Does Manmohan want to be seen as Pak's appeaser-in-chief?

When it comes to Pakistan, what stands out is India’s weak-willed stance which has no strategic content whatsoever. And this encompasses everyone from Nehru to Shastri to Indira Gandhi to Atal Behari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh. The last-named, our current Prime Minister, is the worst of the lot.

Consider the past: in 1948, Nehru agreed to a ceasefire in Kashmir when we were just about to drive the Pakistanis out of the state. In 1965, India vacated some of the most strategic conquests during the war (Haji Pir pass, for example) after the Tashkent peace agreement signed by Shastri. In 1971, even with 90,000 Pakistani soldiers held as prisoners of war, Iron Lady Indira Gandhi melted and failed to press home the advantage in the Shimla talks. In 1998-2001, Pakistan first reciprocated Vajpayee’s Lahore bus trip with Kargil. And then followed it up with an attack on Parliament. But after rushing troops to the border, Vajpayee meekly withdrew them in 2003 and resumed the peace process without conditions.

This government has, of course, been the pits. After 26/11, we saw some fire and brimstone domestic speeches, but Manmohan Singh has unilaterally decided to pursue peace with Pakistan. Once again.

Trying too hard to please Pakistan? Reuters

As Brahma Chellaney notes in an article in The Economic Times today, under Manmohan Singh India has simply abandoned the idea of seeking any kind of action against Hafiz Saeed or Pakistan-based terrorist groups. “Being nice with a determined adversary in the hope that this will change its behaviour is not strategy. With Singh dreaming of open borders with terror-exporting Pakistan, India's Pakistan policy remains driven by hopes and gushy expectations, not statecraft.”

Chellaney offers two reasons why Pakistan has again changed tactics against India. One is the coming US disengagement from Afghanistan and the return of the US-Pakistani relationship to normality. Not only has the US resumed arms sales to Pakistan in a big way, but it has also started treating India and Pakistan on a par - as though terror-exporters and victims of terror ought to be treated equally. The sympathy that the US had for India after 9/11 is now gone. The other factor emboldening Pakistan is Manmohan Singh’s continued appeasement of Pakistan.

The US’ new neutrality towards India and Pakistan under Barack Obama – after George Bush’s efforts to correct the imbalance -  is reflected in the statement made after Pakistan killed two Indian soldiers on our side of the Line of Control (LOC), and the reported ghastly mutilation of one of their bodies.

“We’re urging both sides to take steps to end the violence. We continue to strongly support any efforts to improve relations between the two countries. We’ve also discussed these latest incidents with both governments, (and) urged them to talk to each other and urged calm,” the US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.

This is nonsense, and India should reject any equidistance between aggressor and defender. Why didn’t the US hold talks with Osama bin Laden to sort out their differences? Why is the US still continuing drone attacks on alleged terrorist bases in Pakistan’s frontier region? Maybe we should urge calm and ask the US to hold talks with the militants holed up on the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal belts.

The real problem with the US is not that they do not know Pakistan’s terrorist orientation, but its efforts to disengage from not only South Asia, but possibly elsewhere in Asia too – barring China. In the past, the need for Gulf oil meant that America saw its security interests deeply tied to what happened in West Asia. Now, with the US close to achieving energy independence, thanks to huge shale gas discoveries and the  drop in gas prices, the US no longer sees oil as an important reason to stake men and money in the Gulf. This, more than anything else, helped the US speed up disengagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is clearly emboldening Pakistan, which now sees itself getting its way in Afghanistan. It will soon be able to devote more time and energy to Kashmir and terrorism in India.

Unfortunately, the Manmohan Singh government has not grasped the fact that India will not get much help from the US or Russia or anyone else in reining in Pakistan.

We stand alone, and dealing with Pakistan calls for strategic thinking. But this, as Chellaney points out, is completely lacking in Manmohan Singh and his government, including the latest External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid who talked of a “proportionate response” from Pakistan on the recent LOC killings.

In fact, the Prime Minister’s body language and wordage show that India is willing to repeatedly appease Pakistan to buy some modicum of peace.

Chellaney offers these quotes from Manmohan Singh’s references to Pakistan to make his point.

The PM said after one meeting with former Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani: “We both recognise that if there is another attack like Mumbai, it will be a setback to the normalisation of relations.” Chellaney notes: “In other words, if there were another Mumbai-style terrorist attack, it will merely be a ‘setback’ to ties -  that, too, a temporary setback followed by Indian concessions.”

On another occasion, the PM said: “India-Pakistan relations are prone to accidents.” Chellaney’s comment: “Were the attacks on the Indian Parliament and Red Fort, the Mumbai terrorist strikes, and the myriad other Pakistan-scripted outrages just ‘accidents’? Will the latest savagery (the body mutilation on the LOC) also be treated as another ‘accident’ after the current public indignation fades?”

The Pakistani state is fortunate to have Manmohan Singh as its appeaser-in-chief. Is this what the PM wants to be noted for by history?