Communication Gaps Continue

Communication Gaps Continue
Communication Gaps Continue

On an assessment of the consequences of the woeful war in Ukraine, we can decipher two deeply dismaying fallouts. One, the entire world community including the West is unable to stop the war, or bring about a ceasefire. Second, the individual countries are finding it difficult to structure or restructure their equations and partnerships. India and the West, namely the United States and members of European Union are a case in point. The partnership between India and America was segueing to mutual trust and dependence, and between India and European Union members bilaterally and through FTA(Free Trade Agreement). Now, sudden ruptures are visible. These could simply be attributed to communication gaps in their respective thinking and strategy.

In order to validate the forgoing assumption, let us cite some recent actions and utterances. On 6 October, the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, in a joint press conference with her Pakistan counterpart, in Germany stated, “Berlin had a role and responsibility with regard to the tensions on Kashmir.” She added, Germany supports “intensively the engagement of the UN to find a peaceful solution to the dispute”. Having done the diplomatic damage to India, she tried to moderate it. She elaborated, “So we encourage Pakistan and India to follow the track of the ceasefire, to follow the track of United Nations and to intensify the political dialogue and also the political and practical cooperation in the region.

At the same time, the American Ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome made a threeday visit to PoK and referred to the disputed territory as Azad Kashmir. An informal note justified the visit as, “To promote US-Pakistan partnership and highlight the two countries deep economic, cultural and peopletopeople ties”.

India has naturally reacted strongly to both the incidents in Germany and in PoK. New Delhi has reminded them that the ‘Kashmir issue’ between India and Pakistan has to be settled bilaterally as per the historic Shimla Agreement. The outsiders have no role in it. Both Germany and USA have recognised this established strategic position. Why now rake it up? Obviously, it is an attempt to arm-twist India into joining the anti-Russia-China tent led by the West. But is this the way to win the confidence of a potential partner? Both countries knew where it will hurt New Delhi. So they have plunged into such tactics that amounts to blackmail!

On American action vis-à-vis Pakistan, it is difficult to fathom into the thinking of Biden administration. In fact, interestingly, Biden’s foreign policy has been seen in fits and starts, riddled with contradictions. He is facing a lot of flak from within the country. Think tanks, analysts and research organisations are pointing out the lack of clarity and consistency of Biden’s policy. Even on Ukraine, Biden had given away Ukraine and was snuggling up to Vladimir Putin. In an open letter to Indians, a Russian-speaking Jewish lady, a Ukrainian citizen teaching in the United Kingdom has elaborated Biden’s dalliance with Putin, and how, under American public pressure, Biden began to back up Ukraine.

On Pakistan, it is a similar story. It is hard to detect if Biden’s approach to Pakistan is aimed at decoupling Islamabad from Beijing or coupling New Delhi with the American camp. Either way it is a self-defeating move. America had realised that Pakistan was doing too little in support of America’s foreign policy objectives while taking billions of dollars from them. In fact, Americans to their big shock and surprise found their bête noir, the mastermind of 9/11 attack, Osama bin Laden sheltered in Islamabad near the Pakistan Military Academy.

However, for some recondite reasons, Biden administration has sanctioned 460 million USD to maintain the F-16 fighter-crafts which the US had given to Pakistan. Washington has marshalled over 66 million USD in immediate humanitarian assistance to Islamabad after the ravaging floods. This is understandable. But what is not, even in diplomatic courtesy terms, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking effusively about Pakistan in a reception hosted by Pakistani community in USA to Bilaval Bhutto, the Foreign Minister. Biden has still no Ambassador to New Delhi while their Ambassador to Pakistan suddenly visits PoK!

The analysts in USA are critical of such actions. They suggest that Pakistan is unstable, volatile hot, and a hotbed for religious schisms and extremism. To repose confidence in such a fragile regime is imprudent. Writing in The New York Times, a Fellow of the Brooking Institute suggested that the US should disentangle itself from the Pakistan military and support the civilian administration. At the same time, it will be foolhardy to try to delink Pakistan from China as the latter has invested 62 billion USD in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China has already supplanted US as Pakistan’s cheap external partner with a bilateral trade standing at 5 billion USD.

Likewise, Michael Kugelman, Director of the South Asia Institute in Washington, a non-partisan policy forum, cautions against reading too much into Blome’s visit to PoK. He says, “New Delhi will not make a major policy shift under external pressure, especially in Kashmir”. He cautions the US administration, “if the US were to try to work with its Western allies to get India to change its position on Russia/Ukraine by pressuring New Delhi on the Kashmir issue, then that would be a fool’s errand.”

Kugelman, however, admits that German Foreign Minister, “Baerbock’s comment is tough to assess. Very rarely do senior Western officials publicly express a desire for the Kashmir issue to be internationalised”. Following such comments and assessments, one can only imagine that Baerbock was perhaps carried away as a host in her diplomatic courtesy for the visiting Foreign Minister. There is no reason or rhyme, nor background for German Foreign Minister to make such a strong statement. It is obvious that Germany, a powerful European country has recognised the systemic threat posed by China and is attempting to create an alternative manufacturing hub, and is eying on India. The German Foreign Minister may be impatient and frustrated by India’s lack of adequate and timely response to Western overtures.

There are certainly communication gaps on both sides. New Delhi has perhaps not been able to explain its exposition on her ‘strategic autonomy’. It could be New Delhi’s tactics to gradually delink from its long-standing friend Russia, and to contain belligerent Beijing. The Western Bloc should be giving enough elbow-room to India, and more important, trust and confidence, to carry out the transition. On the contrary, they are making it worse by sudden U-turns on Kashmir etc.

New Delhi should also rethink some of its recent positions in the United Nations and its reactions to world events. As I said in this column last week, “Time for repositioning” New Delhi should take positions in keeping with her core foreign policy objectives and strengths, standing up for rule of law, freedom and human rights etc. Abstaining continuously on such issues does not carry confidence. However, the onus is on US and its allies to build the ‘world of democracy’ as they claim to be the big powers’ and the champion of a ‘free and a fair world.



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Communication Gaps Continue