Super patriots endanger India's foreign policy

Super patriots endanger India

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote famously that 'an eye for an eye will end up making the whole world blind'. These disarmingly simple words of wisdom could...

Mahatma Gandhi once wrote famously that "an eye for an eye will end up making the whole world blind". These disarmingly simple words of wisdom could not be more apt in reflecting on the tenor of responses of certain political forces and mainstream corporate media over developments involving China and Pakistan. Any voice of sanity and reason would be treated as nothing short of treason!

And refusing to engage in modern diplomacy at a time, age and circumstances where settlement of disputes through military confrontation stands totally ruled out, their ultra nationalism seems to be not only anachronistic but makes foreign policy a prisoner to political myopia.

To start with, the story of Sarabjit Singh � his capture, trial, sentence and finally his gruesome death as a result of fatal injury sustained during attack on him by fellow Pakistani jail inmates. Sarabjit's family claimed that he was innocent and he had inadvertently walked across the border. Their explanation was unquestioningly endorsed by the BJP and the mainstream media and magnified many times over.

On the other hand, the Pakistani establishment claimed that he was an Indian spy who was responsible for blasts in Lahore. Sarabjit's case went through the judicial process in Pakistan and he was handed over a death sentence.A Subsequently, responding to Indian demands, death sentence of Sarabjit was converted into life sentence as a goodwill gesture. But, unfortunately, this positive direction was reversed by this ghastly incident in the Pakistani prison resulting in the gruesome and tragic death.

Obviously, the incident itself is a manifestation of tempers running high and which has affected the people, including jail inmates across the border. The Pakistani authorities, however, rushed him to the Jinnah Hospital and the doctors and other support staff tried their best to save his life. A But despite endorsement to this effect by the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, neither Sarabjit's family nor Indian ultra-nationalists spearheaded by the corporate media appreciated this and demanded his return to India for better medical care.

It was, however, ironic that when this 'eye for eye' rhetoric was playing out in the Indian media space � the day when Sarabjit was to be cremated in his village in Amritsar, another ghastly incident occurred. Sanaullah Ranjay, a Pakistani convict, was, in a brutal replay of the Sarabjit incident, grievously hurt by his inmates in Jammu's Kot Bhalwal prison. He was shifted to ICU in the PGI, Chandigarh. But Sanaullah suffering the same fate succumbed to his injuries. Predictably, Indian mainstream media went silent on Sanaullah whereas in Pakistan, counterparts of Indian ultranationalists stepped up their decibels over this tragic death.

This tragic duo of Sarabjit and Sanaullah has a common story to tell; this vicious mutual ultra-nationalist rhetoric is endangering prisoners of both the countries. Jointly, they are accentuating an atmosphere which encourages extra- judicial killings and violate human rights. Can any civilized society pursue such a self-destructive course of gouging out each other's eyes to move towards that `world of blind'? Meanwhile, the issue of Chinese soldiers entering across the line of actual control near Daulat Beg Oldi became a flashpoint whipping up frenzy against China by the same suspects. And, not unsurprisingly, the corporate media went berserk. The reverberations were heard in the Parliament with BJP and Samajwadi Party taking lead in gunning for Chinese blood. Little did these people realise that both governments of India and China recognize these regions in Ladakh as disputed area.

Consequently, they overlook that a 1993 treaty bound both governments to reduce force levels on the LAC "to a minimum level compatible with friendly and good neighbourly relations". A This agreement was named "on the maintenance of peace and tranquility along the line of control in the India-China border areas" followed by one in 1996 "on confidence- building measures in the military field along the line of actual control in the India-China border areas".

It is good to see that the Indian government has managed to hold its nerves in the midst of the jingoism ratcheted up by the ultra-nationalists and the corporate media. And, Daulat Beg Oldi has not hijacked the process of engagement and reverse the earlier direction to Army to not visit China to finalise the proposed joint counter-terrorism exercise in October.

In fact, media reports suggest that away from the blood- curdling rhetoric in the Indian media space, the high-level China Study Group (CSG) � consisting of national security advisor, cabinet secretary, defence secretary, home secretary and top heads of the central security agencies �were upset with the Army giving an inaccurate picture of its manouevres in Chumar.

When the CSG sat down to take stock of the Chinese 'incursion' on April 15, the Army had apparently said that it had only set up some makeshift shelters in Chumar sector to take care of its troops in times of need. Within the next couple of days, the CSG gathered evidence about the Army's actual position from independent sources and confirmed it with the agencies. The information proved that the Army had given inaccurate information and was building bunkers that were not in line with the 2005 Border Patrol protocol singed by the two countries. This was despite the Army's denial of construction of any bunkers or intensifying patrolling in Chumar sector.

Reportedly, the CSG inferred that the Army had, indeed, undertaken construction of seven bunkers of which one had already been built and earthwork of four others had finished when China responded in Daulat Beg Oldi sector. Obviously, good sense prevailed; and the powers that be saw through the disastrous consequences of the rhetoric of the 'hotheads' inhabiting our environs. Neville Maxwell, top expert on Indo-China border disputes, observes that historically "a border dispute with China was congenital to independent India � and Nehru rendered that affliction incurable by sustaining" the British legacy."

Maxwell adds: "No successor Government of India has even attempted to free the country from its impalement on Nehru's vaunt, 'India's borders are non-negotiable'. All have clung instead to his casuistical distinction between negotiation, which they refuse, and 'talks' in which they will engage apparently forever".A Therefore, once the hysteria subsides, perhaps reason for the Indian sector of China's undefined long border will be addressed. A dozen of China's other neighbours have managed diplomatic agreements and defined their borders. Why should India remain the sole exception?

Therefore, concerning Pakistan, Gandhian wisdom "an ounce of practice is more than tones of preaching" is relevant. And perhaps, the people of Pakistan, braving bombs and bullets of the terrorists, for the first time handing over political power from one elected government to another are ready to appreciate such a response from India. A And with China, we need to convert our 'talks' towards real `negotiations' to resolve the border dispute once and for all.

(The writer is an MP representing CPM)

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