Will the PM’s peace gamble with Pak pay off?
I’ve often wondered as to who runs this country: the big business, the intelligence fraternity, the lunatic political fringe, the media or the government mandated by the electorate?Lately, however, I have a sharper question agitating my tranquil moments: who’s in charge of our foreign policy, the external affairs ministry, PMO or intelligence analysts whose imprint on news content has grown from being subtle to profound in recent years?
Once treated with skepticism, intelligence-based ‘situation reports’ are in big demand among journalists keen on making sensation rather than some sense out of a complex issue. Audacious terrorist threats accentuated by incidents such as Mumbai’s 26/11 have blurred lines between police and foreign policy reporting.
The overlap is telling when intelligence-inspired reports on Pak-based terrorists’ plans to wage attacks on India make the Page one grade with news on government’s feelers for resumption of talks with Islamabad.
I am honestly at a loss to offer perspective on whether it’s a good trend? In some ways, yes, as people have a right to know and governments are prone to errors of judgement. Didn’t Atal Bihari Vajpayee have his Kargil and Agra and Manmohan Singh his Sharm-el-Sheikh?
But the downside of it is a bit scary. India cannot afford a foreign policy held hostage by intelligence czars whose cloak and dagger visions have no space for peace gambles. If it does, it’ll only take a leaf out of Pakistan’s guided democracy where elected civilians salute generals and intelligence operatives manipulate foreign policy through media plants.
The reference or the context of this blog isn’t the latest Indian move to set up talks with Pakistan. The short point I want to make is that freelancers in our intelligence organizations shouldn’t be allowed to derail a governmental initiative, howsoever risky or unrealistic it may seem. It’s Parliament’s job to dissect or question policy.
As for the peace move, I have my doubts whether the government has done enough domestically to build a climate helpful to promoting peace with the western neighbour. If he’s serious, the PM needs to take the media in confidence and do some plain-speaking with intelligence bosses to have them on board the venture they might otherwise consider unreal.
This is all the more important because the durability of the process is in grave public doubt with Pak Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani being unwilling —or unable — to guarantee prevention of another terrorist strike from his country against India. His remarks in an interview to CNN-IBN showcase his helplessness and negate the very basis on which Vajpayee built the composite dialogue in 2004 on Pervez Musharraf’s word that he wouldn’t let Pakistan’s territory used against India.
Gilani is no Musharraf. One doesn’t even know whether the latter’s successor Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has any use for peace with India.