A.G. Noorani

A hawkish doctrine

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Modi’s NSA doesn’t believe in friendly relations.

STATES have an image of themselves that inspires their policies in the global order. A basic principle that governs their foreign policy emerges. For centuries, Britain adhered to the principle of balance of power in Europe. It required the country to ensure that no power emerged on the continent that was more powerful than all the others, thus posing a threat to Britain’s security. The United States announced its Monroe Doctrine to keep European powers out of Latin America, which ensured US hegemony in that region. Russia and later the Soviet Union were anxious about external influences in the Eastern European countries.

Similarly, India developed a doctrine by 1946 because the Congress spokesman on foreign affairs, Jawaharlal Nehru, had set notions about the country’s role in Asia, especially in South Asia, and in the world at large. On independence he became India’s prime minister as well as its foreign minister. He sought for India a clear ascendancy over its neighbours and aspired for it a role in world affairs — eventually the status of a great power.

To this day, neither he nor any of his successors realised that that aspiration itself required stable, friendly relationships with its neighbours.

The BJP’s first prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was no chauvinist. But the present BJP government headed by Narendra Modi is very much so. He and his national security adviser (NSA), Ajit Doval, are determined to wipe out the Nehruvian approach in all fields. Modi, an RSS activist, had no grounding in foreign affairs. This did not deter him from declaring that China is expansionist some years ago. His speeches on Pakistan as chief minister of Gujarat were laced with communal jibes (“Mian Musharraf”). He had to perforce rely on an ‘expert’ who shared his worldview. He had not far to look to find one. It was a former director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Ajit Doval. In article after article in the press he revealed himself as a card-carrying hawk. A former heard of RAW, A.S. Dulat, called him “the hawkish Ajit Doval”.

Modi appointed him as NSA almost immediately after he became prime minister in May 2014. Upon assuming office, Doval, not one to hide his genius, began systematically imposing his footprints on the course India has since followed in its external relations. This is particularly true in India’s relations with Pakistan.

A 1968 batch IPS officer of the Kerala Cadre, he went on to perform exploits with all the gusto of a commando — infiltration into the then underground Mizo National Front to win over its top commanders; walk into the Golden Temple in Amritsar, posing as a Pakistani agent, months before Operation Black Thunder in 1988, to obtain intelligence; and a seven-year tour of duty in Pakistan.

The articles he wrote in the decade between his retirement as director IB in 2005 and assumption of office as NSA in 2014 reveal his mindset. On July 7, 2014, the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan, at 1-AB Purana Qila Road in New Delhi, was asked to vacate its bungalow and stop its work. The visiting UN peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous flatly told New Delhi that UNMOGIP was there pursuant to a UN Security Council resolution, and that its mandate could only be revoked by the UNSC. A little homework would have indicated the delicacy of the matter; namely that recourse to the UNSC would have opened a can of noisy diplomatic worms. The snub could have been averted.

Doval’s communal outlook is reflected in his description of Kashmiri Pandits as its “civilisational inheritors”. During a lecture in Hyderabad in 2010, Doval called Pakistan a “failing and degraded state”. From this followed prescriptions, which he announced in speech after speech. In February 2014, at the Shastra University, he asked: “So, how to tackle Pakistan?” He urged India to shed its “defensive mode” because “Pakistan’s vulnerabilities are many times higher than us [sic]. Once they know that India has shifted its gear from defensive mode to defensive-offence, they will find that it is unaffordable for them. You may do one Mumbai, you may lose Balochistan.”

This is the heart of the Doval doctrine.

The emphasis was Eisenhower’s secretary of state John Foster Dulles’ policy of ‘massive retaliation’. Doval explained, “Similar disproportionate responses should be given at the Line of Control for firing and make them feel the pain; set red lines for talks, which when crossed would be grounds for calling off talks, and stick with it.” This explains why the talks were repeatedly called off, “the surgical strike” along the LoC and the present impasse in the dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Modi follows the Doval line. In his speech at the Red Fort on Aug 15 2016, he spoke of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. This policy has failed.

Courtesy Dawn


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