Friday, July 8, 2011



( To be read in continuation of my earlier article of June 27,2011, titled “Introspection in Pakistan: Will it Endure?” at )

After 64 years of hating, distrusting and wishing ill of each other, have India and Pakistan started learning to like each other?

Things seem to be changing.

Glacially, bien sur. But changing all the same.

If you concentrate intensely, you can feel the change under your feet.

We are still harsh to each other, but not as harsh as before.

We still distrust each other, but not as intensely as before.

We still talk ill of each other, but not with as much venom as before.

We still hail the discomfiture of each other, but not with as much glee as before.

We still demonise each other, but not with as much pleasure as before.

The lingo is changing for the better, though one is not certain how long this would last.

Read the recent remarks of Smt.Nirupama Rao, our outgoing Foreign Secretary, on Pakistan and terrorism.

As forthright as always, but not as rudely condemnatory as in the past. There is a willingness to look at terrorism in a broader sub-continental perspective than in a purely national perspective.

Read the recent remarks of Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani of Pakistan at a seminar. “India is our most important neighbour.”

No Pakistani leader would have had the courage to say so in public in the past, even if he felt so in his heart of hearts. The fear that one might stir up the hornet’s nest of anti-India fundamentalists would have inhibited the open expression of any such feeling.

One could now sense a feeling of confidence in the Pakistani political leadership that less negative statements about India might have greater public support than in the past.

Pakistan post-Abbottabad is not the same as Pakistan pre Abbottabad. There is an intense introspection regarding Pakistan’s relations with the US. India has been a conceptual beneficiary of this introspection

Questions not asked in the past are being asked now. Is the US a dependable friend?

Is it wise to develop a dependence on the US?

Has the time come to have a re-look at Pakistan’s relations with India in order to reduce its dependence on the US?

Is it possible for India and Pakistan to get along with each other? Should one allow persisting differences over individual issues such as Kashmir and terrorism come in the way of a greater comfort level in the over-all bilateral relations?

Keep discussing the differences over individual issues, but do not allow the persisting differences to continue to add venom to the over-all relations.

There is a willingness to project the bilateral relations in benign than in compulsively malign terms as in the past.

Is it for real or is it chimerical?

Is it durable or will it end like past rays of hope leading to even greater bitterness than earlier?

These are valid questions. One should not hesitate to pose them, but one should not allow these questions to continue to make us prisoners of the past.

It is time to think in terms of getting out of the clutches of the past and moving into the welcoming arms of the future.

Is this possible? Yes, if we continue to travel on the road of learning to like each other.

There are incipient signs of new thinking in both India and Pakistan. These signs must not be allowed to wither away. ( 10-7-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75)




China is not a South Asian power, but it has acquired an important South Asian presence by taking advantage of certain factors which work in its favour and to India’s detriment:

(a). Firstly, no contentious issues bedevil its relations with any of the South Asian nations. It has not allowed the absence of an agreement with Bhutan on the border issue and its concerns over the activities of Tibetan refugees from Nepalese territory to come in the way of its strengthening its bilateral relations with the countries of the South Asian region. As against this, persisting problems in India’s bilateral relations with these countries work to India’s detriment. These countries have a higher comfort level in their relations with China than in their relations with India.

(b).Secondly, there is a huge hunger for the development of infrastructure in the South Asian counties in the form of ports, railways, roads etc. China, which has built up a huge cash reserve from its surplus external trade balances, has been able to meet their requirements of funds for infrastructure projects. Indian ability in this regard is severely limited. China has built up a large reserve of construction engineers of world class with experience in developing the infrastructure under difficult conditions in China. It has been able to utilise them for its construction projects in these countries. India’s over-focus on the IT sector and under-focus on the engineering sector have come in the way of building a similar pool of construction engineers. As a result, China has been better able to meet the infrastructure requirements of the South Asian countries than India.

( c ) Thirdly,China has been aggressive in meeting the requirements of these countries for arms and ammunition. It has also been actively helping Pakistan in developing a civil and military nuclear capability. There have been reports that it might help Bangladesh in developing a civil nuclear capability.

2.It is important for India to challenge China’s monopoly in the infrastructure development sector. Presence in the infrastructure sector has a strategic importance. We must be able to find the funds and the required number of construction engineers for this. India has three advantages over China which it must exploit vigorously to increase its strategic presence in the region and to counter the Chinese presence.

(a).Firstly, India provides a huge market next door for the products of these countries. Their traders value the Indian market more than the Chinese market. We should be generous in our trade concessions in order to keep them attracted to India and prevent them from drifting towards China.

(b).Secondly, India could play an important role in helping these countries develop their educational facilities such as institutions for technology studies.

(c).Thirdly, culturally, the people of these countries still look up to India and not to China. India’s soft power has to be effectively utilised for strengthening our presence and influence in these countries. China is not in a position to compete with us in soft power.

3.Whether India should compete with China in selling arms and ammunition and nuclear technology to these countries has to be carefully considered keeping in view the implications of the likely use of Indian arms and ammunition by these countries against their dissident elements, which often look up to India for moral support. As regards the supply of nuclear technology, India may not be in a position to providee the kind of financial back-up that China provides.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )