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Mandira Nayar
Mandira Nayar


Talk therapy

49SushmaSwaraj Ready to react: Sushma Swaraj | Sanjay Ahlawat

The diplomatic war to isolate Pakistan internationally—which needs to be planned with military precision—may be risk-free in terms of casualties. But victory will not be easy. Nor will it be swift. “India will have to build a climate so that each time anyone mentions Pakistan you automatically think terrorism,’’ says former diplomat G. Parthasarthy.

Swaraj, who has proved her efficacy as a speaker, will be laying the ground for a battle that has just begun. And it will be long, protracted and ugly. The key to tame Pakistan, however, might lie closer home, in China. With its economic corridor project through Pakistan, China is the country that has the maximum leverage with Pakistan, even more than the US, Pakistan’s other benefactor. Hopes of making the UN take a harder stand against Pakistan will also lie with China, a permanent member of the Security Council.

This means that India might need to tone down its rhetoric on Balochistan. “Balochistan is a card that the Chinese don’t like,’’ says Alka Acharya, who heads Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi. “It will send them firmer into Pakistan’s corner as India is also home to Tibetan refugees.” It also doesn’t help that Gwadar—the main port in China’s ambitious plan to have access to the Arabian Sea—is in the heart of Baloch territory.

India, however, at the moment seems to be focusing its energy on the west. Indian envoys across the world have been pressed into service to generate support. At the heart of this operation is Syed Akbaruddin, India’s permanent representative at the UN, who will be responsible for ensuring that India gets its message across.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in America to rally support for Kashmir. In the past few days, he has met a number of leaders to raise India’s K problem. “Diplomacy is a useful forum,’’ says Leena Ponappa, who served as the deputy national security adviser. “But it is not the only forum. India should consider all options.”

While there is a lot India can do bilaterally—including downgrading the diplomatic engagement with Pakistan—the challenge will be to extend this to an international level. India will need much more than strong statements of condemnation and sympathy, and will have to convince the international community that the government of Pakistan was complicit in the Uri attack. “India can expect a lot of sympathy,’’ says Acharya. “But very few countries will be willing to make that leap. The United States, Russia and China have interests in Pakistan. It is not in the interest of America, for the plans that it has for the region, to ensure an antagonist India and Pakistan.”

The pressure on India and Pakistan to sit across the table and talk will be immense. So, what can India expect realistically? Sanctions against Pakistan—damage that India is mulling over—are a fantasy. China, Pakistan’s biggest ally, will block it.

“I don’t see the UN Security Council, the US, or even Britain going down the sanctions route,’’ says Puri. 

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