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Post-Agra Summit 2001

Hawks, Kashmir and Indo-Pak reconciliation

M.L. Sondhi & Ashok Kapur

There is a debate in India about the pre-Agra Summit meeting of Indian and Pakistani social scientists and other sectors (business, press and citizens groups) and whether the policy recommendations coming out of the meetings at Maurya Sheraton (July 9-10, 2001) were soft and unrealistic.  The debate about hawks and doves also extends to Indian Cabinet ministers and the context is the Brajesh Mishra - Jaswant Singh and L.K. Advani imbroglio over hardness-softness over Kashmir policy.  The issues go beyond turf battles and involve the personal ambitions of a number of prime-ministers-in-waiting:  Jaswant Singh, L.K. Advani and Sonia Gandhi.  This article is more concerned with policy issues than with the personal ambitions of prime-ministers-in-waiting.  It seeks to clarify the difference between Indian hawks and doves, and a further difference between practitioners with hawkish postures and the true hawks – seekers of negotiated solutions based on hard line realities.

Webster’s dictionary offers two different definitions of a hawk: (1) a person with a warlike stance especially in international affairs; (2) a peddler who has goods for sale.  A dove is a symbol of peace, a person with a conciliatory attitude especially in international affairs.  In our judgment the practitioners involved in the Indo-Pakistani Agra Summit divide into two groups.  The first projects hawkish images but is actually soft; these “hawks” represent the second definition of a hawk.  Those of the second group project soft public images but are actually hard.  In the pre-Agra discourse between Indian and Pakistani social scientists and other high level non-governmental practitioners there was no advocacy of peace at any cost.  The “dovish” view existed only in the advocacy of the importance of the peace process, with a heavy emphasis on process as based on hard realities which were as follows:

Neither side could be seen as selling out on vital national interests.  Discussions about Kashmiri “autonomy”, Indo-Pakistani economic linkages, development of a peace process within Jammu and Kashmir, development of a broader and deeper political process within J&K (to bring forth a spectrum of legitimate voices from within the region so that voices other than those of the militants in the Valley could be at the negotiation table), were the kinds of ideas in play.  These are all consistent with the idea of Indian democracy and the interests of a strong Indian Union along with strong and stable regional centres.

Moreover, the pre-Agra discussions among Indian and Pakistani participants were based on the fact that India is the pre-eminent power in the subcontinent in military and economic terms, that Pakistan is a failing state and needs to reform itself in the economic and the political sphere; that multiple voices need to be empowered within Pakistan itself; and that India is being recognised as a major player in the Asian strategic scene as well by other powers.  In other words, the future of Kashmir and the future of the Indo-Pakistani peace process were firmly grounded on awareness about India’s strong regional and international position.  But there was also awareness that internal power struggles within the BJP, and NDA and in Indian party and personal politics can cancel or diminish the strong regional and international position India has attained as a result of her military and economic strength.  The idea of the Indo-Pakistan peace process was not to give away Indian advantages but rather to build them through a judicious mixture of coercive diplomacy, (lifting of the ceasefire and granting authority to the armed forces to neutralise the militants while announcing the invitation to Musharraf to the summit: Indian missiles are still trained on Karachi) proposed economic linkages which would create an inducement for peace-making (business like a calm environment and put pressures on their governments to secure normalcy), and cultural diplomacy which facilitates the flow of ideas and peoples who see the value of such peaceful contacts.  Non-governmental practitioners from Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi talked about the need to develop an exit strategy for Pakistan that would be developed gradually recognising the compulsions of the two countries.  The aim was to use the peace process to develop a pattern of balanced linkages.

Actually since the late Nineties the hawk-dove distinction is relevant in Indian politics and external affairs not necessarily in the sense of the dictionary definition but in terms of the role of hawkish postures in Indian politics at the Cabinet level today.  The history of Indian hawks-doves since 1947 is quite complex and it reveals that practitioners are quite adept in using the public platform to develop hawkish postures while their policy decisions and policy recommendations are not really so. Consider some examples.

Nehru was the original dove on Kashmir. After the tribal invasion, the Indian Army played a big role in pushing them back.  General Kulwant Singh sought a few weeks to clear out the invaders.  Instead, Nehru rejected the advice of his military commander, and chose to take that of Lord Mountbatten which was: declare a ceasefire; offer a reference to the people, which Nehru accepted by way of an offer of plebiscite under UN auspices after the removal of the invaders; and refer the issue to the UN.  Nehru handcuffed the Indian government because he internationalised the issue by taking it to the UN and thereby created a platform for Pakistani diplomacy.  Nehru’s “no war with Pakistan” again under Mountbatten’s stimulation (the reader should consult H.V. Hodson’s The Great Divide, 1969, for the Nehru-Mountbatten line which in hindsight has seriously injured Indian national interests) was a dovish position based on his peace ideology and his antipathy towards Indian military professionals.  Prime Minister Shastri was the first Indian leader to break Nehru’s line against “no war” with Pakistan.  He was a gentleman, but hard nosed, and he ordered the Indian Army to cross the international border, which spread fear across Sialkot and Lahore and within the Pakistani government.  This was the first example of coercive diplomacy at work.  Had he lived Shastri would have moved towards Indian nuclear testing.  (Indira Gandhi scrapped the project in January 1966).

Mrs. Gandhi was both hawkish and dovish.  The Bangladesh War was an example of the former.  On the NPT, development of Indian nuclear weapons and testing, she was dovish.  The first draft of her NPT speech favoured acceptance of the terms of the discriminatory treaty.  The hawkish challenge emanating from within her Cabinet and vociferously from the Opposition (including from one of the writers of this article) changed her mind.  Her change was a matter of politics, not principles or convictions.  Subsequently she became publicly hawkish on the NPT, but was dovish in refusing to develop nuclear arms, thereby laying herself open to American pressure after the first Pokharan test.

The Indian scientists who continuously kept up their work on the bomb design and test preparations through a succession of Indian prime ministers were the true hawks, but they were without hawkish postures.  Narasimha Rao was hawkish on the NPT but soft on Agni testing and on Indian nuclear testing.  He had a policy of three no-es: no to NPT, no to Agni testing, and no to nuclear testing.  That is, he was one-third hawk and two-thirds dove.  I.K. Gujral added a fourth no to the Rao approach: he said no to the CTBT, but he also said no to nuclear testing even though the file with that recommendation was on his table.  These examples show that Indian practitioners are adept in building hawkish postures, but their policies and decisions which are formed behind the scenes reflect conciliation with foreign powers and are not necessary in the national interest.  Furthermore, there is no public scrutiny and accountability about these decisions.

Under Vajpayee the government adopted a clear hawkish position but this was strategy and policy, not a pose.  The decision to further test and deploy Indian missiles including Agni, the decision to have nuclear tests, the decision not to sign the CTBT, the decision to contest Musharraf’s military action in Kargil, the decision to build the Indian Navy as a line of pressure against Pakistani and Chinese activities in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the decision to declare the South China Seas as an area of Indian strategic interest and a part of the “Look East” policy, the decision to seek a strategic engagement with America from a position of military and economic strength and political will, the decision to unleash the Indian Army against insurgents in Kashmir are all signs of hawkishness: but this is just one leg of coercive diplomacy.  The other leg is to create negotiating opportunities for a peace process.  This was being attempted by efforts to have a ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir to determine whether India could find negotiating partners in the area.  The Agra summit was also a step in this direction to see if the Pakistan Army, which is the main centre of political power in Pakistan, and will remain so after the 2002 elections, could become India’s negotiating partner.  The aims are to pacify J&K, pacify the subcontinent and to project India’s presence and interests in the Asia Pacific and the international scene.  This cannot be done if the Indian Cabinet is divided and pre-occupied by a high level power struggle.

At the pre-Agra meetings there was a rare consensus among hard nosed and high level participants.  Indian and Pakistani non-governmental specialists agreed to the following policy prescriptions for the Agra summit:

  • Pakistan will take definite steps to discourage cross-border movement of militant groups.

  • India will take adequate steps to improve the human rights situation in Kashmir.

  • Both countries will demilitarise the Line of Control under a mutually agreed mechanism to monitor the demilitarised zone.  There should be greater interaction amongst both peoples, especially of divided families across the Line of Control.

  • The rights of displaced Kashmiris to return will be respected by both sides.

  • Both sides will agree to review the 1989 draft agreement on the Siachen glacier, and take steps to formalise it.

  • India and Pakistan should create institutional arrangements for regular and sustained dialogue on security matters including military to military interactions.

  • In the light of the Lahore Agreement of February 1999, the two sides will adopt technical, diplomatic and confidence building measures to eliminate the possibility of nuclear confrontation and endeavour to work towards global nuclear disarmament.

  • A joint working group may be established to address the problem of terrorism.

 We urge India and Pakistan to encourage a meaningful and wide-ranging dialogue on and within Kashmir, aimed at resolution of the Kashmir problem.

The reader should note that not a single recommendation could be considered as prejudicial to Indian security interests.  All are constructive and forward looking and all are aimed at securing a dialogue and reconciliation for mutual gain and the public good.

An important undercurrent in the private dialogues among Indian and Pakistani social scientists was a need to create an exit strategy on Kashmir.  This is a good idea but requires enormous political work.  A process has to be developed within India to discover the true voices of J&K if the Hurriyat is not deemed to be the sole authentic voice.  Karan Singh has expressed the view that there are many sides to “Kashmir”: Jammu Pandits, the Valley, Ladakh, “Azad Kashmir”, the part held by China.  The Indian government could promote a serious purpose with a light social touch if it were to have a number of tea parties with these groups along with the Gujars, Bakarwals, Kashmiri Shias.  This would enable a broad based political process to be established and a legitimate base of peaceful discourse and participation to be found, aimed at empowering the different voices of J&K.  Kashmiri autonomy makes no sense if there is a power vacuum in Kashmiri politics which cannot be filled by the presence and the politics of the Abdullah family.  In other words, three lines have to be formed.  The first which gives the army a free hand, as is now the case, to fight the insurgents.  The second is to open and broaden the political process within Kashmir along lines indicated above.  The third is to maintain an expectation of Indo-Pakistan reconciliation following the negativity of the last day of the Agra Summit.

Now we come to the central issue of the moment.  Who among the prime-ministers-in-waiting are the hawkish posers or peddlers, and who are the true hawks who can create the three legs of Indian strategy i.e. increase Indian military and economic strength, develop a broad based political dialogue with many voices in J&K and maintain the momentum of Indo-Pakistan reconciliation prospects?  Who is good in posing but who can actually deliver?  An answer lies in the level of attraction of each prime-minister-in-waiting for the USA and China.  In the power struggle between the Advani-Jaswant Singh alliance against Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh is attractive to America and China because he is soft spoken, articulate, polished, has a hawkish posture on Kashmir and Pakistan, but will not damage Pakistan in any way.  He is likely to be soft on the issues of CTBT (willing to sign as indicated in the Jaswant-Talbott dialogue), nuclear testing (accepts non-weaponisation as per the advice of K. Subrahmanyam), China (not considered potential threat No. 1, contrary to George Fernandes’ position, contrary to the view of Indian military professionals, and contrary to the facts of Chinese activities in the entire region) and is not interested in Indo-Pakistani reconciliation except to keep talking about it.  Advani is attractive to the extent that he can undermine Vajpayee’s authority but he has no foreign policy or military experience.  He assumes hawkish postures, and following the 1998 nuclear test, declared himself ready to liberate “Azad Kashmir”.  This sent alarm bells in many quarters and such a stance makes him less attractive as a prime minister but acceptable under Jaswant Singh’s umbrella.  So the challenge for the Indian reader is to discover which individuals are more interested in war making, which seek peace making, which only strike hawkish postures, and which are the real hawks interested in peace making on a realistic, hard-nosed basis.

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