By Sajjad Shaukat
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the first Sikh who obtained this position, and neatly won a second term in May 2009 as the leader of the National Congress Party. It displays his statesmanship qualities. He is among a few leaders who are recognised on global level because of their leadership traits. President Obama has described him as a historic figure. When American magazine, Newsweek ranked world leaders, Mr. Singh topped the list, winning praise for his humility and virtuousness.
Despite being a seasoned politician, when Prime Minister Singh deals with Pakistan, he tries to show moderate approach, but his tone hardens, indicating self-contradictions, when he comes under the pressure of Indian fundamentalist-opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On a number of occasions, Congress-led Prime Minister Singh has followed the dictates of BJP by backing out of his promises and commitments, putting a question mark, either Congress rules over India or BJP?
In this respect, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after meeting his Pakistan’s counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Maldives on November 10 this year, called Gilani, a “man of peace.” He said, “The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of our countries” and to improve the ties. Unlike, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani, Singh issued more optimistic statements in a joint press conference, and agreed to further expand Pak-India interaction at all levels to improve their bilateral relations in various fields. Both the rulers stated that all the issues like Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen, Wullar Barrage, Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) water etc. were discussed.
While on the same day, Pakistan’s main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif welcomed the initiation of Pak-Indian dialogue, but India’s opposition party BJP severely criticised Prime Minister Singh for calling his counterpart Gilani a “man of peace.” BJP leader and former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said, “The Prime Minister of India has erred in describing “Mr Gilani as a man of peace.” He accused that Pakistan had done little to contain terrorism or bring the conspirators of 26/11, Mumbai attacks to justice. She further alleged, “The central issue between India and Pakistan has been cross-border terrorism and there is nothing Pakistan has done…it is not serious about tackling the issue.” Notably, some other BJP leaders also expressed similar views.
Confused in wake of BJP reaction, just two days after showing optimism towards Pakistan in Maldives, Manmohan Singh stressed that he made it clear to Gilani that if another barbarous Mumbai attack were to happen, it will be a setback, explaining “I left Gilani in no doubt that if justice is not being done to those responsible to the barbarous attack of Mumbai, it would not be possible to move forward with the peace process.”
However, with a combative and fundamentalist opposition targeting him of going too soft about Pakistan, Indian ruler Singh has always succumbed to the pressure of BJP by changing his optimism into pessimism.
In 2009, when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, a joint communique was issued, stating that both the neighbouring countries would resume their suspended dialogue, talking on all the issues including the thorny dispute of Kashmir. But PM Singh backed out of the joint communique. In this respect, on July 21, 2009, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon ruled out talking to Pakistan on any issue including Kashmir other than terrorism.
Notably, on July 18, 2009, Prime Minister Gilani had stated that at Sharm El-Sheikh, he also raised the issue of Indian interference in Balochistan. In that context, the BJP made much hue and cry in the Lok Sabha, embarrassing Singh as to why he did not respond to Gilani’s allegation in relation to Indian incusion in Balochistan.
It is mentionable that on April 28-29, 2010, after meeting his counterpart Gilani on the sidelines of the 16th summit of SAARC in Thimpu, Bhutan, Manmohan Singh had issued positive statements in reviving the Pak-India peace process and to resolve all the issues with Pakistan, but no practical steps were taken in this regard as Indian prime minister remained under the duress of BJP, reflecting its approach by puting terrorism as a pre-condition to talk on all the issues.
India had suspended the composite dialogue with Islamabad under the pretext of Mumbai terror attacks. Both the countries had resumed the new phase of talks through their home secretaries who had met on March 28 and 29, 2009. These were the first structured bilateral talks which led to Pak-Indian comprehensive dialogue at higher level. But every time, prime ministers and foreign ministers of the Pakistan and India have ended their meetings with a positive note, terming their talks ‘useful’ and vowed that the same would pave the way for solution of all the related-disputes including the thorny issue of Kashmir, yet the same failed without producing real results owing to India as by following the BJP policy, New Delhi wants to focus on only single agenda of terrorism and the perpetrators of the Mumbai-terror mayhem.
It is of particular attention that while knowing the gravity of the Kashmir uprising, Prime Minister Singh had said in 2010 that the centre was willing to consider autonomy for the state. But BJP had questioned Singh’s statement, saying: “autonomy for the state would not be tolerated.” The pressure of BJP could also be noted from Manmohan Singh’s statement, who had said on June 28, 2011 that Pakistan should “leave Kashmir alone.” Besides, Bharatiya Janata Party has repeatedly stated that the Congress government re-initiated the present Pak-India dialogue under the US duress.
The extremist and anti-Pakistan party, BJP has always put pressure on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by opposing the revival of Pak-Indian dialogue. Now, Singh has again come under the duress of BJP as his negative statement after meeting Gilani in Maldives shows. In this context, Singh also indicated, “I told him (Gilani) that terror as an instrument of state policy has no takers in the world.” It reminds the previous statements of Prime Minister Singh who had also reiterated on January 6, 2010 that Pakistan was using terrorism as state policy and the Mumbai attacks must have had its official support.
As regards the Mumbai catastrophe, in fact, it was arranged by RAW in connivance with Indian home-grown terrorists. In the recent past, the true story of Mumbai canage has been exposed when a day after the Indian media exposed the name of the terrorist, Wazhul Qamar Khan whose name was included in the list of 50 alleged terrorists given to Pakistan in March, 2011. On May 18, 2011, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram was compelled to admit that what the media mentioned was correct. On the other hand, Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies were desperately looking for Wazhul Khan. But Wazhur Qamar “is living in the suburbs of Mumbai with his family” and “is regularly reports to a court that gave him bail” as reported by The Times of India.
Still, India has also failed in supplying solid proof to Pakistan in relation to Mumbai tragedy except providing a self-fabricated story which was quite fake—full of loopholes, created by Indian secret agency, RAW. Neither, India provided Islamabad reciprocal information about Indian officials involved in Malay villages and Samjotha Express blasts in which Indian mastermind Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit was found guilty in targeting Muslims nor it took action against the concerned culprits.
Regarding the Maldives meeting, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik said about Pakistan’s position that Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the 26/11 terror-incident is a “non-state actor…should be hanged, so should perpetrators of the Samjhauta Express blast.” He also reiterated that Pakistan was awaiting a visit of the Judicial Commission to India, and needs “credible evidence” to prosecute the accused of the 26/11 in his country.
Nonetheless, politicians may deny their statements, but it is not the job of statesmen to eat their own words. It is quite true in case of the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has been playing a subservient role before the religious extremist party-BJP.
On November 13, 211, BJP leader L K Advani described Manmohan Singh as the “weakest,” Prime Minister of India.
Although political blackmailing has served various domains of politics and diplomacy, yet in the modern era, especially democratic governments and opposition parties avoid practice of direct blackmailing. But Bharatiya Janata Party has left no stone unturned in blackmailing the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, particularly by pressurising him regarding positive solution of various Pak-Indian issues.
No doubt, Manmohan Singh is an experienced and polished leader of Congress, but has become a nominal prime minister of India, raising the question, does BJP rule over India?
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations