Ambassador of India to Myanmar & GCTC Advisory Board Member
To my mind, there is nothing new in what Pakistan has done by sending our ambassador back to New Delhi. We had also asked their ambassador to leave after the Parliament attack. There is enough precedence for such events.
Pakistan calling back our ambassador is an attempt to internationalise the entire issue — and when have they not done this?
The present ambassador of India to Pakistan is a fine diplomat, he’s worked with me in Pakistan.
He knows how to handle them.
On the diplomatic front, following the Article 370 abrogation event, I don’t feel that India is going to take any decision in haste or shorten its staff in Islamabad. We may have our problems with the military and government but it is wrong to treat every Pakistani in any case with suspicion as being anti-Indian. That is not the case, especially in areas outside the capital.
We have to deal with human issues on human terms.
There are people in Pakistan who do believe that it’s only logical eventually to do business with India — we are a big country, how long will they fight with us. We need not go easy on their government but we may go easy on their people — there is a difference there.
Hostilities against diplomats in Islamabad have always been there. You have to live in Islamabad and have the ISI looking at your kids constantly to know what it is all about! Most of the civil population is rather scared about seeing the diplomats, their contact with you is very limited, but you have to manage your best to get to meet people. Officially, you can meet people depending on what their professional relations are — so, many politicians are easily available, depending on which party they belong to, the media comes across and chats, and that’s fine.
It is the level and type of surveillance on families that makes it quite difficult, including upon wives.
My wife was there first as the consulate general’s wife in Karachi and then as the high commissioner’s wife when we worked there. She felt stifled by the type of surveillance she underwent.
Pakistan saying that they will take up this matter with other countries in the world diplomatically is also nothing new. They did it when the Kargil War was fought and when our Parliament was attacked. It’s par for the course, as they would say in golf.
Realistically though, what use is Pakistan to any country right now?
Just look at how it is persuading the Chinese to get reasonable on their rate terms by letting out that it is unhappy with this. They went and met US President Donald Trump in Washington. The results are visible.
We need to remember though that their diplomats are also very professional people. It is important that you deal with these things realistically — but right now, with the Saudis, the UAE, everyone wanting to be on the good side of India, which they will be as long as you grow at 6% or 7% per annum, Pakistani diplomacy doesn’t have a lot of room to navigate within.
I have no doubt that Indian diplomats are trying to get the world on their side. The Foreign Secretary has met a number of ambassadors and instructions must have gone out to them on what they are required to do. This is very normal.
I do think that Pakistan has never been strict on Hafiz Saeed — he is their asset, and they will not tackle him now. I am very clear in my mind about the necessary steps we must take ahead — we should keep lobbying with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to see that all this behaviour does affect them.
I believe in strict reciprocity against Pakistan.
The most important next move by India should be managing the situation and loosening up the restrictions we now have in the Valley.
I sense from my friends in various parts of the government that there is a growing tiredness with violence in the Valley, a fatigue with insurgency — now, it depends on you as to how you utilise it.
In my days in the PMO, to my mind, I found the most corrupt government in Kashmir was of Farooq Abdullah’s. They apparently even ate up money we gave for flood relief.
Not a glowing record: Farooq Abdullah’s govt came under the graft scanner in Kashmir. (Photo: IANS)
There is a tangible governance vacuum there, so as long as you deliver good governance, everything will be fine. I am the Chancellor of the Jammu University today. I meet Kashmiri students daily, they are bright, forward-looking and energetic. Yes, they also sometimes have a chip on their shoulder but those issues are fully addressed when they get employment across the country.
The students in the university do speak openly enough about the grievances they have and the army presence in the Valley.
You have to deal with it and give them comfort.
It will be alright.