It has been a busy week for Indian foreign policy makers with India and Pakistan resuming foreign secretary level talks, the Indo-US nuclear bill emerging unscathed from the US Senate. How is Indian foreign policy coping with this sudden spike in activity and interest? What is the fallout of Hu's visit to India? Or the Senate's approval to the Nuclear Deal? Or the Afghanistan Conference? Explaining the various strands of activity, is former diplomat and rediff columnist M K Bhadrakumar, who has spent a considerable part of his career spanning over three decades on the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran desks.
Here is the transcript of the chat:
M K Bhadrakumar says, hello, Mr Bhadrakumar will be joining us in ten minutes.
Jaya asked, What are the implications of Chinese signing of civilian nuke deal with Pak in this visit by Hu?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, Sino-Pak nuclear cooperation is traditional but at this point inevitably the tendency would be to view it in the context of the Indo-US deal. If so, China is supportive of Pakistan's claim to develop sources of nuclear energy despite US reluctance. This has implications for China's stance in the NSG vis-a-vis the Indo-US deal.
Jaya asked, What is your take on Chinese policy of "string of pearls"?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, Every single relationship of China's with one of India's neighbours should not be viewed through the prism of Sino-Indian clash of interests. China has its legitimate interests in developing its relations with its neighbouring countries in South Asia in directions that facilitate its overall development objectives.
patriot asked, Sir, what geopolitical interests does US have in Pakistan especially when all terrorism that is directed towards US and west emanates from Pakistan.?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, From the US point of view Pakistan's cooperation is central to achieving success in the war on terror in Afghanistan. Besides, Pakistan's crucial geographical location cannot be ignored in US regional policy. Pakistan is also intrinsically a major regional power.
Jaya asked, Do you think Chinese will spoil the India US nuke deal ?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, China is likely to adopt a stance in the NSG from a position of principle as regards nuclear non-proliferation in general, NPT's relevance etc. It is unlikely that the stance will be in terms of India's drive to seek nuclear energy or to seek the removal of bans on technology transfer from the US.
Venkatramani asked, Sir, do you think China and India are competing to corner energy resources of the world? Where does India stand?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, A degree of competition amongst the energy consuming countries is inevitable. The point is that such competition should not degenerate into rivalries or assume zero-sum connotations. I think India and China have shown that in the highly competitive market there is scope for their mutual cooperation and that at any rate they are keen to avoid rivalries while ensuring their energy security.
JoeHardings asked, I have read some of your columns.You seem to be supporting the Taliban. How can you do that? They are anti-woman and anti-progress. Why should world support such violent people?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, Well, no matter whether I support or condemn Taliban, the fact remains that Taliban enjoys popular support in Afghanistan and needs to be dealt with politically. I am also of the view that the status of women in Afghanistan cannot be viewed from the prism of Western Social Values. Afghanistan is a traditional society. As for violence let us remember that the occupation forces in Afghanistan have set new thresholds in the three-decade long Afghan war.
ajith asked, Is there any chance of china invading us again in near future?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, Let us be clear that 1962 war was a solitary instance in a five thousand year old history of good neighbourliness.
chanakya asked, Bhadraji, when it comes to our foreign policy, why it is always having a foreign flavour and not emitting nationalistic and patriotic kind of signals to the adversaries?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, I think foreign policy is an extension of our domestic policies. This means that India's priorities should be to strive for creating a peaceful, external environment for India within which we can proceed with our policies of national development. At the end of the day, what purpose will be served by 'nationalistic' and 'patriotic' sloganeering?
Tanessh asked, Do you think Indian political leaders have a long term vision for foreign affairs?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, Undoubtedly. Our leadership is holding a vision of steering India through an extremely volatile international environment with so many variables at work.
prodigy asked, good evening. I have three questions for you. Do you think Americans will succeed in Iraq? Do you want them to succeed in Iraq? By word success I mean a stable, moderate and democratic Iraq. As we know, if they win it will make them ascertain themselves as Masters of Universe and who knows may be some more pre-emptive strikes again "axis of evil". If they fail it will lead to breeding place for Islamic Fundamentalists like early 90's Afghanistan, which is ultimately harmful to India. Is democracy in middle east boon or bane for USA and rest of the world?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, It is a remote possibility that the US strategy in Iraq will succeed. In fact, the US realises this already. Therefore, what they need is to look beyond at 'damage control'. The US should devise an 'exit strategy' that falls within the overall context of a regional milieu. Primarily, countries like Iran and Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia must be drawn into the 'problem resolution'. As for Afghanistan, the problem is entirely different. I think an intra-Afghan solution is very vital. What we need is more of Afghan participation. Having said that, I agree with you that through the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, US has given a massive boost to the forces of radicalism and extremism. Any effective countering of these tendencies can only be possible if the US jettisons its 'lone ranger' approach and worked within the framework of international law.
AtulSabnis asked, How for do you think the anti-terror pact with Pak last?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, It is wrong to look for immediate results from the joint terror mechanism. It's a good beginning that the two foreign secretaries have made in defining the scope of the mechanism and in setting out the level at which the mechanism operates. We have to wait and see Pakistan's response in the period ahead. Let us be clear that every single act of terrorism that takes place in India cannot be regarded as originating from Pakistan. It is also a fallacy to think that the Pakistani authorities are in control of all the extremist organisations operating out of Pakistani soil. The problem, equally, is often that in India, the issue of terrorism becomes the stuff of party politics. This is extremely unfortunate, but it is so.
ajith asked, Hello sir it is said that Chinese are building up infrastructure near and around India (like in Gwadar port in Pakistan and one in Myanmar). Are they trying to corner us? Also they are arming Pakistan, in this scenario is it not foolishness to trust china?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, I am firmly of the view that there has to be grater maturity and self-confidence in India's reflexes over Chinese policies involving our neighbouring countries. China too has its policy goals of developing its relations with its neighbours -- just as India would have with Vietnam or Japan or South Korea, for instance. Gwadar gives China direct access to the Gulf (from where China draws 90% of its energy) bypassing the Malacca Straits, which is controlled by the US. The implications are self-evident. What I mean is there is scope to see Gwadar from the Chinese point of view as well and not exclusively through the prism of India-Pakistan adversarial relations.
JoeHardings asked, Sir, please answer my question? Don't you think Karzai is the losing horse? Why bet on him?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, I cannot agree with you more! Karzai has proved ineffectual and is presiding over an extremely corrupt government. I think what keeps him going is the US backing. The effort to create a Pashtun constituency for him has failed. The present period, in my opinion, is a period of transition.
deepak asked, are we not being treated as softer state by our neighbours e.g. China, Bangladesh and Pakistan
M K Bhadrakumar answers, I don't agree that India is a 'soft state' by any yardstick. We defied international opinion by going nuclear. We hold on to J&K as an integral part of our country -- notwithstanding international conspiracies against us, including by the great powers. We are often criticised a self-righteous, given out tenacity to hold on to our viewpoints no matter what others think.
Athale asked, Sir, will NATO succeed in Afghanistan?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, At the present state, NATO cannot win the war. But, we may expect major course corrections in the NATO strategy at the forthcoming NATO summit in Riga on November 28. NATO cannot afford to 'fail' in Afghanistan since that completely throws into disarray the US strategy for projecting NATO as a security organisation with global reach. Therefore, what can happen is that NATO's war efforts will be supplemented in the coming period by a renewed political process and a more active role by the European Union. There is a clear recognition already that a military solution to the Afghan problem is simply not attainable.
naresh asked, Do you think India-China-Russia axis is more viable or India-America?
M K Bhadrakumar answers, I'm of the firm opinion that India must develop the potentials of trilateral cooperation with Russia and China. First, it is not in our country's interest to be putting all our eggs, so to speak, in the American basket. Second, within the framework of the trilateral cooperation, the stresses and strains that are presently apparent in our relations with China could get addressed to some extent. Thirdly, Russia is a traditional partner country for India --through think and thin. And, Sino-Russian cooperation is also set to scale new heights. Fourthly, the common space between India, China and Russia -- Central Asia and the Caspian -- is also a region which has abundant resources of oil and gas. By cooperating with Russia and China, India can address its concerns of energy security. My apprehension is that the US might at some stage visualise India as a component of its containment strategy toward Russia and China. That cannot be in our interests. The missile defense programme is likely to figure as a litmus test. If the US tests of the interceptor missile succeed in December, the time arises for the first deployments under missile defense programme. Having said that, we must bear in mind that the US is a major source of technology for India, and given our aspirations of development, we cannot overlook this reality. The fact is also that even for Russia and China, the US remains their No.1 foreign policy focus. We must, therefore, endeavour to create as much space and time for our development by balancing and diversifying our external relations.
Ravi asked, How can we expect the Congress-CPI coalition to perform well on the foreign policy front? Remember that they were the ones who lost the 1962 war due to sheer incompetence. Also, I am really saddened that Communists in India shout all the time against the Indo-US nuke deal but go all silent when it comes to Chinese border and trade disputes.
M K Bhadrakumar answers, On the contrary, my friend, the Congress and the Left are doing rather well on the foreign policy front, don't you think? It is a bit like what the English poet Keats said, 'For ever will thou love / and she be fair'. The Left has difficulties with the UPA government's perceived pro-American slant in our foreign policy. The Left will forever try to correct this course. But, in the ultimate analysis, both sides are committed to an independent foreign policy. The international milieu is highly complicated, and much pragmatism is necessary. Let us remember that in the same week in which we saw the US Senate pass the nuclear bill, the Iranian foreign minister and the Russian foreign minister were being hosted by the UPA government. I think leaders like Pranab Mukherjee with their infinite experience in statecraft are quite capable of steering India through the choppy waters. The Left's apprehensions about the nuclear deal are genuine, in my opinion. Let us remember that the BJP and large sections of the country's scientific community also share these apprehensions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has virtually acknowledged that these apprehensions are valid and need to be addressed.
Mukund asked, Are you a staunch Communist and a China lover? All of your views support China's foreign policies.
M K Bhadrakumar answers, Am I a 'China lover?' I'm quintessentially an 'India lover'. I don't think any amount of adversarial drum beating in our country can arrest China on its march forward. I also think it is wasteful if India gets transfixed on bygones. Hu's visit -- the second in 18 months by a top Chinese leader -- is a clear affirmation of China's interest in moving forward with India. It is up to us to form a vision of how we take our relations with China forward. There are many countries in the world (like the US or Vietnam or Indonesia and Japan), which have old lingering problems in their relations with China. But they are not doing tooth-picking. My own conclusion is that despite the recent orchestrated anti-China campaign in our media, the political climate of Hu's visit provides an excellent opportunity for both countries to give a boost to the relationship.