One lesson India should have learned from past experience in dealing with other countries, especially those in its neighbourhood, is that constructing a foreign policy based mostly around individual personalities is perilous, as once that individual is dislodged then his or her successor may simply undo everything. Another problem with strengthening an individual perceived as being weak and unpopular simply because he or she is pro-India is that in the long run it can breed anti-India sentiment in the country. With these points in mind, Indian policymakers should be careful to cultivate a range of political actors in a given country, especially if a particular leader looks like they are at risk of being too closely associated with India. Failure to do so means India risks that leader reversing policy to protect themselves politically. The India- Pakistan relationship of the late 1980 s is a good example—much was expected of the Benazir Bhutto-Rajiv Gandhi meeting in 1988. But while at the time there looked to be a genuine thaw taking place, Bhutto did a complete about face when threatened domestically, delivering a number of vitriolic speeches against India in the process. Sadly, India doesn’t seem to have learned anything. The clearest illustration of this is its Bangladesh policy, which hinges on Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister and leader of Bangladesh’s Awami League Party. Many in India argue that such reliance is justified as Hasina is pro-India, and they point to her government’s consent to India’s longstanding demand to grant transit facilities to New Delhi as evidence of her good faith. Yet although there’s no doubt that Indo-Bangladesh ties are currently on a high, the goodwill seems based largely around the personal rapport between Hasina and Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. But what if Mukherjee, currently extremely influential in the ruling United Progressive Alliance, should leave office? Or if the current Indian government were ejected from power? Would Hasina still hold India in such high regard? Conversely, there’s the question of whether, when Hasina is out of power, India be able to do business with the Bangladesh National Party, which is considered closer to China. This seems a genuine possibility as Hasina’s popularity wanes at home, not least because she is viewed by critics as an Indian puppet. Shahid-Ul-Islam, a researcher at the Institute of South Asian Studies in Singapore who specializes in Bangladesh, made this point recently in a blog entry on bilateral relations. In an entry titled ‘Transit, the Great Wall of India and Indo- Bangladesh Relations,’ he wrote: ‘Against the will of common people, the foreign policy of the current government in Bangladesh focuses primarily on India at the cost of developing strong ties with other major powers. The masses desire better bilateral ties with New Delhi, but at the same time would not like Bangladesh to be treated as a “satellite state” of India.’ Even if Hasina does survive, India must seriously ask itself if she will continue to support ties with Delhi so strongly now that it’s clearly so politically dangerous for her to do so. Certainly, she will come under increasing pressure to shift tactics as her opponents seek to include an anti-India plank in their political platforms. While India has been mature in assuaging the concerns of Bangladesh on issues like the shooting of Bangladeshis by the Border Security Forces, policymakers should still reach out to other political actors so as to ensure that there’s a genuine and sustainable improvement in bilateral relations, rather than an intense honeymoon followed by an acrimonious divorce. As US statesman Henry Kissinger once said, ‘No foreign policy, no matter how ingenious, has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.’
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Writing in the Newsweek magazine, Abdul Qadeer Khan, popularly known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb tried to defend his country’s nuclear weapons program. “Don’t overlook the fact that no nuclear-capable country has been subjected to aggression or occupied, or had its borders redrawn. Had Iraq and Libya been nuclear powers, they wouldn’t have been destroyed in the way we have seen recently,” Khan said. Khan would have been wiser, if he stopped there. Unfortunately, he went further to add that Bangladesh would not have won independence in 1971 if Pakistan had nuclear weapons. The statement by Khan, quoted briefly in the title of the article, is not only audacious but it also exposes his total ignorance about the war of independence in Bangladesh. By making this statement he is trying to justify the actions of the Pakistani military junta that refused to handover power to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose party won an absolute majority in the general election in 1970 , and unleashed a reign of terror in Bangladesh by killing innocent and unarmed civilians in millions, dishonouring hundreds of thousands of Bengali women and driving ten million Bengalis to India as refugees. The Bengalis fought the war of independence against the Pakistan army to stop the genocide in Bangladesh and to free the country from ruthless political and economic exploitation by the Pakistani rulers. The war was, therefore, fully justified from both moral and political grounds. Knowing Khan’s background, I am not at all surprised by his statement. Pakistan utilised the centrifuge technology to produce enriched uranium that was used to build the nuclear bombs. The so-called father of the nuclear bomb did not apply his expertise to develop this technology. He found it easier to steal it from his previous employer, the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory of Holland, who trusted him and allowed him access to a secret document on centrifuge technology for translation. He failed to keep the trust. Khan contacted President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan and proposed to build the nuclear bomb using enriched uranium. At that time Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission was trying to build the bomb using plutonium. Both enriched uranium and plutonium are suitable materials for making the bomb. Uranium can be enriched by diffusion or centrifuge method. Plutonium can be obtained from irradiated uranium through chemical separation in a reprocessing plant. Bhutto agreed with Khan to try an alternative path to build the bomb. Khan fled from Holland with the secret information and returned to Pakistan. He later established what is now known as Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta. By early 1981 , the enrichment project was fully functional. Khan’s nature did not change even after detonating the nuclear bombs and receiving the national awards like Hilal- i-Imtiaz and Nishan-i-Imtiaz. In 2004 , he confessed in writing that he had provided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with designs of centrifuge technology in exchange for substantial financial benefits! Had he not been pardoned by the President of Pakistan, he would have spent the rest of his life in prison. Khan is not perhaps aware that he is overestimating the importance of the nuclear weapons. Could the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan prevent the US helicopters from intruding into Pakistan territory and killing Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad or can it stop now the flying of the US drones over Pakistan territory? Can Khan explain why was it necessary for a superpower like the United States of America with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world to withdraw its forces from Vietnam and Iraq without winning the wars? Is the USA near victory in Afghanistan now? Khan will surely find it difficult to find answers to these questions with his “stollen” knowledge. Khan’s statement on Bangladesh is unfortunate and ill-conceived when some respectable members of the civil society in Pakistan are demanding that Pakistan should apologize to Bangladesh for the atrocities committed by their army against the Bengalis in 1971. It is time Khan should forget about Bangladesh. He should, instead, concentrate on protecting the rest of Pakistan not only from the intrusion of the US drones but also from frequent attacks by insurgents from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former North West Frontier Province) and Baluchistan? Will his nuclear weapons protect Pakistan against such intrusions and attacks?