The controversy over the India-Pakistan joint statement in Egypt continues to haunt the country and rock Parliament. On Tuesday, the Lok Sabha witnessed a walkout after foreign minister S.M. Krishna said that there could be no talks with Pakistan till it acted against Hafeez Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks. This statement was seen to be contradicting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s earlier intervention on the issue and the joint statement text. This ambivalence, however much the UPA may profess to be the opposition’s creation, stems from the contradictory positions that the PM himself has taken in explaining the joint statement.
The PM’s July 17 statement in Parliament has three contradictory references. At one place he says, “India seeks cooperative relations with Pakistan and engagement is the only way forward...” On this score, there can be no dispute. However, this is preceded by: “...that the starting point of any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan is a fulfilment of their commitment, in the letter and spirit, not to allow their territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India.” So far so good. Inexplicably this is followed by: “Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process, and, therefore, cannot await other developments.” Worse is the fact that in his statement to the Lok Sabha on July 29, the PM replaces the “starting point of any meaningful dialogue” with “full normalisation of relations” and continues with the rest of the sentence.
Clearly, full normalisation of relations can only happen through dialogue. Between July 17 and 29, there was a shift in the PM’s position. The only explanation for such contradictory positions is that India is succumbing to US pressures. It is known that the US requires Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan and it is not prepared to brook any diversion of Pakistan’s attention to its eastern border. Hence, the pressure’s on India to delink the dialogue process from the fight against terrorism.
In fact, this comes as a part of a larger package of the new Indo-US strategic relationship that was unfolding with the Indo-US nuclear deal and has now proceeded much further with the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A landmark achievement for the US has been the signing of the agreement on ‘end use monitoring’ of US defence and defence-related equipment. US spokesmen see this as “a tangible accomplishment,” which will “prove a boon to US companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing.” These lucrative defence contracts are accompanied by the US’s expectations that nuclear commerce will result in business up to $10 billion.
On July 18, on the eve of Clinton’s visit, the New York Times had set out a five-point agenda for the US. First, it said: “It is time for India to take more responsibility internationally. It needs to do more to revive the world trade talks it helped torpedo last year.” In other words, India must allow the Doha round to proceed unhindered by diluting its positions on Non-Agricultural Market Access and Agricultural Safeguards.
Second, “as a major contributor to global warming, India is urged to join the developed countries in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.” Universal targets applicable to both the developing and the developed countries are loaded in favour of the advanced capitalist countries, the major contributors to global warming. India’s per capita emissions are 1/17th of that of the US.
Third, it says, in return for US assurances of putting pressure on Pakistan to take action against terrorism, India “needs to help allay Pakistan’s fears”. This is what explains the contradictions as well as the inexplicable reference to Balochistan in the joint statement.
Fourth, India is being asked “to do a lot more” in preventing “global proliferation”. In other words, we shall be forced to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. All these treaties are discriminatory in favour of the five N-weapon countries and impose unequal obligations on the others. This is the reason India continues to oppose these treaties.
Finally, India is being urged to jettison its independent foreign policy: “drop pretensions to non-alignment” in order to emerge as a “major world power”. It makes the point tellingly by stating: “During the negotiations on the nuclear deal, the Bush administration managed to persuade New Delhi to grudgingly support United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programmes. India now needs to do more.”
The icing on the cake is the following: “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his party have a strong mandate... that means it has no excuses not to do more” (read: the government no longer needs the Left’s support to survive).
The controversies concerning the Indo-Pak joint statement are just part of a larger jigsaw puzzle, which is defining the contours of an India rushing into becoming a subordinate ally of the US. This can only happen at the peril of India forsaking its place of pride in the comity of nations.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP