SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL – India needs to get over its petty obsession with Pakistan

April 19, 2010


The Global Nuclear Security Summit, which concluded in Washington yesterday, was remarkable for its revelation that India cannot hope to be a global power of any significance unless it gets over its petty obsession, as a nation, with Pakistan. At the press conference that the foreign secretary gave immediately after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, on Monday, there were as many as 30 direct or indirect references to Pakistan.

Nirupama Rao is free of any blame for this predicament. Of the 13 questions that she took at the press conference, 11 were on Pakistan. If she had refused to answer any questions on Pakistan because the subject of her press conference was the highest level Indo-US meeting, there would have been only her opening statement and two questions: one about Obama’s forthcoming visit to India and another about the sanctions Obama wants to impose on Iran soon.

When she tried to brief the press in New Delhi in the run-up to the prime minister’s travel to Washington and Brasilia, the situation was slightly better, but only because Rao firmly told the media that “I am here to discuss the subject of the Nuclear Security Summit…. We are not going to get into country-specific situations.” There was a time when the reverse was true: Pakistan’s obsession with India had become a standing joke in major world capitals, where Islamabad’s resident diplomats, visiting ministers, even its heads of State, who are more often than not dictators in military uniform, saw ghosts of India in their own shadows, under their beds and behind drawn curtains.

The lowest point in Pakistan’s notoriety over this obsession was on April 6, 1995, when Benazir Bhutto was escorted to the US Senate floor by the late Jesse Helms, long-time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and introduced thus: “The Foreign Relations Committee has had the honour of welcoming the distinguished Prime Minister of India and I wish to bring her to the floor.” As Benazir stood there and gaped in horror at the introduction, the Republican senator compounded his sin by saying that the error was because he had just completed “a delightful hour-and-a-half conversation” with the Pakistani prime minister and she was talking mostly about India.

But Pakistan’s obsession with India is understandable because India is the raison d’être for Pakistan. Even now, historically speaking, six decades after it was born, Pakistan has no reason to exist as a state without India. But what is it that has made the opposite true? Why has Pakistan become the be-all and end-all of Indian foreign policy, not for the government, but in the public domain? Part of the reason is that successive Indian governments in recent years have diluted India’s participation in important international gatherings by arbitrarily introducing an Indo-Pakistan sub-text to the proceedings. Thus the non-aligned summits in Havana and in Sharm el-Sheikh were allowed to be overshadowed by meetings between India and Pakistan.

Neither Jawaharlal Nehru nor Indira Gandhi permitted this because they believed that if India was attending a Bandung conference or a non-aligned summit, those meetings by themselves demanded their total involvement and anything else that could loom large at those meetings under a sub-text would diminish the importance of the big multilateral summits. Such diversions as those that occurred in Havana or in Sharm el-Sheikh did not begin in India’s foreign policy until Rajiv Gandhi allowed his “my-mummy-your-daddy” diplomacy with Benazir Bhutto to get as much importance at international gatherings as those summits themselves.

When V.P. Singh became prime minister without much experience or interest in foreign policy, he allowed his external affairs minister, I.K. Gujral, to hijack the country’s global agenda and subvert it to suit his desire to leave a legacy with Pakistan. Gujral did it once again when he became external affairs minister for a second time and later prime minister. But in between, P.V. Narasimha Rao brought back some sanity to India’s participation in international gatherings: whether it was because Pakistan permitted no room for normal bilateral dealings with India in those years is difficult to tell.

During the early days of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s prime ministership, until his ‘bus trip’ to Lahore and later after Kargil, the margins of multilateral summits provided the only opportunity to maintain a modicum of contact with Pakistan. Besides, Vajpayee was shrewd enough to realize that the risks involved in meeting the Pakistanis in New York or Caracas was much less in political terms than of meeting them in Agra, New Delhi or Lahore.

If India is to get over its growing obsession with Pakistan, it has to firmly and decisively stop meeting the Pakistanis on the margins of multilateral summits such as the non-aligned movement and the Commonwealth heads of government meetings. Any such meetings should be restricted to within the territories of India or Pakistan.

India’s foreign-policy-makers spent decades trying to de-hyphenate the Indo-Pakistan relationship from New Delhi’s dealings with third countries. To a very large degree, India succeeded in doing so in recent years, especially in its dealings with the US. But if that process is stopped or reversed, it will partly be because the public debate in India has become more Pakistan-centric than at any time since the crisis in South Asia which led to the birth of Bangladesh.

In a sense, it is futile to blame the media for making it appear that multilateral summits such as NAM and CHOGM are taking place on the fringes of Indo-Pakistan meetings, not the other way round. The summits of NAM and CHOGM are open to the media only during the opening and closing sessions. That means, members of the media, who are more or less captive during the three-day interregnum have to find stories that sell with their news editors.

Just as an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, they spin stories with an Indo-Pakistan angle because such stories will find the kind of space back home in a way a story on nuclear waste, non-alignment or Commonwealth development efforts will never do. But if India makes it a policy not to meet the Pakistanis at any level on the margins of multilateral summits, such stories will fade out in due course. It is imperative that they must because the way it is now, everything that India does on the global stage has become secondary to Indo-Pakistan engagement, never mind whether such stories are real or imagined.

Lately, Pakistan’s spin masters have begun to capitalize on this Indian weakness because they realize that it is so easy to unsettle New Delhi through the media. Whether this policy has anything to do with the recent relocation of the former US diplomat, Robin Raphel, to Islamabad is a moot question. When she was an assistant secretary of State for South Asia, Raphel publicly proclaimed that it is so easy to create a storm in New Delhi and proceeded to prove her theory by telling a media briefing in Washington on background that Kashmir’s Instrument of Accession to India was illegal. Her assertion led to such a ruckus in India that eventually Parliament passed a resolution declaring the inalienable nature of Kashmir’s link with the rest of the country.

Take the case of a nuclear deal which is about to happen between Pakistan and the US if sections of the Indian media are to be believed. Such a deal is entirely the creation of the Indian media and in recent weeks, Pakistan has attempted to capitalize on this and keep the story alive by making statements from time to time which are faithfully picked up and blown up in the Indian public domain.

The story of a US-Pakistan nuclear deal is like the old tale around the question whether a man had stopped beating his wife. As long as the question is whether someone had stopped beating his wife, the answer becomes somewhat redundant compared to the pregnant nature of the query itself. Similarly, the US has a problem when the Americans are pointedly asked about a nuclear deal for Pakistan. They cannot answer in the negative about any such deal because they have no desire to go out of their way and annoy Pakistan. They obviously cannot say anything affirmative because there is no such deal on the horizon, at least not for now. This allows for men like the Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, to thrive on the ambiguity and claim political capital back home under the pretext of fighting for such a deal in Washington.

On January 1, 2011, India will become a member of the United Nations security council for a two-year term. The country will then have to behave with greater maturity than it has hitherto been doing if that elected term in the security council is to eventually become a permanent seat at the global high-table. It is time for the spin masters in New Delhi to consider how a misplaced and often exaggerated enthusiasm for Pakistan in the public domain can be moderated to reflect the realities of Pakistan’s relations with India and with the rest of the world.

Telegraph India



  1. “… six decades after it was born, Pakistan has no reason to exist as a state without India.” Vow, the writer must have freshly sucked a cow mata’s rear canal and quenched his thrust for ignorance, bigotry, and stupidity. What else, though, can you expect from a slumdog. The single most relevant reason for Pakistan to exist is the fact that Muslims had ruled over Hindus for a thousand years. The people of Pakistan are the inheritors and a symbol of freedom, independence, and continued Muslim rule. After continuously and consistently ruled by foreigners over prolonged periods, the Hindu psyche has suffered from a permanent damage and skewness. I think it is better to leave them in their petty state.

    • “The single most relevant reason for Pakistan to exist is the fact that Muslims had ruled over Hindus for a thousand years.”


  2. I’m amazed to read this long, very long useless piece of crap on Indian interests, through Pakistan’s prospective.

    I’d say; there would have been better ways of using this space instead of wasting it on how Indian best interests could be served.

    Give you small example; you could have used this space to let us know about China’s standings on the matter of; “India become a member of the United Nations security council for a two-year term”?

    Pakistan should have never signed for India to become a member of the United Nations Security Council, even if it was meant for two-days let alone two years term. And now it doesn’t matter if the position is a temporary or permanent.

    Two years is a long time, though a very strong need to explore the level of corruption in Pakistan that must have taken place behind the signing off for India. Who was responsible for this sign off and why didn’t Pakistan’s corrupt politicians stopped this from happening?

  3. I have been alleging government functionaries baselessly. Such discussions possibly burden one’s own shoulders only. Kindly convey my apologies to them and if you are reading this or hear about it then forgive me.

  4. Excellent article. If India has any future in global issues, they can only be realized by having a larger world view than a Pakistan centric one. India should divert its political and diplomatic capital to other nations, this will also in turn help it gather support for its stance on Kashmir. It engagement with the Arab nations has paid dividends it terms of trade and also political support when it comes to Kashmir and UNSC seat. India should similarly engage African nations and the far east.

    Unfortunately, with Pakistan its a dead end and dialog is inconsequential due to the 2 centers of power in the country.

  5. i agree. india needs to forget about a failing state and concentrate on its increasing role in the international arena



      lol. what a retard 😀 😀

      • Yeah it will happen the same way and span of time your coward country india pulled out of Afghanistan and whenever someone commented that India has to stop its terrorism through afghanistan and get out of there the answer was the same that your coward country will stay in afghanistan and that they will get out when the world ends blah blah blah from your mates perhaps yourself too as you could be using a different name now. You people are never ashamed of your statements and flip flop of your terrorist country. Shame on you.

      • ” that your coward country ”

        I’m happy to be a citizen of a coward country that liberated Bangladesh, regained Siachen, kicked the Pakistani NLI out of Kargil ….. all with our cowardice.

        Please continue to abuse and insult India if that makes you feel superior. You may ‘think’, we ‘know’…..

  7. Mr K P Nayar is a very senior and well experienced person in journalism and his column is a reasonable expression of the present (inexperienced) political scions in (India) face of the growing menace of cross border terrorism arising from the Pakistani land and yet not been able to do anything is an obviously frustrating home compulsion both at political as well as a more serious national security threat.

    My one comment would be about his funny expression about Robin Raphael’s remark on Kashmir made teasingly seemed too much of out of the place. It would seem like making a loose remark about Iran or North Korea to spin the US around or its media. This
    is where I feel respectfully that the Indian media and journalists need a more pragmatic attitude to the Nation. To me as a common citizen, it did not taste very pleasant, if not abhorent. This is a self denigration of one’s own image, not justifiable on any account. I would have prefered a citique of her such indecently funny remark, not suitable to her status.

    Recent Indian attitude is more out of frustration than anything else. More so because of a complete diabolically different political set up in the two countries – India being a highly responsible and vulnerable soft democracy (uncomparable in the whole world); while Pakistan being a diametrically on the opposite point of a hardline Islamic State with no credible record of a civilised behavior well known internationally, to the point of being called an “Epicenter of World Terrorism”.

    US has its own compulsion, though completely misplaced, of appeasing Pakistan over Afghanistan imbroglio, I am affraid, US is fighting its war in a wrong pitch. US has not learnt yet. Because her(US) compulsions in Af/Pak are far beyond the war in Afghanistan alone.

    Still US need to be equi-centrically concentrated on the eastern and western sectors of Pakistan if she wants a graceful exit from Afghanistan in her stipulated period. Obsession with Pakistan in US parlance need to be addressed in the light of her past track record of overall undependability.
    Dr. O. P. Sudrania


  9. What one can not ignore today the very fact and more so after the demise of USSR leaving USA as the only super power in the world to manipulate all the international affairs in its favour and advantage. Kashmir problem is one such glaring and burning example of the international conspiracy against India.

    We have Dr. Karan Singh, son of the late Maharaja Ranjit Singh and I have heard him openly accepting the fact that his father did write the document of Accession to India. Who could be a better testimony than Dr. Karan Singh? He is still very much alive, active and available to consultations only if one is interested in the veracity of the historical facts. It doesn’t pay.

    It is rather difficult to understand the purport and the spirit of the mission here. But the fact is that neither India (least obsessed) nor Pakistan but it is the US who is the most obssessed nation about Kashmir, keeping Pakistan on the tenterhooks. I wish if US will pay even 10% of the attention and priority they pay to Israel; to the Kashmir problem or its obsession, will be solved in a trice, I surmise.

    God bless

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