1. ‘Doval-Bajwa a good combination to oversee back channel dialogue’
Special envoy to former PM Manmohan Singh welcomes current initiative on India-Pakistan ties, saying engagement is necessary, particularly with an adversary
Details are still emerging of a reported back channel initiative between India and Pakistan that has led to a number of measures since the February 25 DGMO ceasefire agreement announcement. As the latest Pakistani move to clear and then cancel imports from India is debated, former diplomat and special envoy to PM Manmohan Singh, Satinder Lambah, who ran the back channel from 2005 to 2014, stressed that a previous deal on trade derailed in 2014 and the agreement on Jammu and Kashmir are valid even today. Excerpts:
You have been involved in India-Pakistan diplomacy for 40 years, and the back channel dialogue for more than a decade. According to you, is there a back channel in place now, and as reports suggest, facilitated by a third country like the UAE?
With regards to the current scenario, my knowledge of the specifics is limited to what I read in the newspapers. I can tell you about the dialogue we had (2005-2014). There was no third-party involvement. Bill Burns (now the CIA chief), in his memoirs, wrote that the Indians did not share details with them and did not want any mediatory role.
If you were to ask me, even now, it is probably a bilateral dialogue, although it may be influenced by the Biden effect.
Could you share some details of the back channel you were part of and the 2007 Kashmir agreement?
It will not be proper for me to share details as the papers were transferred from the former Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) to the present Prime Minister (Narendra Modi).
Some top legal luminaries of the country were consulted (at the time).
Were the legal luminaries part of any political leadership?
But would the agreement on Jammu and Kashmir that was negotiated still be valid more than a decade later, despite the changes in J&K in August 2019?
Yes, it would. We did not negotiate for a specific era or political regime in government, but by keeping the future of the two countries in mind.
Unconnected with relations with Pakistan, I believe the important State of J&K on our border deserves full statehood.
What advice would you give the current back channel, that is believed to be between NSA Doval and the Pakistani Army chief General Bajwa?
I have no advice to give. If true, I believe that a back channel dialogue between Mr. Doval and General Bajwa would be a good combination.
Our two countries have different power structures, and therefore, we need people who have seniority in their own systems, direct access and confidence of the leadership. They need to be able to take on-the-spot decisions. I have worked with Mr. Doval in the 1980s, at the High Commission in Islamabad, including a hijacking situation in Lahore (1981), and later, on the situation in Afghanistan post the Bonn conference. General Bajwa has had an extension.
As I said, given all our differences, they would be a good combination as interlocutors, or to oversee the dialogue.
History shows that Pakistan Army leaders/chiefs think of improving relations with India only after stabilising themselves. General Zia suggested back channel talks after nine years in office, just before his death.
General Musharraf started his peace overtures five years after taking over; and General Bajwa, three years after becoming Army chief. Such occasions come after a gap of several years.
Given the suspension of India-Pakistan ties in the past few years, do you still think peace has a chance?
Yes, of course. Engagement is necessary particularly with an adversary, and I am glad it is being done now. I think we must take the dialogue process slowly, begin with some people-to-people initiatives and emphasis on economic relations. At a suitable occasion, respective High Commissioners should be reinstated. Track 2 dialogues should be held. There is no need to shy away from any discussion, because our fundamentals are strong.
We expect that no help will be given to promote terrorist activities in our country. I agree there are spoilers in both the systems. However, I have observed that in the present election, there has been no real Pakistan-bashing other than a few stray comments made during the campaign, and that will also ease along the current process.
2. ‘Joint efforts needed for peace’
There should be no repeat of last year’s border crisis, says Chinese envoy
India and China need to strengthen confidence-building measures in border areas and avoid a repeat of last year’s border crisis, China’s envoy to India Sun Weidong has said.
“Maintenance of peace and tranquillity need our joint efforts,” Mr. Sun said. “The border disputes can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations… In case of an incident, a timely communication through military and diplomatic channels should be undertaken to avoid any action that may complicate or escalate the situation. We should strengthen confidence-building measures to jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas. The lesson of last year’s border incident is profound and such incident should not be repeated.”
He made the comments in a “virtual dialogue” with columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni, the transcript of which was released on Sunday by China’s Embassy in New Delhi.
On last year’s clash in the Galwan Valley which marked the worst violence on the border since 1967, Mr. Sun said: “Neither China nor India would like to see it happen. Both sides are willing to resolve issues and de-escalate tensions through dialogue and consultation.”
The disengagement at Pangong Lake was “conducive to building mutual trust and further easing the situation on the ground”, he stated.
He said both sides had “the political will to resolve the boundary question” and “should actively push forward boundary talks and strive to reach a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution”.
While the Chinese envoy called on both sides to view relations “in a comprehensive way rather than limited to one part” and said “the boundary question is not the whole story of China-India relations”, India has made clear that relations cannot continue as normal unless there is peace and tranquillity in border areas.
Last year’s crisis, India has said, was triggered by China’s mobilisation of a large number of troops in forward areas and multiple transgressions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that went against a number of border agreements that had helped keep the peace.
India last year placed curbs on Chinese investment and banned more than 200 Chinese apps, underlining that trade and investment could not proceed as normal in light of last year’s border crisis.
Mr. Sun said “complete decoupling” or “selective decoupling”, in his view, “will not be realistic and harm others without benefiting oneself”.
“We hope that India will treat all as equals in its opening-up and refrain from imposing restrictions on specific countries or regions, over-stretching the concept of national security to exclude companies from specific countries,” he said.
Last year, two-way trade reached $87.6 billion, of which India’s exports to China were $20.8 billion, up 16%. “It shows that the Chinese market will always welcome marketable commodities,” he said.
“China has been India’s largest trading partner for consecutive years and India is China’s largest trading partner in South Asia. This is the result of the market functions and enterprises’ choices,” Mr. Sun said.
The rise of India and China as two major economic and political actors in both regional and global politics has caught global attention. The two emerging and enduring powers representing two modes of civilization signify a complex and dynamic relationship in world politics. The Wuhan meeting (April 2018, “informal summit”) between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping is being hailed as a ‘new chapter’ in relations as the two countries engage in the wake of post-Doklam rhetoric.
India-China Relationship: Evolution
- For thousands of years, Tibet was the buffer that kept India and China geographically apart and at peace. It is only after China invaded and occupied Tibet in 1950, the two countries are sharing a common border.
- The extensive mutual historical experience was not there between the two nations and each country had a poor understanding of the psyche and system of the other.
- Before the mid-20th century, India-China relations were minimal and confined to some trade and exchange of pilgrims and scholars. Interactions began after India’s independence (1947) and the Communist revolution in China (1949).
- Nehru’s views supporting an independent Tibet gave rise to Chinese mistrust. Nehru accepted China’s suzerainty over Tibet but wanted Tibet to remain autonomous.
Tibetan regard for India (where Buddhism originated) as their spiritual mentor and the holy land was a concern for China.
- China showed no concern for McMohan Line (1914 Simla Convention signed between the British and the Tibetan representatives) which it said was imposed by “imperialists.”
- Nehru and Zhou signed the Panchsheel treaty on 29 April 1954 to lay the roadmap for stability in a region (Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai) as India acknowledged Chinese rule in
Tibet: Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; Mutual non-aggression; Mutual non-interference; Equality and mutual benefit; and, Peaceful co-existence.
- As China tightened its grip on Tibet, India gave asylum to the Dalai Lama (1959).
- In 1962, China’s People’s Liberation Army invaded India in Ladakh, and across the McMahon Line in the then North-East Frontier Agency. After the conflict, relations were in a freeze.
- Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s landmark visit in 1988 began a phase of improvement in bilateral relations. India-China relations normalized through the regular exchange of high-level visits.
India-China Competition, Cooperation, Discord
India-China relationship is dotted with competition, cooperation, and discord. In 2017 these played out in India’s critique of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), India’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the dramatic crisis in Doklam, the acceleration of multilateral cooperation in the BRICS and attempts to foster economic engagement.
External balancing is the forging of military cooperation with one state to deter or defeat a threat posed by another, is one of the principal means by which states cause and enhance security for themselves. It emerged as a component in India’s foreign policy during the last stages of the 1962 War with China and persisted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During these years, India sought or concluded three agreements with other states to deal with the threat perceived from China. India-China relations have continued to be subject to an underlying security dilemma.
India-China Relations: Reset Needed in 2018
- There is a systematic buildup of negative images of how each side viewed the other’s foreign policies along with a collapse in geopolitical trust.
- China’s attempt to raise its economic and political profile in the subcontinent was seen as a challenge to India’s authority in the region. India’s military engagements with the U.S. and Japan (China’s main strategic rivals) was seen as a serious challenge to Chinese security.
- Both Delhi and Beijing seemed to be convinced that only an assertive policy will work and for past few years, they have been exploiting leverages and pressures particularly with respect to India’s US tilt and China’s Pak tilt.
- PM Modi with his visit to China attempted a course correction. It is being called a ‘reset’.
India’s Policy towards China
- India has adopted a two-pronged policy for dealing with China. The first prong involves continued engagement, both bilaterally and in multilateral forums such as BRICS, SCO and the Russia-India-China trilateral, in order to maintain overall stability, deepen economic ties, and foster diplomatic cooperation on regional and international issues. Thus, during the Doklam crisis, India not only insisted on a diplomatic settlement based on a return to the status quo ante but did not let the crisis come in the way of scheduled bilateral visits and meetings despite China’s state-controlled media warning India of a repeat of the 1962 war and more troubles.
India has also sustained efforts to enhance its military and deterrent capabilities as the second prong of policy.
- There is an emerging third prong in India’s China policy in the form of new external balancing effort. The evolution of India-US relations in particular but also of India’s relationships with Japan and Australia as well as the quadrilateral cooperation among them indicates a growing convergence in their views regarding stability in the Indo-Pacific region particularly with respect to China’s intentions in laying territorial claims to more than 80 per cent of the South China Sea as well as to the sovereign territories of India and Japan.
Tension or conflict between the two countries takes away from the prospects of the Asian century that their leaders speak of. A regular pattern of more informal summits between the leaders of the two countries is needed.
3. Editorial: A road map for tolerance
Racism will not be overcome with mere professions of good faith but with anti-racist action
Every year on March 21, a global movement gathers to fight prejudice and intolerance by marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This provides an opportunity to explore the nuanced causes and consequences of modern racism, and renew an important commitment to combat discrimination. Racial discrimination, beyond being a breach of human rights, has harmful effects on human health and well-being, and risks wider disruptions to social cohesion. The words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan remain pertinent: “Our mission is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”
Forms of racism
Current forms of racism and discrimination are complex and often covert. Public attitudes to anti-racism have improved, as expressions of racist ideology have become less socially acceptable. Yet, the anonymity of the Internet has allowed racist stereotypes and inaccurate information to spread online. At the onset of the pandemic, traffic to hate sites and specific posts against Asians grew by 200% in the U.S. In India and in Sri Lanka, social media groups and messaging platforms were used to call for social and economic boycotts of religious minorities, amid false information accusing them of spreading the virus. Structural forms of discrimination, including micro-aggressions and everyday indignities, remain widespread. The use of new technologies and artificial intelligence in security raise the spectre of ‘techno-racism’, as facial recognition programmes can misidentify and target racialised communities.
Prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory acts, whether subtle or overt, aggravate existing inequalities in societies. A study published by The Lancet drew attention to the social dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic and the greater vulnerability of ethnic minorities, who have been disproportionately affected. The World Health Organization has cautioned on the dangers of profiling and stigmatising communities that can lead to fear and the subsequent concealment of cases and delays in detection. Women and girls also carry a double burden of being exposed to racial and gender-based prejudices. Racial discrimination deepens and fuels inequality in our societies.
To contribute to this important discussion and signify the need for urgent work, UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris hosted a Global Forum against Racism and Discrimination on March 22, 2021, in partnership with the Republic of Korea. The Forum gathered policymakers, academics, and partners to initiate a new multi-stakeholder partnership on anti-racism. The new proposed road map to tolerance calls for a multisectoral effort to tackle the root causes of racism through anti-racist laws, policies and programmes.
The way forward
UNESCO’s actions against racism through education, the sciences, culture, and communication offer an example of a way forward. UNESCO promotes the role of education in providing the space for young people to understand processes that sustain racism, to learn from the past, and to stand up for human rights. Through new approaches to inter-cultural dialogue and learning, youth and communities can be equipped with skills to eradicate harmful stereotypes and foster tolerance. UNESCO also offers master classes to empower students to become champions of anti-racism in their schools and communities. The International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities provides an additional platform for city-level planning and a laboratory for good practices in the fight against racism.
Recent and new manifestations of racism and discrimination call for renewed commitments to mobilise for equality. Racism will not be overcome with mere professions of good faith but must be combatted with anti-racist action. A global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination is built first and foremost in the minds of women and men.