Diplomacy primarily is an instrument for advancing the cause of the nation’s economic and security policy — foreign policy quite simply is the product of the country’s economic and security concerns. The government of the day formulates a policy accordingly and our envoys implement it with all the suavity they can bring to bear in the handling of foreign entities. Sometimes a doctrinaire approach could override the national security angle — Prime Minister I.K. Gujral adopted a Pak policy that ignored the available Intelligence to the effect that Pak ISI had planned to replicate the success of Afghan Jehad in Kashmir by pumping in Mujahideen into the Valley. The ‘covert’ offensive of Pakistan later developed into the Kargil invasion.
Normally speaking, however, our foreign policy — even though it has inputs from abroad — is formulated at home taking into account what is good or adverse for the nation. Our diplomats also, therefore, would do well not only to have a total picture of India’s security threat scenario but also a well grounded knowledge of domestic developments that impinged on India’s national integration, internal security and domestic stability in a strategic sense. The course of events in sensitive areas like Kashmir, North East and Sikkim — apart from happenings on our borders — that could attract international attention have to be closely tracked by them in an ongoing fashion. Diplomacy has to fully grasp the wider bearings of these domestic episodes to be able to measure up to the task of handling the perceptions of the world community on them — wherever it became necessary.
‘Mission and delivery’ — the words used by Prime Minister Modi in his recent address to the Probationers of Indian Civil Services including the IFS, at Kevadia in Gujarat on the National Unity Day, are significant both for the members of the foreign policy establishment as well as the bureaucracy working on the home turf. A correct understanding of the objective that a diplomat or a bureaucrat was to serve in any position and do it in the best possible way, is crucial for success.
The system of updating our diplomats on the readings of our external and internal situation is already in existence and it includes, among other things, regular briefings provided to them by our National Security set-up and the ministries concerned. It is in this context that the reported remarks of a senior Indian diplomat at Washington on the situation in Kashmir — as it prevailed after the abrogation of Art 370 of the Constitution by Parliament — have raised eyebrows within and outside the government. At a dinner meeting with people connected with a forthcoming Indian film on Kashmir that focused on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, he is said to have held out an assurance that the latter could return to the Valley soon adding that ‘if the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it’ and that ‘it has happened in the Middle East’. The audience had many Kashmiri Pandits who complemented Prime Minister Modi for showing the courage to declare that ‘we don’t need Art 370 and 35A’.
Now, by no stretch of imagination, can Jammu and Kashmir, which is a state of India, invite comparison with Israel and Palestine — two countries carved out of a common land. Even if the Valley is preponderantly Muslim and Jammu is dominated by Hindus, they are parts of the same integral state that belongs to India. The ouster of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley is known to have been caused by the Pak ISI-controlled militants at a time when Pakistan had called for Jehad in Kashmir. The democratic leadership elected to rule the state of J&K was complicit with the Pak agents and separatists in permitting the atrocities on the Kashmiri Pandits who had to migrate to another part of the state for shelter — not to another country across the borders. They became refugees in their own state because of the government’s failure to give them protection — they were not like the Jews ousted by the Palestinian authority from its country. In the case of Kashmiri Pandits, it is now a question of the government of J&K as well as the Centre correcting a grave wrong of the past and ensuring — in the post-370 environ — that they felt free to come back to the Valley and resettle there in total protection. This, in turn, is connected with the success of counter-terror operations and elimination of Pak agents from the state. The sovereign Indian State has to do this — regardless of whatever it takes to accomplish the task.
The Indian diplomat probably intended to only convey that strongest measures will be taken to resettle the Kashmiri Pandits in the face of a continuing threat of terrorism in the Valley. The unintended parallel with the Israel-Palestine scenario that he drew tended to give an international dimension to Kashmir — this is the whole point about understanding the strategic import of an issue at home. The democratic world led by US had already accepted the integration of J&K with the rest of the country as an internal matter of India. J&K is not divided in a Hindu part and a Muslim territory and is an integral state housing many faiths. A communally-based outcome of the ‘Kashmir issue’ as propagated by Pakistan can never be accepted by democratic India.
There is no damage done but the takeaway from all of this is that Indian diplomats have to remain constantly grounded in what was happening within the country. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Centre has enriched the content of the Foundation Course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) at Mussoorie in terms of the inclusion of presentations on strategic affairs and India’s national security. This course is the common initial phase of training for all Civil Services, including the IFS, and gives them a lasting base of knowledge of all that was happening in the country as well as the outside world, in these spheres. Subsequent interactions between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs, if held in a more organised way — possibly under the aegis of National Security Council Secretariat(NSCS) — should help to keep our diplomatic establishment abreast of all the internal developments here that could have a bearing on our foreign policy.
(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)