‘Third countries when they occasionally mention Kashmir do so when there is a rough patch in their relations with India’

  • Gowhar Geelani
  • Publish Date: Aug 6 2017 9:03PM
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  • Updated Date: Aug 6 2017 9:03PM
‘Third countries when they occasionally mention Kashmir do so when there is a rough patch in their relations with India’

As a career diplomat, T C A Raghavan has served as India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan and Singapore. Mr. Raghavan joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1982. His first book is titled Attendant Lords while a book on the history of India-Pakistan relations is due to be published in August. Gowhar Geelani caught up with Ambassador T C A Raghavan in Mumbai and later in an e-mail interview sought his opinion of India’s former ambassador to Pakistan on multiple issues concerning south Asian region, including India’s aversion to third party mediation to resolve the 70-year old Kashmir dispute. 

 

Here are the excerpt.

 

China seems focussed on One Belt One Road (OBOR) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. The country’s economic engine appears to be on the right track. Also, China’s “all-weather friend” Pakistan and India’s old ally Russia are getting closer to China while India is improving its relations with the United States. What does this paradigm shift mean for the region, and Kashmir?

Realignments in regional and international politics are a normal feature and often too much is made out of such shifts. In my view, the impact of these is not much as far as Kashmir is concerned. The evolution of Russian positions may in fact be more Afghanistan related than any other factor. If one takes a view of the region as a whole then we have to keep longer term factors in mind. In 1979, there was a coincidence of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the revolution in Iran, the threat posed by Islamic extremism to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a major setback to the forces of democracy in Pakistan. In 1989-90, the deterioration of conditions in Jammu and Kashmir was also greatly influenced by these forces and Pakistan in particular thought that the template it had used in Afghanistan with US backing could be applied against India too. Current realties have changed in some ways less so in others. There is a search for answers on why things have not worked out in Afghanistan. Pakistan figures a great deal in these discussions - in Russia, US and even in China. It would be simplistic to think that Pakistan is seen as a problem by US and as a solution by China with Russia moving closer to the Chinese position. In fact all three see Pakistan as both problem and part provider of solution. It is for this reason that there is often so much pressure on Pakistan. The Chinese role after the recent Pak-Afghan flare-up is instructive in this regard.

 

Is the emerging new world order part two of the Cold War era? 

If you mean that the end of the cold war has not meant an end of geo-political rivalries and contests - I would agree.

 

On the one hand, India claims that it has ‘isolated’ Pakistan on diplomatic front globally. But, on the other, after Turkey and Iran, China too has raised the Kashmir issue and even offered mediation to resolve the K-dispute. How do you see these developments? 

 

In my experience third countries when they occasionally mention Kashmir do so when there is a rough patch or some friction in their relations with India. The issue is not therefore related to Pakistan or even to India-Pakistan relations. As far as the question of Pakistan’s isolation is concerned, in my view, the main engine is Pakistan’s very poor external image which is far worse than diplomatic isolation. This is largely on account of its association with terrorism and here India has played some role in highlighting what has happened for the past two decades plus.  

But why is India averse to third party mediation on Kashmir when many noted academics and intellectuals have compared the Kashmir conflict with that of Northern Ireland. Also, when Pakistan and India have failed to resolve the dispute bilaterally for the last seven decades? 

India, in my view, is averse to third party mediation because it believes that external forces are basically ineffective and unhelpful when it comes to resolving political differences. The Northern Ireland example is not a good one. For India and Pakistan, there is no country in the world today which has the kind of relationship that the United States had in the 1990s with the United Kingdom and with the Republic of Ireland. Secondly, and this is my view, the EU umbrella laid the basis for what ultimately took place between the UK and ROI. We have no such body to promote regional integration. I see progress forward only through improved bilateral relations between India and Pakistan and concerned citizens in both countries should focus their efforts for this result. 

 

Currently there is hostility between China and India. There is standoff over border dispute at Doklam. China is issuing statements on Kashmir. Do you see Kashmir becoming a victim of the Great Game? 

I don’t see so much a great game as a combination of other factors such as systemic lack of governance and, to put it bluntly, the Pakistani hand.