Manmohan Singh’s shrinking room for manoeuvre on Pakistan

August 3, 2009

It is more than two weeks since Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a declaration with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani aimed at rebuilding ties, but the attacks on Singh haven’t abated at home.

By agreeing to delink terrorism from the broader peace process and including a reference to the threats inside Pakistan’s troubled Baluchistan province – which Pakistan says is stoked by India – Singh is seen to have gone too far to accommodate the neighbour without getting anything in return.

If the sustained nature of the attacks from the security establishment, the Hindu nationalist opposition and the sniper firing from within Singh’s ruling Congress is any indication, he has a rocky path ahead in any engagement with Pakistan.

As Pratap Bhanu Mehta who heads the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi notes, the continuing controversy over the Sharm el-Sheikh statement poses a huge challenge for the prime minister.  “He has to recognise how much at odds his strategy on Pakistan appears to be with a lot of public opinion.”

You can be sure the next time Singh meets Gilani or anyone else from the Pakistani establishment in some third nation (a trip to Islamabad is hard to comprehend on current public opinion), there will be a billion people watching him.  They will scrutinise every move, every comment, and every word that he signs off on.

There is even a piece by Ramachandra Guha, one of India’s foremost modern historians,  pointing out that three men in charge of India’s foreign policy – Singh, foreign minister S. M. Krishna and National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan were all on the wrong side of 75, and at a time when India’s foreign policy faced a daunting challenge. “In the rocky ocean of global politics, the Indian ship of State can carry one old man, perhaps even two. But three?” he asks.

This is not very flattering and it feeds into the broader picture that critics have drawn – Singh and co committed a blunder at Sharm-el-Sheikh and are now stuck with it.

All this in effect leaves Singh with very little room to manoeuvre further in any negotiation with Pakistan.  It was always going to be a bit more difficult for the Congress to sell a peace deal than perhaps the Bharatiya Janata Party, even if it were to get better terms. Such is the perception.  Singh has perhaps made it harder for himself, unless he gets a win-win deal from Pakistan.

Already the foreign policy establishment including former diplomats who tend to exert considerable influence over how perceptions get shaped, are calling upon the bureaucrats to undo the damage done by the political masters.

All very extraordinary.

Here is former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal saying in this article “at the political level probably Baluchistan will be on the table, but at the bureaucratic level we must keep it out, such as in the anti-terror mechanism exchanges.”

Another former Indian diplomat K.C Singh is quoted as saying  in the same article that “Balochistan is now permanently embedded as an agenda in India-Pakistan dialogue. It will play out for long, even after Manmohan Singh is no longer the Prime Minister.”

And what if the whole thing turns ugly and there is an attack from Pakistan. What will Singh be left with?  Will he be forced into action then? Some people such as former intelligence chief B. Raman are already reading back to Singh, U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s celebrated “trust but verify line” that he used while defending his outreach to Pakistan.

Reagan, Raman says, ordered an investigation into the bombing of a discotheque in West Berlin in which some U.S. soldiers were killed in 1986. The U.S. investigators established that the attackers came from Libya. After verification, he ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb the training centre in Libya.

Will Singh do the same?  “Indian investigators have clearly verified and established that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai were trained in PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir).”

“Will the Prime Minister emulate Reagan?”

[Photograph of Singh and Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh and the lone surviving gunman in the Mumbai attacks, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national who last month admitted his role]


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Not really!

We have not seen the complete game? The puppet master Obama has the grand plan. Manmohan Singh changed plans after receiving a personal letter from Obama, delivered by US NSA James Jones. This happened between Singh’s meetings with Zardari and Gilani and hence the changed tone between these meetings. Anybody any clue what’s Singh is getting in return from Obama?

Apparently one goal of this changed plan is to deny Pakistan any excuse not to fight Taliban. In other words, the real fight is going to begin soon. If Pakistan shoes any reluctance to dismantle terroristan now, US will do so. US death toll is at 685. It’s hard and painful for Americans to sit back and watch Pakistani game.

Posted by Robin | Report as abusive

Trust Old men’s wisdom. He was right on nuclear deal and EUMA. He’ll be right this time too. Has he ever failed?

Posted by Robin | Report as abusive

In inter-state relations there are two theories of communication – constructivist and rationalist. The constructivist theories hold that communication can alter actor’s preferences by influencing their conception of what is right and wrong. Rationalist theories maintain that state’s preferences remain constant but that communication may lead them to revise their instrumental beliefs about the cause and effect relationships between policies and outcomes. India’s dialogue process with Pakistan will have to shift from the constructivist to the rationalist track. India cannot convince Pakistan that supporting terrorism is a self-hurting policy and thus needs to communicate the possible outcomes that Pakistan could face if it continued to support terrorism.

Posted by thetrajectory | Report as abusive

Singh is right!

Pakistan is a mere irritant for India. China is the main threat. Give the Pakistan a bone to bite and focus on China. China is already feeling the heat of US-India cooperation. Very soon Obama will take failed states like Pakistan, N.Korea, Burma out of Chinese orbit and rehabilitate these failed countries.

China won’t have any proxy to use against India, Japan or US. 7/26/content_11773191.htm .aspx?Title=If+Pakistan+collapses…&artid =R//fK72ap38=&SectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&Mai nSectionID=XVSZ2Fy6Gzo=&SEO=China,+Pakis tan&SectionName=m3GntEw72ik=

Posted by John | Report as abusive

US is positioning to take control of Pakistani nukes just in case .. Singh should follow Obama lead on Pakistan ..

Hundreds of US marines and APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) are moving to Islamabad .. Building largest US base across the border in Afghanistan .. -content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/07-u s-plans-for-bigger-presence-raise-eyebro ws-in-islamabad-ha-03 -content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/16-u s-security-plans-hs-01 KH04Df03.html

There is nothing called free lunch ..

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

[…] says Pak ready to discuss all issues with India Indian Express Express Buzz – Reuters Blogs – Asia Times Online – Daily Times all 73 news articles » Email this story SINDH […]

Posted by Mass Leader, Marxist Minister Subhas Chakraborty No More! Sensex surges to highest level since June 2008 « Palashbiswaskl’s Weblog | Report as abusive

MMS and Congress has made a joke of Indian foreign policy. Does anyone understand what MMS or foreign minister is saying anymore? They say one thing in Egypt, yet another to media, and yet another in parliament. The truth is they are lying to the public and have been caught in the act. I can hardly make sense of MMS Reagan quote “trust but verify”. What is there is trust in Pakistan? Does he already not know that Pakistan military organized terrorist strikes on Mumbai and other places? Since he already knows that where is the question of trust?

Posted by Alok | Report as abusive

Why Pakistan needs Balochistan or China needs Xinjiang or Tibet?

Punjabi army carried out all nuclear tests (5 so far) in Balochistan without any concern for public safety .. thousands of locals are daed and suffering consequences if radiation .. all local mines and refineries are leased to China … 10000 Chinese are working in Balochistan .. China needs an oil pipeline and highway from Balochistan to Tibet .. When Baluch locals ask for a job, they get a bullet from Chinese made AK-47 .. -nukes-haunt-world-dc-meeting-29th

Chinese regime carried out 46 surface nuclear tests from 1964 to 1996, causing 750,000 civilian deaths in surrounding areas .. looted mineral resources from the area .. locals who wanted jobs got bullets .. view/14535/ tml

Posted by Buddhist | Report as abusive

Terrorists always feel like kings .. till they get justice

Posted by Ramin | Report as abusive

Irrespective of what the ex-diplomats think and utter, the game is on and will be so for an indefinite period. After all these guys did spend all their working lives on the India-Pakistan issues and one can appropriately ask: what did you achieve? You can only fool yourself by believing that terrorism is coming from Pakistan only. It is coming from the US.

Posted by Sabir Jan Azmi | Report as abusive

One reader has suggested there is a discreet U.S. role in all this. It has leaned on Delhi to ease up on Pakistan, so that it can go after the militants operating from its soil. With Delhi having gone to such lengths to neet the neighbour’s concerns, Islamabad will have little excuse to avoid a crackdown. So what gives ? Perhaps it is in the nature of things, because on Monday,a Pakistani court adjourned an appeal hearing to decide whether to re-arrest Lashka-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Sayeed. That is not going to be very reassuring for New Delhi.

Posted by Sanjeev Miglani | Report as abusive

It is disingenuous, at best, to think Indian PM/Singh was not caught by memos and written evidence of Indian mechanization in Balauchistan – to make trouble for both Chinese and Pakistan.

Inadvertently US strategic thinking doesn’t consider Paks posture against Indian democracy as a serious obstacle to peaceful co-existence of former members of same family tree. So, US is enforcing its own strategic thinking of bringing Pak-Indian entente cordial. Don’t be surprised, if US succeeds, principally because Pak is more than a failed state at this historical juncture….

PM Singh is a Punjabi (like his Pak counterparts) and has empathy for the muslims who are torned by Taliban tribalism and whatnot.

If this Cambridge trained macroeconomist, at end of his tenure as a non-political leader, succeeds in asserting his intuitive intelligence to save Pak politics from ending in disaster – ie. unlinking Pak/ISI from its links with domestic/Taliban terrorists – there is good chance Pak political situation may change for the better.

In the process, US may have a chance to get the parties to also settle their Kashmir issue peacefully.

And that would be a God sent solution to SouthAsian politics since partition…both sides desperately need to invest in more butter that guns!

Posted by hari | Report as abusive

India has never rolled over for American interests. Why would they now?

If Singh took a chance at the behest of the US, then he didn’t do it for free. Not trying to start any conspiracy theories, but why did US and China just have a giant diplomatic love-in that produced no results (and didn’t even try to)? To affirm that we need each other at the moment, and no one (read as: Pakistan) will get in the way. What does this tell India? That if you offer the olive branch of peace, and Pakistan screws it up (again), then no one will get in your way when you retaliate. India will probably even receive (a lot of) help. Islamic militancy is the major threat to global peace and stability. And where is the epicenter of this affliction that affects US/India/Australia/Russia/China/UK/etc.?

Pakistan is running out of “friends”. They are now the global equivalent of the “smelly kid in class that no one wants to sit by.”

Posted by Patrick E. | Report as abusive

Wake up india,how much wrong you have done with Pakistan in the past.Remember East Pakistan,the terrorist you created i.e.muktibahini against us.Now you are arming and training bla in afghanistan to undo a neuclar Pakistan.You will fail this time by the grace of Allaha.Remember you must accept reality of Pakistan and try to mend your bad ways of interfarring in internal affairs of your neighbours.All your neighbours are angry with your country.Is there any of your neighbour with whom you have good relations and no dispute either?

Posted by Sardar Khan. | Report as abusive

@You can only fool yourself by believing that terrorism is coming from Pakistan only. It is coming from the US.
– Posted by Sabir Jan Azmi

Sabir Jan Azmi: So far the operational word is “delinking terrorism” from the India-Pakistan peace process—“Dropping terrorism” has not happened yet.
Linking US and terrorism can be of academic interests but Pakistan cannot be kept out of it. Ground reality for PM Singh and other Indians is that Pakistan has sponsored terrorism for last 2 decades in several parts of India and 1 of the 10 Pakistani terrorists from LeT has been caught in the act.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Sardar Khan wrote:

“Wake up india,how much wrong you have done with Pakistan in the past.Remember East Pakistan,the terrorist you created i.e.muktibahini against us.Now you are arming and training bla in afghanistan to undo a neuclar Pakistan.You will fail this time by the grace of Allaha.Remember you must accept reality of Pakistan and try to mend your bad ways of interfarring in internal affairs of your neighbours.All your neighbours are angry with your country.Is there any of your neighbour with whom you have good relations and no dispute either?”

Considering economic and security situation of your country, all I can offer is my condolences, I understand your position and also understand why you are that angry over India. Its hard to keep your temper in control when so much bad is happening around you and you can not do much about it, and worst you don’t know who to blame for. May Allah show you a star of hope.

Posted by singh | Report as abusive

Pakistan is a nation carved out of India and built on the principal of equality with India in all respects. It’s principal is to follow us or if possible lead us in all aspects of social life. This can be seen even in the statements by their leaders time and time again.

India on the other hand, and quiet rightfully don’t think Pakistan is an equal to India. However, some sections of our community do lack conviction to follow that fact as can be seen in our reactions.

The only common thing that we have with Pakistan is the common distrust in engaging people from the outside world. We keep loosing our ability to convince the external world about our ability to shoulder higher responsibility by looking inward. Take the example of the NSG Exemption we got with so much hard work. We are now being pushed back and continue to tout the unfortunate line that nothing is wrong with it.

We are constrained by people who think negatively (some sections of our strategic community) or by people who have vested interest in thinking negatively (Some Newspapers and Right Wing Parties) and by people who are chronic negative thinkers (Right Wing Parties and some sections of the retired diplomats). The government is doing the right thing in shrugging the negativity to some extend. However, it could do a better job in articulating it. The official response to the joint statement is ample proof of this.

By any of the statements made by the government in the past one month are to go by, we seem to move in the right direction in engaging Pakistan. As a few posters in this forum indicates, there seems to be an alignment of interests between the international community, lead by the US and India on how to deal with Pakistan. Pakistan and China are seeing the writing on the wall and are forced to take steps that are is what India always wanted – fight the jihadis.

Punishing Saeed, a small fry, but symbolically important thing is most welcome, but I don’t see it happening when we look at it form the larger picture – Pakistan forced to go after the Jihadis – the QA, T, SeM, LeT, HuM and many more. As long as the end goal is met, even if we don’t get the small fries, we should not be bothered about it way too much.

Posted by Jacob | Report as abusive

US-Inda 3.0!!!

What are the contents?

May be UNSC seat with veto? Singh was asking for that at G-8 and silent now. Must have got an assurance from Obama. That is the only thing India needs from US now. May be some hi-tech stuff to keep the Chinese away.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

Robert, you may be on to something there, but I don’t think China or Russia would go along with that. On the other hand, India becoming a permanent/veto member of the Security Council is long overdue. I don’t think they would make the mistake of turning it down a second time, if it were offered.

Posted by Patrick E. | Report as abusive

Thanks Patrick E.

Appreciate your well wishes. We Love U too.

Russia has been our best and most supportive friend for a long time. They first supported India for UNSC. All major powers and countries have supported India so far but US and China. China is unpredictable like it was during NSG (nuclear suppliers group) meeting. But Chinese don’t like to be the lone dissent and US can always arm-twist things from China like it did during NSG.

But without US support, India is not going anywhere!!!

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

Patrick E.
So when was it offered be4?

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

@So when was it offered be4?
– Posted by Robert

Robert: More than half a century ago India was offered permanent seat in the UNSC. Nehru srewed it up as we see it today. .php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=283&pa ge=10
Quote”In 1953 or so India was offered China?s permanent seat in the UNSC then held by Taiwan but Jawaharlal Nehru rejected it saying that it was an American effort to marginalise the Communist China. In his book Nehru: The Invention of India Shashi Tharoor, a former UN Under Secretary has also confirmed that Nehru turned down a US offer for India to take permanent seat in the Security Council held by Taiwan, and Nehru urged that it be offered to Beijing instead. So India missed a golden opportunity to be in the UNSC as a Permanent Member with veto.” Unquote ntent/article/200/41135.html
Quote”From 1955, when Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru conceded an offer for a permanent seat at the Security Council to China, New Delhi has permitted itself to be outsmarted by Beijing on this contentious issue. It is now high time to stop living in illusions and to acknowledge that China is one of the obstacles to India’s quest for global stature.”Unquote

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Ohh .. I see.. this Nehru dude screwed up India more than I knew! Because of him, Pakistan has Taliban training centers on half of occupied Kashmir and China is sitting on large a part of India. India has the legal papers of Kashmir, but intruders are sitting on it.

What was Nehru thinking? Did he ever attend any class on history or foreign policy??

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

United States of India .. A view from MIT

“By 2040, after a transformative reformation of entire power structure in former Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan will formally merge into a United States of India” an.html

Posted by George | Report as abusive