The quest for an optimal diplomatic path for democracies, such as India, is both complex and endless. In its search for synergy and equanimity of ties with Beijing and Islamabad, New Delhi is now gradually realising that ‘rule of law’ and ‘rule of military law’ can rarely converge in any amicable proportion. The recent order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), staying the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer accused of espionage, till its final verdict, is a signal repudiation of Pakistan’s short-cut jurisprudence through military courts.
As Reema Omer, advisor for ICJ, told Dawn: “Disregarding it now would be legally and diplomatically costly for Pakistan.”Large number of Pakistanis who prefer rule of law as is understood the world over, to any other methodology of martial convenience should be inwardly celebrating such a stinging rebuke even if the move was initiated as a result of India’s concern for human rights of an Indian citizen. Assessing global diplomatic arena in this context, a certain number of discrepant realities do come to fore when a practicing democracy, believing in the credo of ‘rule of law’, interfaces in the arena of entailing exchanges with countries that worship only ‘military law’.
Since 1950, when India assumed Republican form of governance, any historic ‘efficiency audit’ of returns from diplomacy with China and Pakistan would invariably reveal that serial positives accrued to both these national entities. While China made trillions of dollars’ worth economic inroads, Pakistani ‘high’ patrons fiddled with the Kashmir narrative, aggravating its contours. But it was negatives all the way for democratic India.
Right from the ferocity of Chinese military invasion of 1962 and Pak military shenanigans triggered along Indian borders since 1965, stipulations and strategies from Beijing and Rawalpindi bore a distinct militarist flavour. Is it not true that Beijing’s major diplomatic decisions involving India emanate not from China’s Foreign Ministry, but from the caverns of the Central Military Commission (CMC) under President Xi Jinping? In case of Pakistan, the gamut of India Related Destabilisation Projects (IRDPs) is processed not in Islamabad, the de jure capital, but at the Joint Staff Headquarters (JSHQ) in Rawalpindi, the de facto capital of Pakistan and epicentre of strategic policy formulation and execution. Lately, Chinese CMC cells and Pak JSHQ have reaffirmed their long historic connect through high-level ‘fusion cells’ that process minutely each IRDP matter, focusing mostly on India’s northern borders.
Given this, it is not surprising that Pakistan dared to attack for the first time, with chosen, state-sponsored and trained cadres, India’s Pathankot airbase in early 2016 with a cumulus of confidence not seen before. It would not be way off, to estimate that the China Pakistan Economic Order (CPEC) is a by-product of Sino-Pak operational synthesis. The corridor is designed to constantly pressurise India. Sino-Pak military intelligence and diplomatic collusion possibly got reinforced since the 1998 Pokhran nuclear test under APJ Abdul Kalam, the then DRDO chief. All five major global intelligence services, China’s included, had abysmally failed to get any prior hint about the test or about the special missile programmes enunciated by Kalam, whereby CPEC concept as a ‘global control vector’ came on the drawing board. The specious logic fed to the Big Five was that it was imperative “to contain a hastily weaponising India”, as Russian commentaries then brought out. Post 1998 nuclear test, Moscow itself had pushed India to a diplomatic back-burner for quite a period of time.
That the CPEC was ordained to cut across a ‘valid and legal piece of Indian territory’ now within the PoK, following Pak pressure on China through the ‘fusion cells’, is also credible. Given that India was reckoned as the ‘major threat vector’ for both, a diversionary plan mooted by ISI to spend vast resources for fomenting public unrest against the Indian Army and police in Jammu and Kashmir found resonance ‘outside Pakistan’ too. India is also being steadfastly countered in its plans for high-decibel presence in global regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other top UN bodies, on Rawalpindi’s pleadings through intelligence liaison between the ever congruent ‘military duo’. Even action mandated under UN rules against terrorists appears as a no-go zone.
With intelligence intimacy progressively inducing a radicalising dimension to multiple covert operations, Delhi must take a tough call on whether the Chinese and Pakistani missions are playing as per the rules of games for diplomacy envisaged in the Geneva Conventions, or misusing India’s democratic terrain to further their insidious plans.
The unusually high global convergence on each of the existing and ‘in the works’ projects beyond CPEC creates fresh challenges for India from internal security and external policy perspectives. The CPEC, therefore, should remain a strategic no-go proposition for New Delhi.
Mohan Das Menon
Former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat