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Through the prism yet again

"We are in an atmosphere with political criticality around us, while managing our own democracy."


HIS LONG years in the Indian Foreign Service and close observation of the ebb and flow of international relations have given him a clear insight into world politics and its bearing on India. Former Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit, author of several books on India's foreign policy, has displayed his keen observation yet again in "India and Regional Developments - Through the Prism of Indo-Pak Relations," brought out by Gyan Publishing House.

"The period between 1997 and 2003 has been tense in terms of relations with Pakistan - in terms of terrorism, the hijackings of aircraft, the confrontation between India and Pakistan combined with displays of their respective nuclear weapons capability. It is good we have been able to transcend all that," he says.

Analysing recent developments since this book was written, Dixit says the renewed peace initiatives between the two neighbours, combined with cricket diplomacy, are a good thing. However, the process will be "slow and full of obstinacies from Pakistan's side - speaking from India's point of view," adds Dixit. There should be an increase in people-to-people contact apart from the cricket matches, which are "good for a brief period." The talks for a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad have been stalled because Pakistan has put a precondition that Kashmiri travellers from India should not carry any documents. In Pakistan's eyes, if passengers from Srinagar carry Indian documents it would be conceding that Kashmir is a part of India. It has, therefore, proposed that the travellers carry U.N. documents, he explains.

Several meetings have been fixed at various levels between representatives of the two countries between March and August this year to thrash out contentious issues. However, he is not very optimistic. "I am sceptical of any substantive breakthrough in the foreseeable future. I hope the process of dialogue would continue on the composite agenda agreed upon." General Musharraf's recent outburst that he will not compromise on Kashmir is not very conducive to negotiations that the two foreign ministers will be holding in the near future, he adds.

"The process of political interaction is both necessary and advisable, as it reduces the danger of military conflict. One should have no illusions of any quick breakthroughs. What is needed is a determination to continue the dialogue and a policy to avoid confrontation."


The recent grenade attack on People's Democratic Party members in Uri is a sign that cross-border terrorism has not gone down, he observes. "They want to prove that democracy cannot survive." If Parliamentary elections are held in Jammu and Kashmir successfully, then "Pakistan's advocacy gets weakened."

Regarding relations with the U.S., he maintains that "India should not get high fever" because the U.S. decided to declare Pakistan a non-NATO ally. "I don't think we should be critical of the U.S. It is a reality to be acknowledged."

Indo-US relations have been steadily moving upwards since 1991, when P.V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. Despite the recent increase in Indo-US joint naval and military exercises and expanding economic relations, the "U.S. structures its relationship with India within the framework of its own priorities." Dixit notes that our other neighbours like Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are in turmoil, which is a "predicament" for India. "We are in an atmosphere with political criticality around us, while managing our own democracy."

He recounts with preciseness international events between 1991 and 1994 - including the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the breakaway of the Eastern European countries from the Soviet bloc, the coming into being of the WTO, the Oslo Agreement between the PLO and Israel, new groupings emerging from among the Non-Aligned nations. "Those were exciting times. The policy decisions were taken by Narasimha Rao. I was one of the advisors... India had to establish new equations with power centres in the world, especially the U.S. I was fortunate to be present during a highly transitional stage in international politics."

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