INFA Column

The Regional Setting and the Bangla Desh Crisis

M.L. Sondhi

The issues involved in the Bangle Dash have an Intimate connection with the instabilities which constitute the main threat to world peace, although the United Nations has failed to come to grips politically with the phenomena of Pakistani militarism and revanchism. For India the lesson of the Bangla Desh crisis and the reactions of the different elements in the world political situation underlines the imperative need to develop India’s power political role in the regional context.

A broad analysis evaluation of the role of Indian diplomacy in the Bangla Desh crisis would reveal two dimensions of our international activity: an Indian response to the attempted change in status quo in the eastern wing of Pakistan presented in concepts and perceptions to suggest a hopeful outcome to the outside world, and an unsuccessful but intensive dialogue with the Super Powers and other great powers aimed at creating international opinion and sanction to revenge the course of Islamabad’s military offensive against Bangla Desh.

The third dimension, the Asian regional dimension, Indian diplomacy has not so far evaluated realistically. It lies in between the ‘go it alone’ approach and the ‘Super Power intervention’ approach, in the context of the Bangla Desh situation the remedies which will avoid war and surrender of Bangla Desh lie in the direction of a regional perspective which Indian policy should emphasise without further procrastination.

Let us take oceanic perspective. If it makes sense to talk of Mediterranean, Pacific and Atlantic problems, why not bay of Bangla Problem? Peace keeping and demilitarisation in the bay of Bangla offer them for ‘regional power dialogue’ An Indian naval initiative in the context of ‘peace keeping and demilitarisation’   would appeal to regional if the ‘limited’ nature of our action was explained sufficiency. If India has conclusive evidence that Pakistan ships are carrying troops, tanks, and artillery to crush Bangla Desh, an Indian declaration of intend to intercept such movements would place Pakistan in a dilemma and would place the onus of escalation on Pakistan.  

If Asian countries knew in advance that India’s actions are deliberate and strictly to “concern” Islamabad’s militarism and revanchism, and India is favourably disposed towards ‘regional power dialogue’ the prospect is that important Asian countries like Indonesia and Japan will find it indispensable that they would seek and determine points of convergence with Indian policy. As soon as regional initiatives develop, India should be prepared to seek collective progress by convening and Asian summit conference. The Super Power, the USA and the Soviet Union, would neither censure nor prevent such a conference, but would seek to influence it behind the scenes. India would have the opportunity to affirm its own Political conception about Bangla Desh, and if other regional interests are taken into account fully, if it’s not unlikely that a synthesis would result. In any case, it would provide India a valuable opportunity to explain the ‘peace-keeping and demilitarisation’ nature of its own initiatives and place the issue of Pakistani militarism and Revanchism in correct focus. India miscalculated badly when it rejected Indonesia’s invitation to the conference on Cambodia, and blindly ignored the high value of regional initiatives, there is, however, no reason why our affinity with our region should not be reaffirmed and we should be glad if Indonesia does not find it politically embarrassing to accept our regional initiative.

The problem of Bangla Desh resembles in many ways the problem of Austria in past - war Europe. The neutralisation of Austria was based upon the equilibrium of interest of the great powers. The current political situation in Asia and involvement of the great powers in the region will always require specially contrived measures. At the right moment after the regional initiatives have been taken, an international conference to confer permanent neutralisation status on Bangla Desh will be necessary to relieve Bangla Desh of the anxiety for a modus vivendi between all the powers concerned, regional and global, and will open the way to the economic and social rehabilitation of the people of Bangla Desh. These course of action is unlikely to be jeopardised by Communist China for two reasons: the present phase of Chinese policy after the Cultural revolution is militarily speaking highly ‘conservative,’ and the Chinese role will remain ‘limited’ for fear of offending Asian opinion if the Bangla Desh problem becomes the subject of active regional diplomacy and if the Chinese do not suspect U.S. and Soviet collaboration’.

This agenda for action will require to government of India to manifest a strong political will to overcome the present difficulties and to resist pressure by Super powers, since it is no longer a secret that both Soviet Union and the United States are committed to prevent the break-up of Pakistan. The report of the External Affairs Minister suggests that during the tour of the world capitals, the immediate diplomatic objective was a negotiated termination of the internal war in Pakistan and a return to the statues quo ante.

India has also administered several ‘warnings’ to Islamabad and those who are helping her in one way or other. This drama of diplomatic protests has in fact diverted our attention from the vital and crucial issues of Islamabad’s militarism and revanchism.

Naturally the people of Bangla Desh and the people of Asia are watching to see whether they can detect India’s determination to help a cause to which India’s Government and parliament are publicly committed. India has put too such trust in the Super Power, and according to all reports, the United States and Soviet Union have already re-examined their “Pakistan policies” and have discovered that Islamabad’s presence in Dacca is designed to suit their political needs. India’s expectations of an endorsement by the two Super Powers of the decolonisation of Bangla Desh run counter to considerations of balance of power and the cold facts of Super Power co-existence.

India’s super power oriented diplomacy has proved a millstone around her neck and the people of India are at loss to know which path the country take. in the confused state of our foreign relations, voices are heard which advocate the ‘Art of brinkmanship’ which would mean that Indian militarism is the answer to Pakistan’s militarism. This bodes ill for the future and a war which is brought to an abrupt and by Super Power intervention could prove politically trouble some and costly for India. Only by regional diplomacy can India manifest its determination to ensure the survival of Bangla Desh. A regional policy would lay no claim to unmitigated success, but it would be the best way to indicate the high priority of India’s involvement in Bangla Desh and to give full expression to the weight of India’s moral, political and strategic commitment to the people of Bangla Desh.

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