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GP’s legacy becomes bothersome

The diplomats and foreign policy ‘advisors’ whom Nehru and Indira Gandhi allowed themselves to be surrounded with were extraordinarily lucky folks. They have not been subjected to any scrutiny. Obviously, they had a whale of a time — good wine, great conversation, lots and lots of travel and all the loaves of power. 

But at the end of the day, no one asked the blunt question: ‘Pray, what did you achieve for India, Respected Sir?’ Their halo, consequently, remains untouched. Some even created nasty problems — Siachen, for example — but no one cares.  
The occasion in Delhi is a remembrance of things past — regarding “contributions of former diplomat and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s advisor, late G. Parthasarathi, to India’s engagement with Pakistan.” From the media account, much praise was showered on ‘GP’ and again the conclusion reached was that he was a great diplomat. But no one was willing to explain how such a definitive conclusion was reached.   
That is, except former foreign minister Natwar Singh who neatly sidestepped the question and cast GP as an ‘advisor’ par excellence who was “sound 99 percent of the time.” The beauty about ‘advisors’ is that they are not accountable. They give their advice — and then they move on. And, given the style of diplomacy, advice in those primeval times was mostly rendered as pillow talk. Records weren’t kept then. 
Alas, we can’t assess NS’s judgment. What role did GP play as high commissioner in Karachi, for example, in averting — or not averting — the breakdown of Swaran Singh-Bhutto talks in 1963? Any intelligent guesses? 
But one startling thing that NS said stood out — namely, that a prime minister cannot make a critical difference to the core issues of India’s foreign policy such as ties with Pakistan or Kashmir. He was speaking with biting sarcasm about PM Manmohan Sigh’s dialogue with Pakistan. NS felt tempted to think that PM MS’s primary motivation is not regional peace and stability, but securing a Nobel for Peace for himself (which of course eluded Nehru and Indira Gandhi.) 
That was an unkind cut bordering on cynicism. The point is, the climate of India-Pakistan relations is better today than at anytime in living memory. As for the Valley, the situation there is calmer than at anytime for an entire generation. Isn’t worth having, too? Isn’t the MFN that Pakistan granted something useful?  
The problem is that India is saddled with an ideology from the past that diplomacy is all about management and not problem-solving. GP is a fine example of that old school. There is not an issue he touched, which he solved. Two, at least, got exacerbated. 
Sri Lanka, for example. When historians write about it, they will retrospect that Annexure C which GP ‘negotiated’ with J R Jayewardene by arm-twisting the latter inevitably led the wily Sri Lankan leader to bowl that lethal ‘googly’ at Delhi once he recouped his poise, inviting the Indian forces to his country. The rest is painful history. It ended with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Sri Lanka will never accept Annexure C . Period. Even GP would admit by now. 
GP’s earlier record on Indira-Sheikh accord of 1974 was, again, another classic overreach that produced a backlash that was inevitable, leading, inexorably, to the catastrophic faith by the ‘powers that be’ in Pakistan years later that a luscious fruit is hanging low in the Kashmir Valley ripe enough to be plucked. 
In both instances, GP acted as a ‘fixer’ par excellence. We won’t know what passed through his erudite mind about the wisdom of what he was doing, and all we can be certain is that he probably knew he was ‘managing’ things for Indira Gandhi. 
How relevant is GP today? Clearly, the era of ‘fixers’ in Indian foreign policy ended with the late 1990s with Brajesh Mishra’s entry into the First Circle. BM was the first Indian diplomat who took a ‘result-oriented’ approach to his work which he grabbed with relish when it came his way after all those frustrating years in the India International Centre sipping whiskey. 
One may disagree with BM such as when he expounded an Indian-US-Israeli concert of democracies on the world stage, but even then, one suspected that his probable motivation lay elsewhere in gaining some tangible outcome somewhere else. 
In the contemporary world, ‘managing’ problems simply won’t do. The nature of problems has changed. You can’t stall ad infinitum on climate change or cyber space or terrorism. Solutions are needed. 
You need to end the Afghan war and, therefore, you bite the bullet and get Pakistan on board so that the latter can ensure that the Taliban reps indeed show up at Paris at the appointed hour to meet Ahmed Zia Massoud, Yunus Qanooni and Mohammed Mohaqiq. 
You work hard so that you get results. You build bridges toward Baghdad so that you get oil, replacing Big Oil. You go to Naypyidaw, albeit exhausted after a bruising election back home in Iowa and Florida, and then you choose to forget to call Myanmar by its real name ‘Burma’, because your Bangkok and Singapore-based companies are competing there for business opportunities and it is a tough world out there swarming with Chinese businessmen. 
The ideology of ‘managing’ is hopelessly archaic in the contemporary world setting. It won’t do to muddle along. The plain truth is that unless India normalizes with Pakistan (and China), its foreign policy will be nowhere near optimal. Besides, no one else in the world cares two hoots why these gifted Indians are cleverly ‘managing’ their foreign policy. Only, we get left behind.  
GP had the great luxury of practicing diplomacy in the sedate waters of a bipolar world. More important, he didn’t have to co-relate the Sri Lankan problem or the Pakistan/Kashmir problem with India’s ambitions as an emerging power. 
Thus, his legacy of ‘managing’ problems for the PMs he advised remains in sync with the spirit of those times. But the unfortunate part is that his camp followers today are also part of his legacy. Read the Hindu report here

Posted in Diplomacy, Politics.

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6 Responses

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  1. Sadhan Pande says

    People placed complete faith in congress who brought fredom and so they
    thought congress will bring happiness alongwith peace in an independent
    state BURNING WITH WOUNDS FROM PARTITION!
    Simple faith of people carried the treacherous party this far
    Nobody questioned out of goodness of the people themselves!

  2. raman govindan says

    nehru had a single policy of beein treated as the tallest leader in the world. his foreign policy was tailored to that purpose only! he developed friendly relations with Tito, Nasser, castro and sukarno etc.towards that end. he had no policy for India. other wise he would have emphasised the importance of education and taken efforts to remove illeteracy! he wasted 17 nears of his rule doing less and less on education. the other countries of south east asia beat us dring that period. the decision to install ,the bakra dam, the steel plants etc are simple one any one would have taken. that!

  3. Utpal Dutta says

    People of India in 1947 , were by and large dependent on INDEPENDENCE
    EARNING ACTIVISTS NOT UNDERSTAING AN IOTA OF WHAT WAS BEING DONE
    ON RULING AS A FREE NATION (AS IF FREDOM ITSELF WILL FEED EVERY
    KITCHEN) AND IN THIS RESPECT 98% OF VOTERS PLACED FAITH IN CONGRESS
    WHATEVER THEY DO (as biman basu has said ,I agree, most of the stalwards
    in nehru’s cabinet being UNWISE ABOUT POSSIBLE LOOP HOLES in managing
    men in power ,with another great factor placed on trust ,THE MAKING OF
    CONSTITUTION, the controling point on behaviours of everybody ..
    ALL TOGETHER IT WAS A MESS ! WITH HOLES FOR SLIPPING OUT BY ERRING
    AND INTENTIONAL DAMAGERS …
    AND NOW ? BLAMING PAST WONT HELP UNLESS THERE IS A WILL TO MAKE
    CORRECTIONS,WHICH IS LACKING! MEN IN CHARGE IMMEDIATELY AFTER COULD
    NOT DO THEIR JOBS IN RIGHT ORDER AND FOR THAT NEHRU’S AUTONOMY WITHIN
    PARTY IS MAIN FACTOR!

  4. Biman Basu says

    Most of the stalwarts in Nehru’s cabinet lacked WISDOM

  5. shilpy says

    More pertinent question is why is nobody questioning Gandhi-Congress policy of free flowing traffick from Pakistan in to India at a time when Pakistan is printing India’s currency by tons, and the terror threat persists? I have not seen anybody, but anybody ever looking into this humongous threat that is staring right in our face. Let us do something about the current problems, not spend quality time with things we can not change. Kejriwal has amply shown that the BJP is simply a COngress B team, we don’t expect the BJP to be of much help. It is really upto the people to lead their politicians who we mistakenly think are our leaders. The day we begin to think and internalize thatthe politicians are nothing but just another joe blow interest group is the day we start to tkae charge of our destiny and change things for the better.

  6. madanmohan siddhanthi says

    Understand India was a new nation .More than anything the middle class and late younger generation was still enjoying and dreaming of New India . The illiteracy has never understood .Congress was capitalizing the illiteracy of people .Politics has become a heriditory system – the genetics of the people changed -the genes became corrupt , criminals . Slowly steadily all criminals entered politics with looted money and the national parties encouraged those with funds .Now Indutrialists entered – as there is no need to may a middlemen of politicians in loot they tmhemselves can loot – it is down the drain all along .At least people are aware of Cockroaches called politicians – the day people lose patience -it is the end of all these corrupt and criminal politicians – yes lot of lives have to be lost .The people are not ready for such drastci change yet – you see all moasists etc this is the result of loot by politicians .

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