October 30, 2011

INDIAN FOREIGN POLICY: Turnaround In Tashkent


At Tashkent

After the 1965 War with Pakistan, during the peace talks at Tashkent, India was pushed to retreat to pre-war positions. All territories were returned back to Pakistan. Treatment of Pakistan’s position at parity with India, at Tashkent, disappointed India. Pakistan was not named the aggressor – which further angered most of Indian leaders.

India-Pakistan War – 1965

LB Shastri, India’s combative Prime Minister after Nehru, with none of Nehru’s oratorical skills, was able to surprisingly unite and galvanize the nation behind him. Within a few days of the war, both the warring parties got bogged down, without spares and ammunition – with international sanctions against both countries. On the diplomatic front, China had been checkmated to paralysis – a position that China adopted in 1971 Bangladesh War also.

India had retaken territory in Kashmir, with Indian armies in sniffing distance of Lahore. After the 1962 debacle against China, India made creditable, though slender, territorial gains.

Call to Tashkent

Tashkent’s Hunuddin Asamov to a pair of wary travelers: Pakistan’s President Mohammed Ayub Khan and India’s Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri wrote in an open letter. “Moreover, we Uzbeks have a saying: If two neighbors have an argument, go to the third, and you will always achieve peace.”

Aleksei Kosygin invited the pair to Tashkent during the height of last summer’s Indo-Pakistani border war. Since then, an uneasy, U.N.-imposed “ceasefire” has been torn almost daily by vicious, small-scale clashes, and both sides have counted more than 3,596 “violations.”

“There is an almost poisonous atmosphere between the two countries,” said a top Shastri aide last week. “To expect any dramatic results [in Tashkent] seems to be rather impractical.” (via Asia: Talk in Tashkent – TIME).
A wary Shastri with YB Chavan listening to Kosygin's opening address. (Image source - LIFE - Google Books accessed on 2011-10-25 10-24-57).

A wary Shastri with YB Chavan listening to Kosygin's opening address. (Image source - LIFE - Google Books accessed on 2011-10-25 10-24-57).

US hands-off

Curiously, this war also coincided with America’s reduction of interest in the region – preoccupied as it was, with a disastrous war in Vietnam.

A few months before the war, the US cancelled visits of President Mohammed Ayub Khan of Pakistan – and subsequently of Indian Prime Minister, LB Shastri. The US also let Alexei Kosygin to upgrade Soviet involvement in the Indian sub-continent. The next US administration, under President Nixon, stood behind Pakistan – a stance that continues till today, for more than 40 years.

Third Party involvements

Most analysis misses how Tashkent changed Indian Foreign policy.

In 1948 and in 1965, India had tried to use the UN for achieving peace with Pakistan. Instead it became a bigger problem. Failed UN and international interventions after 1948 and 1965 wars with Pakistan, the 1962 War with China and the Tashkent declaration, made India change its basic stance. Gone was Nehruvian experiments with third-party ‘interjections’ – couched in words like ‘commitment to UN and world opinion’ – so well spelt out in extract above.

New stance

Instead came a tough bargaining position.

Not just India-Pakistan issues – but all issues are now bilateral. India blocked ‘outside’ help and disallowed foreign ‘interference’ in bilateral matters. Instead of super-powers playing the role of ‘honest brokers’, India decided to negotiate its position with neighbours – alone.

Reverting to its India’s classical position (as in the Jataka tale of monkey and two cats). Instead of the Desert Bloc tendency of using of going to a ‘third-person.’

After Shastri’s death in Tashkent, conspiracy theories abounded. More than a million mourners turned out in Delhi to bid farewell to Shastri on his last journey. Even with little Government attention after his death, Shastri remains a revered figure in India.

And his death at Tashkent, a dark chapter.

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