan. Shorn of niceties, Natwar argued publicly that the Indira Gandhi-Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto pact alone could be the framework for these talks while the contribution of the Vajpayee regime in making these possible could be wholly obliterated. Natwar talked of holding the dialogue with Pakistan under the so-called “ China model.” Since he had spent time outside government picking holes in the foreign policy of successive non-Congress regimes, Natwar was clearly smarting under the impression that only he knew how to conduct foreign relations while others were novices at this game. As the foreign policy spokesman of the opposition Congress Party he had threatened to review the arrangement between India and Pakistan under which the peace dialogue was initiated.

Quite predictably, General Musharraf reacted with an unconcealed anger to the `innovativeness’ of Natwar. He bristled at the idea of the `China model’ for the Indo-Pak talks. Natwar, still riding the high horse of the Shimla Agreement, quite churlishly asked the Pakistan President to consult his Foreign Minister. Given that the Pakistani ruling elite has strong reservations about the Shimla Agreement, which reminds it of their humiliation in the Bangladesh war, given that a new and mutually acceptable framework was in place in the Islamabad Declaration, there was no need for Natwar to harp ad nauseam on the Shimla Agreement.

If the 1972 Agreement was such a great document, Natwar owed an explanation to the nation as to how it had failed to achieve anything tangible by way of improvement in the Indo-Pak relations. Indeed, the gains of the Indian armed forces made on the battleground were squandered by Indira Gandhi on the negotiating table in Shimla. The Shimla Agreement served no national purpose in advancing either the cause of peace or the resolution of the intractable Kashmir dispute. Since the Shimla Agreement, Pak-inspired mayhem and militancy had been injected into everyday life in Kashmir. So much for his fealty to the Indira-Bhutto Agreement.

Now, what is the way ahead on the Indo-Pak front? Mercifully, the damage had been contained for the time being with the Foreign Secretary, Shashank, reaffirming in an official statement the new Government’s faith in the Islamabad Declaration as the framework for bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. But the danger of Natwar acting as a bull in a China shop in the Foreign Ministry will persist so long as he is the External Affairs Minister. He lacks the requisite behavioural and mental restraint and skills to be a successful negotiator. Being needlessly combative and arrogant cannot be equated with consummate diplomacy.Natwar should be moved out of the MEA before he messes up further with our foreign policy in general and with the ongoing peace process with Pakistan in particular.

 l The Free Press Journal l   

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