Manubhai, Motor Chali …Pum … Pum … Pum

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Indo Pak Relations, Media, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on September 18, 2008

कीस्मत तेरे तीन नाम, परसी परसु परसराम

OK! Here we go!

Some reader reactions to my blog on India’s Pakistan Fixation! Some outraged readers came back saying that I am an apologist for an India, which is standing up! Another wrote back that I was a sheep in sheep’s clothing (that one hurt, OK!). Some patronisingly, reacted with allegations how I had come unstuck. After all, how could I fault India in the Indo-Pak relations imbroglio.

Let us give the devil his due! So, assume Pakistan is the bad apple. To be fair, let us examine India’s brilliant record with India’s other neighbours.




Nepal is the world’s only Hindu country. We have a special relationship. Indians trust Gorkhas with their banks, buildings, borders – everything. Majority of Indians and Nepal share the same religion and Indian currency is also freely acceptable in Nepal. Nepalis are for all purposes Indians – and Indians enjoy a special status in Nepal. This is even as “most Nepalese regarding India-Nepal relations as one between dajubhai (brothers).”

Inder Malhotra, a respected political commentator, blames “traditional anti-India sentiment” of the Nepalese elite for the renewed demands to end the peace treaty.

Major General Ashok K Mehta (retd), makes something of his experience with Gurkhas and Nepal. Speaking for himself he says,

For someone who has spent a lifetime with the Gurkhas of the Indian Army and walked 30,000 kms through the length and breadth of Nepal, I should understand…

Being Himalaya-locked, the Nepalese have gravitated only south for succour and salt. They have become conditioned to blaming India for their ills, frequently motivated by the ruling establishments and its adversaries and more lately, by external forces. So when there is a drought, floods, cholera, or a price rise, Nepalese usually hold India responsible. Proximity not just familiarity, breeds contempt though it is generally ignorance…

Regardin reasons for…

‘recent anti India demonstartions, he continues, ” So with the Nepali Congress now in power, what has sparked off the Hrithik Roshan riots? Take your pick from among these — the ISI, Maoists, other Left parties, the palace, a carry-over of the Bombay underworld, infighting in the Nepali Congress and the party’s crucial Pokhara convention next week, even China and spontaneity.

As for Nepal, it wants to eat the cake and have it too.” (Ellipsis , italics mine).

India is seeing spies under their beds, ghosts in every nook and corner. Another ‘think tank’ writes,

“China’s political leaders are visiting Nepal. Pakistan and China already have a working coalition against India. Current Government of Bangladesh and the homegrown jihadists are probably more anti-Indian than Pakistan. And now we learn Nepal is having a close door session with Pakistan!


In 1971 India ‘liberated’ Bangladesh from Pakistan. The Bangladeshis are now supposed to live for all eternity in gratitude to India. Any sign of independence from the Bangladeshis is also a sign of ‘ingratitude.’ How dare the Bangladeshis try and become ‘independent’ of India?

A journal from another Indian ‘think tank’ writes,

Since its inception, Bangladesh has been suffering from an identity crisis…Like most of the countries born through a revolution, good governance has eluded Bangladesh. The country is today characterized by extreme poverty, rampant corruption, overpopulation, violent political culture, growing Islamic fundamentalism and politicised armed forces.

The big brother syndrome with respect to India looms very large on Bangladesh ’s security horizon and therefore its threat perceptions are perhaps more imagined than real. While to India , Bangladesh is one of the seven neighbouring countries; for Bangladesh , India is the only major neighbour. Therefore, there is a tendency to exaggerate apprehensions or fabricate threats from India . This has given rise to an anti-India lobby within the Bangla populace and polity, which has severely impaired and inhibited some mutually very beneficial cooperative proposals and ventures between the two countries…

it would be logical to infer that till Bangladesh emerges as a stable, prosperous and confident nation, it will continue to consider India as its perennial and pervasive adversary.”

Another analyst from another think tank drops his pearls of wisdom,

“Bangladesh is conscious of the fact that its territory is being used by Pakistan’s ISI, Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups for anti-India activities. India has cautioned Bangladesh on this count. The significance of Indian military escalation in 2002 against Pakistan would not have been lost on Bangladesh… (The report continues) …

Analytically, it would not be too simplistic to suggest that Pakistan has had a role in egging on Bangladesh towards a full strategic embrace with China and also facilitating it. General Musharraf’s visit to Bangladesh in October 2002, his tentative apology for the 1971 Pakistani genocide of the Bengalis and the mutual discussions centering around Pakistan’s perceptions of India’s military escalation would have helped in Musharraf’s exaggerating Bangladesh’s strategic concerns.

Another Indian, Sudha Ramachandran writes in the Asia Times Online,

“New Delhi has been drawing attention to the presence of anti-India militant training camps in Bangladesh and the growing fundamentalist extremism there.

The growing role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in training anti-India militants based in Bangladesh has worried Delhi for some time now. India’s Border Security Force director general, Ajai Sharma, told the media in September that there were “firm reports” that the ISI had set up new training centers for terrorists in Bangladesh. “The terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir are also being trained there … It [ISI] is now fully concentrating in Bangladesh,” he said.”

Sri Lanka

Srilanka is possibly the only country where we have been there and done that. From the 1991-boycott of the SAARC Summit, India has travelled a distance. A Srilankan analyst writes,

While India-Sri Lanka’s relations have improved quite significantly in the 1990s along with changes in political personalities as well as regimes in both countries, Sri Lankan governments have also moved closer towards Pakistan in situations where the relations with India had suffered setbacks. In the mid-eighties, President Jayewardene sought to improve cooperation with Pakistan, indicating that that measure of cooperation could have entailed Pakistani military assistance to Sri Lankan government to fight the Tamil secessionist rebels. In 1999, in a somewhat similar development, President Chandrika Kumaratunga sought and indeed obtained direct Pakistani military assistance when the LTTE rebels threatened to re-capture the Jaffna Peninsula. There was also explicit displeasure among Colombo’s official circles that India in 1999 refused to come forward to Colombo government’s rescue with military assistance. Thus, Sri Lanka’s turning to Pakistan for military assistance has had a complex logic with implications for relations with India.

The Neighbourhood

Where does this leave India? Indian analysts have often drawn attention ad nauseum to

China’s encirclement of India, its deepening engagement with all of India’s neighbors. This encirclement has now increased with huge Chinese involvement in Gwadar port in Pakistan, ports in Myanmar and now Hambantota in Sri Lanka. China’s “string of pearls” is tightening around India, says a former Indian intelligence official, referring to the string of bases in Asia in which China has a presence.

India is, of course, blameless, spotless, and responsible for all the good things that are happening in the neighbourhood. All negative developments are due to the others. When will we grow up?

Manu - Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

Manu - Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

With Or Without The West

For 60 years, India has managed, in spite of the West. India’s defense production, its nuclear program or its space program and its India’s software success are homegrown. As are its successes in industry, stockmarkets, education, films and television programming, its democracy and the rise of its middle class. In the nuclear industry, India’s thorium approach to nuclear energy design will possibly open new realms in nuclear arena. At various times, when India has been stuck, it has been the West that has pushed India further into a corner. Even in matters of foodgrain, when India was a user of PL-480 grain. Or for instance, the Kaveri jet engine or the cryogenic engines.

While our Manubhai is chasing the chimera of Western approval and panting and drooling to ‘sit at the high table in the global comity of nations,’ the back yard, Manubhai is burning.

India! Wake up and smell the coffee.

10 Responses

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  1. Galeo Rhinus said, on September 19, 2008 at 3:29 am

    What in the world is the purpose of this post… I have no idea what you are talking about!

    Are you saying that India should not be fixated on Pakistan – but be fixated on other neighbors? Or should not be fixated on them? Be fixated on the west? Or not be fixated on the west?

    Does the Gujral doctrine fail your test? I assume SAARC is non-starter for you.

    Do you have any specific suggestions for what India should (or should not do) with respect to these neighbors?

    You skirted Chinese encirclement… can you elaborate? Is that a figment of India’s imagination?

  2. Anuraag Sanghi said, on September 19, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I am saying that India’s Pakistan Fixation is real – and unproductive. It is the sign of a lazy Indian diplomatic corps – which considers all these neighbourhood postings as ‘punishment’ postings. The ‘best’ of IFS corps get postings to Western capitals. Like the IAS, the IFS is another albatross around India’s neck.

    A large part of India’s Foreign MInistry budet goes towards Western engagement (for proof, look at the dubious Festivals of India in USA, France, Russia, Britain, etc). Instead if the same money was spent in the sub-continent, it would have been better spent. The huge monies spent on Western embassies are mis directed. It would be ideal if those Western embassies were spartan, frugal (I should actually say Gandhian) – and our the money saved was invested in the sub-continent.

    India’s Western engagements are at a direct cost of involving and managing the neighbourhood relationships. The terrorism related issues have an element of Indian element. After all, who propped up Bhindranwale. The treatment of J&K Governments by the Rajiv and Indira Gandhi do not bear repetition. The birth of LTTE was midwifed by India. I have not followed the Naga and ULFA story as closely to get a clearer fix – but there is an element of ‘games’ in there also. And these ‘games’ have a habit of getting out of hand! It is not a co-incidence that John Nash suffered from schizophrenia.

    Hence, our favorite game is blame game – blame the neighbours and get on with the Western pre-occupation. The Pakistani involvement in various crimes of omission and commission could be better understood if our relations with our other neighbours were better. It is India’s superior attitude that makes us believe that we know better No neighbour would want to willingly embrace China! It is India which has made it attractive for our neighbours to embrace China.

    SAARC has been bombast – and little action. Again our diplomatic corps are found wanting. The SAARC opportunities the economic area are huge – and history is on our side. It is our Western pre-occupation and Pakistani Fixation which are to blame. So, SAARC is a case of all potential and no performance.

    Gujral Doctrine, I thought was re-hash of old practices. Am I missing something?

    So, what I am proposing is that let us drop all the old theories – and start with a clear objective – we must make up with our neighbours (bar none) and go forward. The best of Indian diplomatic corps must be sent to our neighbours. The Chinese encirclemment is real and we need to take reconciliatory actions on that account. My reactive suggestion is that we must start a superior IDC Corps (Indian Diplomatic Corps) – which must not be ‘corrupted’ by the IFS. These IDC must be deputed to the subcontinent – and wherever there are IFS and IDC officers, the IDC will be superior officer.

    Like I said, our cricketing establishment has a lot to teach our diplomatic corps. They have been there and done that.

  3. Galeo Rhinus said, on September 20, 2008 at 3:17 am

    I have to say I am a little disappointed with these two posts for a few reasons:

    1. The tone varies between whining and growling. Whining is a bad idea – but if you are growling – show some teeth.

    2. You cover a very wide span of time. These sixty years clearly had phases. Make an attempt to break those down.

    3. You have a penchant to be non-political. Which is fine if you stick to issues that don’t have a need to be political. But you are talking specifically about policies enacted by political parties. You cannot talk in generic terms.
    While you are at the risk of exposing your political views – that’s the only way you can be critical. You cannot make generic statements about “bureaucrats” being the source of the problem. You know better than that.

    4. You should acknowledge some important steps that were taken. The Gujral doctrine unilaterally made economic concessions to India’s neighbours at the cost of Indian manufacturing lobbies in the 80s. A policy that was credited and enacted by the BJP government. In fact from 1998, BJP’s key foreign policy was reaching out to India’s neighbours – especially Pakistan. The emphasis was people-to-people talks should go on regardless of political stalemates. Trade with Pakistan and China increased dramatically from 1998. Especially with Pakistan is noteworthy. Same goes with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. This overt shiift in India’s policy was dramatic. Gujral openly credited the BJP for doing what he set out to do himself – but could not. For your blog not even to mention these attempts shows either ignorance or a bias.

    If praising or criticizing a political party is not what your blog is about – then avoid topics that require you to do that.

    You have plenty of interesting things that are non-political – stick to those.

  4. Anuraag Sanghi said, on September 20, 2008 at 5:58 am

    Vajpayee’s understanding of foreign policy is un-paralled – bar none. His stint in 1977-2000 was a watershed in Indian foreign policy for de-anchoring India from Western super powers. Sadly, thereafter, India went back into the Congress mold of defining Indian policy to Western superpowers.

    Rajiv Gandhi’s regime was possibly the lowest ebb of Indian foreign policy – especially the IPKF operation.

    The second big break came in in 2001-2005. It took a Narasimha Rao to utilize Vajpayee to end the Punjabi terrorism problem – for which KPS Gill takes credit today.

    Vajpayee’s success at Lahore was short circuited by the Kargil misadventure by General Musharraf. Hence, when you say BJP, you actually mean one man – AB Vajpayee.

    Any doctrinaire enunciation (like the Gujral doctrine) without implementation is to indulge in a ‘what if’ discussion – which you especially abhor and I do not accept. Which brings me to the question of bureaucracy.

    A bureaucracy made up of career diplomats should not depend on a belief that there always will be a Vajpayee around. The bureaucracy is designed to provide continuity and seamlessness – and cannot blame political change for their non-performance. Hence, the Gujral doctrine is now an academic project – due to its non-implementation.

    As for being non-political, tying myself in knots by supporting any one party defeats everything that India stands for. The political party is Western construct – which does not work too well in India. Political parties in India have a strong mutant gene that makes them unrecognizable after every few years. I would rather support agendas, policies and specific actions regardless of party identity.

    You should also note the tone of commentary that I have excerpted to know the root of the problem. The sheer sense of disdain and superiority is abhorrent

  5. […] Manubhai … Motor Chali …Pum … Pum … PumSri Lanka. Srilanka is possibly the only country where we have been there and done that. From the 1991-boycott of the SAARC Summit, India has travelled a distance. A Srilankan analyst writes,. “While India-Sri Lanka’s relations have … […]

  6. Galeo Rhinus said, on September 20, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    First – you made a few typos on the dates. Vajpayee as Foreign Minister – 1977-1979. Narasimha Rao PM, 1991-1996.

    BJP, unlike the congress is not a party dominated by individuals. There are distinct policies, ideals and goals, which individuals embrace to varying degrees. In fact you can read BJP’s manifesto before the elecations and see the consistency of the execution of that manifesto during their regime. Vajpayee, despite all the media spin to portray him as an individual rather than a representative of the BJP, was without any doubt a representative of a broad BJP policy. This was echoed by Jaswant Singh, Advani, Yashwant Sinha and other people who had an opportunity to comment. You are basing your conclusions on opinions presented by the media rather than statements any of these other people made.

    The Kargil misadventure did not end BJP’s attempt to engage Pakistan positively. The Indian government emphasized people to people contact – even as the talks in Agra failed. There were some irreversible steps taken that remain intact even today. Engaging the Pakistani (not necessarily their leaders or military) has been the centerpiece of BJP’s thought. Advani has demonstrated that as well. What many people fail to see is that Pakistan’s complicated (a euphemism) leadership makes the task more difficult – yet the results from 1998 to 2004 were staggering.

    About – the party system being a western construct.

    Sure. So is the current implementation of democracy – is it not? Or this western construct is not a part of what “everything that India stands for?” Don’t cherry pick “western constructs” to criticize unless you build a case for an alternative construct for today’s India that is based on India’s polity. I would welcome this discussion.

    Twisting yourself in knots??

    Actually – if you look at your posts (the one about Nuclear power is an exception – will comment separately) you twist yourself in knots to do the exact opposite. It would be far easier for you to name a party or a person and credit or discredit them systematically. As long as you are objective in your analysis – you won’t have to tie yourself in knots.

    What you need to do is build a theoretical foreign policy that you would like to enact. How would you engage India’s neighbours? What should a China policy look like? What should a Pakistan policy look like. You cannot do these in isolation – since there are dependencies. China-Pakistan relationship. The west as a dominating force that permeates the thought of many elite – you cannot ignore that either. Geopolitics is multi-player version of chess.

    Once you have this construct – you will find it is far easier to create a score card when you criticize any policy – objectively. Without tying yourself in any knots or worry being labeled…

  7. […] has been pre-occupied with diplomatically engaging the West, fixated with Pakistan, while India’s relations in neighbourhood are at a historic low. But the English speaking, Indian bureaucracy is another matter. Having dragged India to the bottom […]

  8. […] importantly, how many such meetings and conferences do Deepak Lal and his ilk attend in Beijing. After all, China is the patron-in-chief of the […]

  9. […] Easily slipping into colonial legacy of ‘divide et impera’, the Congress went onto a disastrous foreign policy trail of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. A solid realtionship with Pakistan would have,  arguably, saved Tibet from the Chinese maws – which Nehru’s foreign policy predicated. […]

  10. Naras said, on May 17, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Anurag, I am growing tired of liking your classy posts. Loved that bit about John Nash. You should write a separate post on the psychology of game theory. I hope its ok comment on old posts like this. The other point about the mutant gene in Indian political parties, priceless. Look at the BJP today!

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