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Sino-Indian example suggested as template for peace

Updated January 28, 2016

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Member of the Rajya Sabha and former Indian diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar
Member of the Rajya Sabha and former Indian diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar

KARACHI: Member of the Rajya Sabha and former Indian diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar said on Wednesday that the Sino-Indian relationship can be a template to move Pakistan-India relations forward, while noting that ties between the two Asian giants improved visibly after Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministerial visit to the People’s Republic in 1988.

“Neither side has given an inch but there is peace and tranquillity on the border. India-Pakistan relations should be looking at that example."

“[There should be] a mechanism to keep tension under control, have a negotiating process. It will take a very long time,” he observed, while adding that Pakistan needed to do more to control militancy.

Mr Aiyar was speaking on the topic of ‘India’s Foreign Policy: Continuity and Change’ at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

The seasoned politician gave a detailed history of India’s foreign policy development, especially its Gandhian and Nehruvian influences.

He considered the period around 1916’s Lucknow Pact as the beginning of India’s freedom movement, as well as the starting point of its foreign policy. Mr Aiyar said that at the time of independence the Pax Britannica was being replaced with an emerging Pax Americana and that “empires were in retreat. In this atmosphere India’s foreign policy was being formulated”.

The speaker said that it was soon after independence, in the milieu of the Cold War, that non-alignment came to the fore, though the term was coined after 1946-47. He said that when the issue of the partition of Palestine arose, India was the only non-Muslim and non-Arab country that opposed it, while it also opposed apartheid in South Africa.Reflecting on Indo-Soviet relations, Mani Shankar Aiyar said that Joseph Stalin was less than enthusiastic about forging ties with India, despite Jawaharlal Nehru’s overtures, as the Soviet leader considered India a “bourgeoisie democracy”. He added that Stalin snubbed both Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Mr Nehru’s sister, when she was made ambassador to the USSR, as well as Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who would later become president of India.

Instead, Stalin supported the Communist Party in India.

Mr Aiyar said that the paths of India’s Muslims and Hindus started diverging in Aug 1947 regarding foreign policy; where India was concerned “we were in no one’s camp”, while he said that in the year of independence, the Quaid-i-Azam stated that Pakistan’s future lay “in association with the West”. The Indian parliamentarian also claimed that the “defence establishment” in London favoured Partition and the creation of Pakistan to pursue its own interests.

Post-independence, he said that the principles of Pancasila became the central tenet of Indian foreign policy, while adding that India has had a major role in peacemaking and peacekeeping since the Suez crisis of 1956. “Nehru wanted to restore Asia’s position in world affairs, now we talk of an Asian century,” he observed.

Beyond non-alignment

Mr Aiyar was of the opinion that Sino-Indian relations soured over Tibet and from the 1960s, India started straying from its non-aligned path, specifically when Mr Nehru appealed to the US for military assistance during the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict. He said that after Gen Ayub Khan’s rise to power in Pakistan, there was “huge hostility” towards this country in India and that “Bonapartism spread from Pakistan into India” thereafter.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Mr Aiyar said that India sought “equable relations with the US and Moscow”.

On the current state of India-Pakistan relations, he said he hoped “the initiative will come to fruition” while adding that it was odd that the “whole drama [is centred on] whether or not to talk”.

Mr Aiyar said that the impact of Mr Nehru on Indian foreign policy and “through him Mahatma Gandhi has not gone away. We still yearn for the India of yore, but accept that the India of the present is more stitched into” the current world order. He quipped that the fact India is “the world’s largest arms importer should please a lot of Western pockets and Russians”. He added that though he “didn’t expect India to return to the Gandhian path” he couldn’t “see how it can leave the Gandhian path” either.

He closed with a comment on how to move the peace process between India and Pakistan forward: “If we don’t talk to Pakistan we will never be able to find a solution.”

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2016