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UNGA meet: India should conduct itself like an emerging global power and deny Pakistan the attention it seeks

India has started its innings at the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session on an aggressive note by calling for a probe into the nuclear proliferation link between North Korea and Pakistan. Joining the dots seems to be a calculated move on India's part. It is designed to tap into the global anxiety over Pyongyang's rapidly proliferating nuclear weapons programme and also highlight the fact that Pakistan is a destabilising force not just for Asia, but for the entire world.

 UNGA meet: India should conduct itself like an emerging global power and deny Pakistan the attention it seeks

Minister of External Affairs for India Sushma Swaraj. AP

At the UN Human Rights Congress, India used its 'right to reply' to Pakistan's slur on Kashmir by calling it the "face of international terrorism" and accused it of trying to achieve "perverse political objectives" by raising a bilateral issue repeatedly at UN forums.

While these reactions are on expected lines and are aimed at securing the diplomatic isolation of Pakistan, India must guard against appearing as a squabbling twin of Islamabad — a policy which has outlived its usefulness and now serves to not only restrict India's geopolitical influence in Asia Pacific, but also deny it the leadership that it deserves.

The world has moved beyond the 1990s. Struggling to cope with terrorism and radical Islamism, it now has less and less time for Pakistan's shenanigans. Kashmir's violent insurgency movement — fuelled by cross-border terrorism and pan-Islamic assertiveness — now raises deep wariness. Two other global churnings have come to India's aid.
First, the scale and size of India's market economy have prompted Western powers to put commercial interests ahead of morality. As Carnegie India director C Raja Mohan puts it in The Indian Express, "The rise of India has encouraged the US and its European allies to put commercial and geopolitical imperatives above proclaimed concerns on human rights and non-proliferation."

Second, Donald Trump has led the US to summarily shed its moral burden of being the voice of global conscience. America's waning has coincided with a curious turn of events more than two decades into the post-Cold War era where western liberal democracies and its institutions are trying unsuccessfully to cope with the rapid rise of authoritarian influence emanating from despotic powers.

In his essay in Foreign Affairs on how liberal democracies are being undermined by the likes of Russia and China, director of Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute Thorsten Benner writes: "In recent years, authoritarian states have boldly sought to influence Western democracies. They have done so to strengthen their own regimes, to weaken Western states’ ability to challenge authoritarianism, and to push the world toward illiberalism."

In this context, as a liberal democracy, world's fastest-growing large economy and an adherent and promoter of international rules-based order, India is in a position to lead by example but first it must avoid getting hyphenated with a failed state.

Pakistan may not have a choice because its very existence is defined by anti-Indianness and Kashmir is central to that problem, but India may and must snap out of the reflexive need to tie its destiny with Pakistan. It may appear as counter-intuitive, but each time India feels compelled to respond to Pakistan's barbs on Kashmir, it plays into Islamabad's hands and gives the failed state the attention that it desperately seeks.

According to PTI, Pakistan prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who arrived in New York on Tuesday, will again try to raise the Kashmir issue at the UNGA address. Does it surprise anyone?

All that Pakistan — a Chinese vassal state tottering on the brink of failure — wants is to be recognised as India's troublesome 'other'. And each time India gives a "stinging reply", the combined media heat generated in both nations is enough to drag the failed state till the next opportunity.

It is no longer incumbent on India to call upon Pakistan to "shut down its terrorist manufacturing units and bring the perpetrators of terrorism to justice". That issue was settled when Trump rebuked Pakistan for giving "safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror". Islamabad is still to get over the shock. India must use this opportunity — where it doesn't need any more to showcase Pakistan for the charlatan that it is — to put forward some constructive ideas at global forums.

The North Korea-Pakistan nuclear proliferation link is a more promising ploy and builds upon some new revelations that have come to light.

Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy recently narrated to German media how his country provided "indirect assistance" to DPRK. Dismissing the notion that AQ Khan acted on his own, Hoodbhoy told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle: "It is very hard to believe that A Q Khan single-handedly transferred all technology from Pakistan to North Korea, Libya and Iran as it was a high-security installation in Pakistan and guarded with very fearsome amount of policing and military intelligence surrounding it. Moreover, the centrifuge weighs half a ton each and it is not possible that these could have been smuggled out in a match box, so certainly there was complicity at a very high level."

This was stressed upon in India's statement following external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono on the sidelines of UN summit on Monday. The emphasis that DPRK’s "proliferation linkages must be explored and those involved be held accountable" is well taken.

Once again, however, India would do well not to press the issue. At the UNGA, Swaraj must lay down the groundwork for India's terms of engagement with the world and seek a greater share of responsibility. If India seeks to become a great power, it must accept the great responsibilities. Eternal bickering with Pakistan won't take it anywhere.

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Updated Date: Sep 19, 2017 17:39:57 IST

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