The spin that is being given by our well-heeled diplomats following foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai’s conversations in Washington last week is that we have the Americans eating out of our hands on the Afghan situation and that “New Delhi is having its last laugh.”
To my mind, if at all there is laughter in the Indian foreign policy establishment, it ought to be hysterical laughter borne out of despair and disillusionment. Over the weekend, two major ‘leaks’ have appeared — all substantial Afghan news nowadays come as ‘leaks’. One was that the United States special representative for Afghanistan Marc Grossman met with Taliban diplomats
at a setting in Qatar.
The ‘leak’ came on Thursday from Kabul, which is of course incensed that Grossman undercut President Hamid Karzai, because he had proceeded to Qatar only from the Afghan capital where he held out a solemn assurance that any peace talks with the Taliban will be ‘Afghan-led’.
Quite obviously, Kabul is not happy that Grossman did exactly the opposite on his return journey to Washington. (By the way, en route to Kabul, Grossman had a pow-vow with South Block and it is unlikely he took his Indian counterparts into confidence, either.)
However, what really throws me into a bout of hysterical laughter is the second ‘leak’ from Pakistan on Friday to the effect that the “talks between the US and Taliban in Qatar have ended without reaching any results.” And, pray, whom did the American diplomats engage in Qatar?
Now, hold your breath, please. The Americans engaged all of them — ’diplomats’ representing Mullah Omar, Haqqani Network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Pakistani ‘leak’ went on to give details of how exactly the talks got into difficulty.
Evidently, Washington is pursuing its agenda of reconciling the Afghan insurgents and nothing is going to be allowed to come in the way. Actually, India is not alone in cautioning the Americans. Karzai is also doing that all the time. And, even knowledgeable American experts on Afghanistan such as veteran ‘Afghan hands’ like Peter Tomsen could be doing that. However, I am sure US state department has no time or patience with contrarian opinions of the ilk of Tomsen
So, why should the Indian diplomats think they are having the last laugh? To my mind, if at all they are laughing, it must be delusionary laughter.
Frankly, it is no laughing matter that the American officials are being caught sitting across the table with the Haqqanis who apparently bombed the daylights out of the Indian mission in Kabul — not once but twice — killing a brigadier and a senior diplomat.
The funny part is that Indian diplomats are apparently naive enough to think they can use the imperatives of the Afghan situation as alibi for India’s engagement of Iran. Who do we think we are kidding? The Americans are not such complete, hopeless duffers as not to know that India-Iran relationship is in such tatters today that there is no scope for reaching an understanding
over the Afghanistan problem between New Delhi and Tehran for the foreseeable future.
Why should Tehran cross swords with Pakistan on behalf of the undependable Indians who walk in and walk out of friendships and ’strategic partnerships’? Especially, when Pakistan has moved heaven and earth to build up warmth in its ties with Iran — almost directly in proportion to the degradation of India-Iran ties.
Indeed, the Americans ought to know all this better than Mathai, because they only got the mandarins in command in South Block in the mid-2000s to wind down the India-Iran strategic understanding over regional security and reduce it to a miserable heap of rubble.
The problem with spin is that it has to be based on at least one milligram of truth. Or else, it has no shelf-life and all those associated with it — including well-meaning guys — will come to suffer collateral damage to their reputation.