Home > 2016 > Pressure Counter Pressure / The Twilight Hour

Mainstream, VOL LIV No 42 New Delhi October 8, 2016

Pressure Counter Pressure / The Twilight Hour

Sunday 9 October 2016, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

Pressure Counter Pressure

Behind the angry protests and almost interminable complaints of Cease Fire violations, there is a feeling in New Delhi about the overall situation with regard to Pakistan which, though not vocal, is significant.

It is geneally conceded here that a full-scale war between India and Pakistan is practically ruled out for the present. The theory that the cessation of hostilities provided by the Security Council Resolution is being utilised as a breathing space by Pakistan is countermanded by two factors: first, it is not easy for any command to push up the tempo of a military campaign once it is switched off. Secondly, there is a persistent belief in New Delhi about the crisis in the political leadership in Pakistan.

With regard to this second factor, there is a suspicion, widely held in many of the leading quarters in the Capital, that the reports of differences between Ayub and Bhutto as also between the Pakistan High command and the US Government are assisduously spread by the Western sources mainly to get round New Delhi to make concession on the issue of Kashmir, the line of the whisper campaign being that unless Ayub is given some concessions on Kashmir, Bhutto’s tough line might prevail and India might have to face the two-pronged offensive of Pakistan and China. It is understood that Mr Arthur Goldeberg also stressed this point in his talks with Sri Parthasarathi.

While it is true that this whisper campaign is being pursued quite widely by Western diplomatic sources both here and in the UN, an important section of informed opinion in the Capital is not prepared to dismiss reports about the Ayub-Bhutto crisis as pure Western fabrication.

The point to note, however, is that New Delhi’s appraisal of the situation rules out for the time being a flare-up on a large scale on the Indo-Pak border. The current round of clashes is mainly due to the anxiety of both sides to straighten out some of the inconvenient bulges that could be noticed at many points along the present Cease Fire Line, so that in case of any resumption of full-scale hostilities between the two countries their armies may not be put into difficulty because of the existence of these bulges. It is true that the arrival of the UN Observers’ Teams has resulted in slowing down these operations, though they have not yet been able to completely stop them.

All this is happening because of the underlying belief that the present Cease Fire Line will de facto continue to be the border between the two countries, perhaps for a very long time. This means that the possibility of a political settlement of the dispute is hardly in sight. In fact, the three weeks’ war has hardened the position on both sides, and has falsified the expectations of those who had counted on a decision by arms for a solution of the Kashmir question. This incidentally is an additional proof of the fact that despite all the patriotic valour churned up by the war itself (which is not of India’s making) it has put off the chances of a political settlement between India and Pakistan more than ever before.

In the present context, it is easy to understand why New Delhi has been so critical of U Thant’s decision to separate the UN Observers’ Team in Kashmir from that for the Indo-Pak frontiers outside Kashmir. Because, New Delhi now regards itself as being placed in a position of advantage in bargaining with Pakistan with regard to the Kashmir situation: it will agree to withdraw its troops from the Pakistani soil from the Sialkot and the Lahore sectors and also from a point in Sind only on condition that Rawalpindi finally recognises that J&K State, as at present constituted, as part of India. To split up the two sectors, namely, the Jammu and Kashmir front and the rest of the Indo-Pak front for the purpose of UN observation, was suspected by New Delhi as a thin end of the wedge, inspired by Pakistan’s Western backers which might ultimately grow into a demand that the settlement of the two sectors should be taken up separately; that means the withdrawal of troops on the Indo-Pak front outside the borders of Jammu and Kashmir taking place separately, without reference to any decision on the withdrawal of forces of both sides in the Jammu and Kashmir sector. If such a demand arises, naturally it weakens India’s bargaining power: the position of strength that New Delhi holds today will be very much undermined if the bargaining is restricted only to the withdrawal of the Pakistani troops from the Chhamb sector in Jammu in exchange for the Indian troops quitting posts in Haji Pir, Tithwal and Kargil. At the present moment, India would prefer to stick on to the line along the Sialkot sector and Ichhogil canal for the political recognition by Rawalpindi of the J&K State being part of India.

The UN Secretary General’s latest decision that General Nimmo would be in overall command of both the UN Observers’ Teams, namely, the one for the J&K and the other for the Indo-Pak border outside Jammu and Kashmir, is interpreted here as a partial acceptance of the Indian demand that there should be no split up in the UN teams. There is thus a continuous, though silent, tussle going on in the diplomatic lobbies whether in New Delhi, Rawalpindi or the UN, each side trying to gain as much through back-stairs pressure as it could.

Viewed in this background, it is not surprising that the suggestion for a four-power mission to tackle the Kashmir question would be rejected by New Delhi. Such a mission, it is felt here, would have been heavily weighed against India, and the Soviet Union would have been outvoted in such an outfit. Contraposing this has come the alternate suggestion for a joint US-Soviet move to solve the Kashmir deadlock. This has the advantage that the most rabid of the pro-Pak power, Britain, could be kept out of it.

While it appears that Sri Shastri himself would not object to such an initiative on the part of the two superpowers—since it is expected to silence both his Right and Left critics—there is as yet no evidence to show that the central leadership here has been working out any minimum terms for the settlement of the Kashmir question, the terms which it can get the country in its present mood to agree to and at the same time have the merit of showing the way to a compromise. One is tempted to conclude that the war by itself has provided no way-out of the Indo-Pak dispute on Kashmir; if anything, it has made it more difficult for both sides to come to the conference table.

Political observers in the Capital do concede that in the present climate of Pakistan it is not possible even for a peacemaker politician to go in for any settlement which does not give it a chance to question the present status of the J&K State. It is therefore assumed that there is very little scope for political settlement of the Kashmir dispute coming off in the immediate future. However, if President Ayub agrees to go to Tashkent for the Soviet-sponsored talks with Prime Minister Shastri, or accept a joint US-Soviet mission, then New Delhi will take it that the government in Pakistan has been able to set its own house in order to the extent that it is in a position to go in for a settlement recognising the status of Jammu and Kashmir State as part of the Indian Union. Once this point is accepted by Rawalpindi, there will be no difficulty for New Delhi to withdraw its troops from the Pakistani soil and even to agree to a boundary commission to straighten out the line of demarcation between the present Pak-held Kashmir and the J&K State which is inside the Indian Union.

Apart from the military initiative having been lost by Pakistan in the present phase, there is a feeling here that Rawalpindi has lost considerably in terms of political initiative as well. The backing which Peking offered to Rawalpindi has not amounted to very much, while the present turmoil in Indonesia has also gone against Pakistan in terms of diplomatic advantage. For one thing, Rawalpindi has so long bragged a lot about the support given by Indonesia, particularly by its flamboyant President. Secondly, the fiasco of a policy of dependence on Peking which Indonesia has so long followed has also had an indirect impact on Pakistan’s prestige, since it shows up the unreliability of any diplomatic strategy that counts on Peking’s support.

The explanation therefore available here for Rawalpindi’s extraordinary decision to break-off diplomatic relations with Malaysia is that it is the manifestation of bitter frustration that has at the moment gripped the Pakistani authorities. Malaysia’s identification with the Indian case in the present round of the Kashmir debate in the Security Council is interpreted here as a return gesture for India’s undeviating support for Malaysia’s candidature for the Second Afro-Asian Confeference. Besides, the open support of China for Pakistan has alienated Malaysia which was the first Asian power to condemn China‘s attack on India in October-November, 1962.

A typical example of the Indo-Pak tug-of-war for the purpose of enlisting support by either side is provided by the Malaysian episode itself. While Bhutto’s rather unbalanced diplomacy has cost Pakistan the friendship, not to speak of the support, of Malaysia, New Delhi has not been slow at striving to strengthen its own ties with Kuala Lumpur. The visit of Sri Dinesh Singh to Malaysia this week is, therefore, particularly significant. His painstaking efforts at explaining India’s case to the Arab diplomats in New Delhi have not been unsuccessful, despite reports circulated to the contrary. There is no doubt that among the junior colleagues of Sri Shastri, Sri Dinesh Singh has made his mark during the present emergency, thereby bringing into sharper relief the almost universally acknowledged ineffectiveness of the Foreign Minister himself.

In the non-aligned world, some of the recent developments are counted as being favourable for New Delhi. Mr Ali Sabry’s exit from the UAR Government has not been unwelcome here, since it has long been known that he has been critical of this country in the India-China dispute. The general impression here is that Mr Ali Sabry has mostly thrown has weight in favour of Cairo taking a pro-Peking line in many of the crucial issues of the day.

Another significant gain for New Delhi has been Yugoslavia’s forthright stand on Kashmir as officially expressed in the Tito-Radhakrishnan joint communique. It is understood that the original draft of the communique mentioned Kashmir as being “an integral part” of India: President Radhakrishnan’s discussions at Brioni led to an improvement in the draft as the communique characterises Kashmir as consti-tuting “an internal affair of India”.

With regard to the West, there are indications here that Britain and the USA have been trying hard to recover from the setback they suffered in New Delhi during the recent crisis. While the demand for quitting the Commonwealth has not slackened in the ranks of the Congress—incidentally, this demand seems to have the blessings of the confirmed pro-US elements in the Capital—quiet diplomacy to restore Indo-British relations has not broken down at all. One of the essential Indian requirements is the supply of spares for defence equipment from Britain. It appears that in the recent talks the demand for the lifting of the arms embargo has been strongly canvassed on behalf of India and it is expected that the UK Government will soon respond to it. Although the Indian Defence forces are in a much better position than Pakistan on this score, it is recognised here that without the supply of essential spares, particularly from Britain, our armed forces will be greatly handicapped, if not paralysed, in some vital sectors. In this sense, the present war has helped to underline the urgency of getting essential components from abroad for our military hardware. Self-sufficiency in Defence is not an easy slogan to realise.

The US circles in New Delhi have not been idle all this time. Reinforcing Mr Chester Bowles’ efforts, the pro-US elements in the government have been harping on the immediate need of securing pukka assurance from Washington about regular delivery of PL-480 instalments. Sri S.K. Patil seems to have come out of the wilderness into which he was forced, thanks to his reluctance to take up a firm stand against Pakistan: his claim to closer personal acquaintance with important Washington personalities, and thereby his indispensability in the present crisis, are being sold by some of his lieutenants (including at least one Cabinet Minister). Besides, he holds out the prospect that by his initiative he can prepare the ground for a Shastri-Johnson meeting, which Sri B.K. Nehru is reported to have been pressing for, as an urgent necessity, Out of his proposed explanatory tour in the West, Sri Patil hopes to emerge as an entrenched and indispensable element in the government.

The established lobbies in the Capital have thus been working overtime to regain for the Western powers the positions that were threatened during the recent war. For New Delhi, the arduous battle on the diplomatic frontg has yet to be won despite the sacrifices in blood made on the hills of Kashmir and the plains of Punjab. 

(‘New Delhi Skyline’, Mainstream, October 9, 1965)

The Twilight Hour

This is like the twilight hour we are passing through these days in which we are not at war nor at peace. Our soldiers are destroying tanks and our men sabre-jets, but we have still our High Commissioner perched at Islamabad, loose talking in a manner that makes the world wonder which country he is really serving.

Many a time in the past few months it was said that the crucial phase had been reached in the Bangladesh struggle. But never before has it been so true as it is today. In fact, the crucial phase started when the Prime Minister returned from her Western tour with the realisation that the utmost that the Western Powers would do would be to appeal to President Yahya Khan to come to a settlement with the Awami League leaders, and beyond that they would not be prepared to do anything which would usher in an early political settlement so that the millions of refugees could go back to their homeland. It is no secret that hard experience has told New Delhi that the only world power which has stood by India’s position is the Soviet Union despite the fact that in the present alignment of world forces that has caused almost a total erosion of Moscow’s political leverage in Pakistan.

The diplomatic aftermath of Smt Gandhi’s Western tour could be seen in the Belgian move to raise the Bangladesh issue as an Indo-Pak confrontation in the Security Council—a move which could only have been inspired with the connivance, if not the initiative, of Washington. President Nixon’s latest proposal has not been very different from what the US authorities have been saying for the last two months, namely, the defusion of the tension by the withdrawal of troops from the frontier. Even what President Yahya Khan tried to sell to Sri Atal was a variant of the same Western brand, namely, the so-called civilian set-up, and not Yahya Khan, could negotiate with Awami League leaders—and Sri Atal, if one goes by indiscreet press interviews, almost fell for it.

Incidentally, this is not the solitary instance of mistaken judgement in Sri Atal’s diplomatic career. One has only to recall his insistence on Nehru visiting Turkey, only to find himself in the midst of a political coup. Sri Atal however showed distinction at Addis Ababa as an excellent connoisseur of polo horses.

In a nutshell, the basic issue in the Bangla-desh crisis, namely, an immediate effort at settlement between the Pakistan Government and the Awami League leadership is being meticulously evaded by Washington and its entourage powers. This is obviously not due to the reason that Washington has lost its weight in Islamabad but because Washington does not want to do anything which might jeopardise the stability of the military junta at Islamabad. For, it is part of the global strategy of the Pentagon to prop up the Pak military junta by all means.

One should not forget the strategic location of West Pakistan as a soft underbelly of Soviet Central Asia—the very reason why both Washington and Peking are equally interested in backing Islamabad to the hilt. The additional reason for these two to stand solid by the side of Pakistan is to mislead the Arab world into believing that these two powers are the friends in need of the biggest Muslim state existing, that is, Pakistan.

There is a sizable body of opinion in New Delhi which has for sometime been thinking that China would not come to the side of Pakistan in the event of a military confrontation with India. This school of thought does concede that China would be making a lot of noise in support of Pakistan, but its calculation that there would be no military intervention on the part of Peking is more in the nature of intelligent guess-work than based on solid intelligence data.

However, this calculation may not be very wide of mark because of three reasons: first, the Chinese leadership with all its big-mouth revolutionism in the UN does not want to expose its own military limitation; a full-scale intervention against India might lead to logistic difficulties which might show up the weak-nesses of its Army, already in the throes of a political crisis. Secondly, Peking must have read carefully the terms of the Indo-Soviet Treaty and any armed move against India might land it into a situation where it might have to face counter-pressure on the Soviet border. Thirdly, with the successes of the liberation forces in Bangladesh it will be more and more obvious to the astute Chinese leadership that Bangla-desh as an independent entity is inevitably going to emerge, and any military intervention on its part would earn Peking the open hostility of this new emerging Asian state not far from its own border.

At this stage it is important to assess as a long-range exercise the various phases in New Delhi’s strategy with regard to Sino-Pak relations. In the fifties just about the time when Sino-Indian understanding was being strengthened, there came the US-Pak arms pact which openly pronounced its hostility towards the Communist powers, while Pakistan on her part made no secret of her intention to use her increased arms strength with American support for the purpose of grabbing Kashmir. It was no accident that this was the time when the American moves, both subtle and open, were made to mislead Sheikh Abdullah and his group into believing that an independent Kashmir could be formed, dislinked from India. While nipping this move in the bud, New Delhi not only took the initiative in consolidating the forces of non-alignment in the Afro-Asian world, but also made a definite move to come to an understanding with Pakistan: the Nehru-Noon Agreement is an example of this policy and its culmination could also be seen in the Indus Water Treaty which Nehru signed with President Ayub.

It was in this period that Pakisan, obviously at the instigation of Washington, made the suggestion that there should be a joint Indo-Pak defence arrangement against Communist powers—in other words to inveigle India into some offshoot of the military bloc into which Pakistan herself had entered under American allurements and pressures. This was rejected outright by Nehru.

Next came the phase of Sino-Indian antago-nism leading to the Chinese attack on the Indian frontier in 1962. Whatever might have been the lapses in Indian diplomacy in trying to handle this issue—Pandit Sunderlal has of late been giving publicity to this point of view, backing Neville Maxwell’s thesis—there is no gainsaing the fact that the Chinese assessment in the late fifties was definitely hostile to India, branding her as having gone over to the Western camp and backed by “Soviet Revisionism”. It is to be noted that about this time Peking’s animosity towards the other Communist countries had already begun, evidence of which was furnished at the Moscow conference of the world Communist Parties in late 1960, where one of the charges levelled against the Soviet Communist Party by Peking was that Moscow was backing India against China.

It is worth recalling that on the very morrow of the Chinese attack on the Indian frontier, when Nehru was under fire from the Right Opposition and Sri Krishna Menon had to quit the Cabinet because of the mounting pressure of the US lobby, there came the proposal fully backed by the Western Powers for an Indo-Pak agreement on Kashmir on the basis of a virtual partitioning of the Valley itself. Incidentally, the pro-American elements in the government at that time were even in favour of withdrawal of troops from the Pakistan frontier to draft them against the Chinese.

As soon as New Delhi made it clear that it could not accept such a proposal of partition of Kashmir, the Sino-Pak understanding began to be forged in a very demonstrative way. First came the demarcation of the boundary between Western Tibet and Sinkiang on the one side and the Pak-occupied portion of Kashmir on the other. This was followed by a number of other agreements leading to the Chinese military help to Pakistan even to the point of helping to the setting up of guerilla training centres in the Pakistan-occupied area of Kashmir for the purpose of organised infiltration into the Valley.

During the 1965 Indo-Pak conflict, the Chinese made no secret of their full support of Pakistan; their military experts were known to have helped in the training of the infiltrators who swarmed across the Cease Fire Line into the Kashmir Valley. And at the crucial moment of the war, the Chinese threatened to attack the Eastern frontier. Their calculation at that time was that if the war had spread to East Bengal, then the Chinese would force a wedge through Bhutan and help the depleted Pakistan Army in that sector. Unfortunately for the Chinese, the Indian strategy at that time was to make it clear that there would be no military operation against East Bengal. When the Chinese move was thus foiled, then came the famous threat about the theft of sheep and goats by India which was made into an excuse for an angry threat of war by Peking. If the war had continued longer than it did, one would not have been surprised if the Chinese attack had materialised at least on the Himalayan frontier.

The two options which seemed to have alter-nated in the main in the evolution of Indian policy are: first, whether an Indo-Pak under-standing could be reached in facing the challenge of China; and secondly, whether a Sino-Indian thaw could be maintained while the threat from Pakistan has to be met.

The first trend was re-presented by the pro-US elements in this country: they had long thought if detente could be established with Pakistan then a common front could be built against Communist China. This was the basis of the so-called Indo-Pak reconciliation move-ment sponsored by some of the pro-Swatantra elements in this country. Unfortunately for them, the latest Nixon policy for making up with China has led to the collapse of this plateform. They are now floundering and have caught on to a new slogan that there should be understanding with China as a counter to an understanding with the Soviet Union. In other words, the Indo-Soviet Treaty has become their main target of attack, thereby making it clear that in their estimate, the real Communist threat comes from Moscow and not from Peking.

The other school which thinks that an understanding with China could be possible while Pakistan is the main source of animosity against India, believes that a friendly positive approach to Peking might disrupt or at leas weaken the prevailing Sino-Pak entente. The point to note is that in the present configuration of world forces, both the US and Chinese policies are strongly in favour of propping up Pakistan, if not the whole of it, at least West Pakistan. It will therefore be idle to think that Peking which has already shown its hand in the UN—where it has not shown any hesitation to side with the US against any Soviet proposal, however reasonable it may be—will let down Pakistan in the case of an Indo-Pak confrontation. Every day more and more evidence is mounting about Chinses stand with regard to Bangladesh. The entire attack is directed against India as the instigator of the Bangladesh freedom fighters and this is being linked up even with the Tibetan rebellion and exodus of refugees which came in the wake of Chinese repression of that rebellion. There is room for honest difference of opinion about the wisdom of not immediately answering those charges by Peking, particularly when Peking is in a position to mislead quite a large number of countries in the Afro-Asian world. Whether such silence is really golden, when New Delhi’s main concern is not to allow any new advantage to be scored by Pakistan over the Bangladesh crisis, only the future will tell. But it will be rather naive to think that the Chinese could be persuaded to behave in a friendly way by such a gesture of demonstrative silence on the part of New Delhi.

The overall picture is that in standing by the side of the Bangladesh freedom fighters and standing up to the bullying tactics of the Western Powers in defence of Yahya Khan, there is no scope for New Delhi to minimise the dimension of the crisis.

The nation is placed in a state of expectancy and yet there is still a resistance to go in for all-out war because underlying all the calcu-lations, there remains the great imponderable as to the price of a major confrontation in terms of economic, social and political liabilities. One is tempted to recall T.S. Eliot’s lines that

“War is not a life: it is a situation,

One which may neither be ignored nor accepted,

A problem to be met with ambush and stratagem,

Enveloped or scattered.”

Nothing better can describe New Delhi’s preoccupation today.

(‘Political Notebook’, Mainstream, December 4, 1971)