Sunday, April 03, 2005

Strobe Talbott's "Engaging India"

On this rainy, mournful New York weekend, we settled in to read Strobe Talbott's excellent book on his post-Pokharan dialogue with Jaswant Singh.

We learnt one new thing, and confirmed two others.

For long, we've poured scorn on Mr. Singh (and Mr. Vajpayee) for having blinked before the 1999 Kandahar hijackers. While we still think releasing terrorists from Indian prisons was a terrible idea (we should've threatened Pakistan instead), at least we now have a better sense for why the BJP blinked. Apparently, al Qaeda was planning to blow up the hijacked plane in mid-air on New Years day as their spectacular millennial calling card.

We also confirmed the following:

One, in dealing with the US, patience is key. Because our interests (largely) coincide and because, given our similar values, Americans (by and large) think well of India, they might play hardball but eventually will allow themselves to be persuaded to our point-of-view -- via well-made arguments and professionalism.

Two, we can always count on the self-destructive instincts of Pakistani elite. Even if, on occasion, India blindsides our allies, as long as Pakistan is provoked into joining the equation (which is not very hard at all!), we come out smelling like roses!!

A minor point in this context is that even though Pakistani diplomats appear more polished and are seemingly better accented than their Indian counterparts, behind-the-scenes our guys and gals are organized, professional, and always well-prepared, while Pakistanis have no clue what they're doing. Ergo, for foreign interlocutors, dealing with Indians is a constructive (even pleasant) experience, while dealing with Pakistanis is a nightmare.

Here's raising a toast to our guys and gals in the South Block!!

1 comment:

MAJ C said...

Interesting post re: Talbott who was here in Mumbai about 6 weeks back. Gave a very good talk.

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