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M.L. Sondhi

Mr. P.N. Haksar is that rare bureaucrat who also believes in deep self-searching.  His work in the Ministry of External Affairs and in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat was marked by careful study and in his inimitable way he has always projected political trends and thinking with prudence coupled with a keen sense of priorities.  As a “think tank” Mr. Haksar has been an important asset for those holding the reins of administration of our foreign policy.

The most insistent admirers of Mr. Haksar are now showing a deep uneasiness over the manner in which he has been pursuing half-hearted and ill-digested solutions towards the settlement of Indo-Pakistan problems.  His latest formulations are not distinguished by any perceptive analysis.  There is an appalling ambiguity in his thinking on whether India should continue to embrace the concepts of the “Simla Spirit” in dealing with Mr. Bhutto.  Mr. Haksar today is a captive of his own rigid formulae and instead of answering the need for a fresh look at Sub-continental relations he has been clutching at straws.  In a confused and imprecise manner Mr. Haksar has been advancing somewhat spurious contensions about building bridges of understanding between Dacca and Islamabad.  Mr. Haksar’s “conventional” wisdom is today coming in the way of a hard re-examination of New Delhi’s policy towards constructive and meaningful negotiations with Pakistan.  His failure to grapple with the fundamental problems in New Delhi’s relations with Dacca must cause concern to all who care for the future of good relations between India and Bangla Desh.

Mr. Haksar’s “softness” towards Mr. Bhutto has been revealingly demonstrated by his pressure on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to give up the idea of holding any trial of the P.O.Ws. who are guilty of war crimes.  Mr. Haksar’s unreal conjectures about Mr. Bhutto’s views on Kashmir have been totally unjustified.  Thanks to Mr. Haksar’s “appeasement”, India has been rewarded by the abusive language which Mr. Bhutto has spewed over every aspect of our nation’s past and future.

Mr. Haksar’s “instinct” has proved to be the bane of India’s efforts.  Indian foreign policy should be rationally structured to take account of the following propositions in sub-continental relations:

1.                  Bangla Desh has the moral and political resources to hold a trial of P.O.Ws. who have committed war crimes.  It is not the task of Indian diplomacy to create an abridgement of Bangla Desh’s rights in international law.

2.                  In Mr. Bhutto’s own words, Pakistan Foreign policy shares “ideals and ambitions” with China.

3.                  According to Mr. Bhutto’s interpretation, the Simla Agreement does not mark the end of “the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir” but only the beginning of a new phase.

4.                  By focussing on “recognition”, Indian diplomacy has merely trapped New Delhi and Dacca in the clash between two incompatible concepts, that of “Muslim Bengal” based on the two-nation theory and that of a modern state of “Bangla Desh” based on the legal and political equality of its citizens.

What India needs is to develop proposals for a cooperative Sub-continental Community for a long term future.  The clamour for the release of the 93,000 prisoners must be answered not by an adamant stand but by decisions in a mood of sober realism.

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