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Bluster or masterstroke: Depends on what Govt does, say ex-diplomats


Bluster or masterstroke: Depends on what Govt does, say ex-diplomats

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw down the Balochistan gauntlet at Pakistan, a majority of seven former Foreign Secretaries The Indian Express spoke with struck a note of caution, as they mulled over the “imponderables” and what is going to follow next from the government.

The Indian Express reached out to former Foreign Secretaries Shivshankar Menon, Shyam Saran, Salman Haidar, K Raghunath, Shashank, Lalit Mansingh and Kanwal Sibal for their thoughts on the PM’s latest diplomatic gambit. All foreign secretary in the last 25 years, when India’s global profile changed dramatically-they have, between them, more than 200 years of diplomatic experience, and some are considered the finest minds in the world of diplomacy.

While Menon said it all depends on the government’s actions following the Prime Minister’s statement, Saran wondered whether the imponderables have been thought through and whether it is a strategic move or just a tactical response.

Haidar said it is not in India’s interest to stir up the situation in Pakistan, and Raghunath said India and Pakistan, instead of scoring points against each other, have common interests.

Shashank considered this to be an “international commitment” on human rights issues and asked South Block to explain to the international community-like Indira Gandhi did during the Bangladesh war.

Welcoming the move, Mansingh said India has come down from the “high moral ground” and Modi has made a “street-level response”, while Sibal said the Prime Minister has changed the rules of the game. He added that normalising ties will be difficult, however.

Shivshankar Menon, who was Foreign secretary between 2006 and 2009, said, “These are all statements…depends on what he does (next).” Asked whether it changes the strategic calculus, he said, “Do you think statements change anything…I don’t want to comment on this.”

Menon was the National Security Adviser when Balochistan was included in the Indo-Pak joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2009.

Shyam Saran, foreign secretary from 2004 to 2006, said, “It is a reaction to the recent situation in Kashmir…. Pakistan has raised the temperature…they thought the situation in Kashmir gives them an advantage.” On Modi’s statement about human rights abuse by Pakistan in PoK and Balochistan, Saran said it aims at changing the strategic calculus. He added, “(But) how far do we go…I am not sure if this has been thought through.”

Stating that there are imponderables at play, he said, “Is this a strategic move or is this a tactical response…that remains to be seen.” Also, Saran added, what remains to be seen is the reaction of the United States.

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