FeaturedInternationalVOLUME 14 ISSUE # 24

Diplomatic setbacks for India

India had to suffer three major setbacks from Pakistan in a week. It was left out of the Afghan peace process; it failed to secure the release of its spy from Pakistan’s custody through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and then came US President Donald Trump’s bombshell that he would like to mediate the Kashmir conflict. The developments are being seen as huge successes of Pakistan on the diplomatic front and its growing influence in the region and the world.


The Indian media and the opposition are outraged at the developments. They think Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempts to isolate Pakistan in the world have failed miserably and Pakistan is emerging successful on the regional and global stage over the last 12 months. The Times of India regretted that India had been elbowed out of the Afghan peace process. “Pakistan joined the US, Russia and China to craft a peace agreement with the Taliban, a development that shows how Islamabad has moved to the center stage of the Afghan peace process, and how India has been dealt out of the future of Afghanistan. India’s participation or voice has been negligible in the evolving situation, while Pakistan has used the opportunity to manoeuvre itself to the center stage of the region’s geopolitics,” the newspaper noted. It also quoted Shaida Abdali, former Afghan ambassador to India and a presidential candidate, who said, “India’s 18-year-old effort to strengthen ties with Afghanistan should not be lost at this juncture. India’s indifference to the evolving situation in Afghanistan will likely cost it in the long run.”


The report said India was nowhere in the peace negotiations, nor have India’s concerns really found any traction. In a latest blow to India, US ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, said that Afghanistan’s presidential elections, scheduled for September 28, could be postponed, until the peace process with the Taliban was completed. India is opposed to it. In January, the United States had offered a free trade agreement (FTA) to Pakistan in return for its assistance in ending the Afghan war.


According to media reports, US Senator Lindsey Graham, who visited Islamabad in January, was believed to have discussed with Pakistani leaders a proposal for a free trade agreement (FTA) in return for Islamabad’s assistance in ending the Afghan war. According to the Indian Express, over the last few weeks, as the Trump Administration has been pushing for a rapprochement in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the elected government, it has opened up strategic possibilities for Pakistan.


A verdict by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case was also seen as a big achievement of Pakistan on the diplomatic front. The ICJ rejected almost all demands of India, including the annulment of a military court decision convicting Jadhav, restricting Pakistan from executing the sentence, securing his release and ordering his return to India. Indian Naval Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav had entered Pakistan without a visa on an Indian passport with a fake identity, Hussain Mubarak Patel. He was found involved in acts of sabotage, espionage and terrorist incidents in which scores of innocent Pakistani citizens were killed. He also confessed to all the acts during his trial in a Pakistani court in front of a judicial magistrate. During the hearing of the case, India denied Jadhav was a spy and had asked the ICJ to order his release because he was denied consular access and not allowed to choose his own defence lawyer. Pakistan fought the case well and exposed the Indian role in terrorism on its soil before the international community.


Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the United States was also seen as a big failure of Indian diplomacy. MK Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat, in his latest column, wrote: “Make no mistake, the leitmotif of US-Pakistani rapprochement is that a new regional security paradigm is taking shape. President Trump’s invitation to Prime Minister Imran was beyond a show of token gratitude for Pakistan’s cooperation in making the peace agreement with the Taliban. Actually, Pakistan has not made any major concessions on its Afghan agenda. It simply facilitated the peace talks by leveraging its influence on the Taliban. The Pakistani objective of restoring the Taliban to mainstream Afghan politics — highly likely with a lead role — and creating ‘strategic depth’ vis-a-vis India is very much intact.” According to the Indian expert, Pakistan is being assigned a pivotal role to ensure that Afghanistan will never again be a “lab of terrorists” (to use Trump’s words) threatening the western world. “Pakistan is hugely experienced in handling its relations with the US and it will of course make sure that the US reciprocates — politically, financially, militarily.


If Trump had praised India as the ‘critical part’ of his unfolding Afghan strategy in August 2017, he is now replacing India with Pakistan in a most curious reversal of roles in South Asia’s regional security paradigm. From the Indian perspective, Trump’s invitation to Imran Khan to visit the White House was a bitter pill to swallow,’’ he noted.


Prime Minister Imran Khan’s US visit proved a bombshell for India when US President Donald Trump said that he would like to mediate the Kashmir conflict. It set the stage for a high profile diplomatic tug-of-war between India and Pakistan involving the world’s sole superpower. India has been reluctant to third-party intervention on Kashmir. During a much publicised joint press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Oval Office, Trump said. “If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know. I was with Prime Minister Narendra Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject and he actually said ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator’, I said ‘Where’, He said ‘Kashmir’. Because this has been going on for many, many years. I think they would like to see it resolved and you (Imran Khan) would like to see it resolved. If I can help, I would love to be a mediator.” Trump’s words created an uproar in Indian politics and media and they sought an explanation from their prime minister. On the other hand, Pakistan once again succeeded in highlighting the Kashmir issue at international level.


It is a fact that Indian policy of isolating Pakistan on the international front has failed and global powers have started recognising Pakistan’s role in peace in the region and the world. Its influence in the world will increase after its economy improves.