Opinion

Was India snubbed by Russia in Amritsar?

M Ramesh | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 09, 2016

All’s well That sustains well   -  PTI

Hardly. The Pakistani media got Special Envoy Zamir Kabulov’s comment completely out of context

The Pakistani media is clapping its hands in glee over the ‘snub’ it believes India received from Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, on the sidelines of the recent Heart of Asia conference in Amristar. It only reveals fatuousness.

They are making much of Kabulov’s comment that the HoA is “not the right place to settle scores between member countries”, describing it as a virtual exoneration of Pakistan and a slap on India’s face. In fact, the comment was made in response to a request by a journalist for a reaction to the speech of the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not refer to Pakistan in his speech. He only spoke about terrorism. Ghani, on the other hand, was extremely blunt, calling upon Pakistan to contain the flood of terrorists surging from there into Afghanistan. Quoting a Taliban leader, he said the terror outfit wouldn’t last a month without Pakistan’s support. Using exceptionally strong words, Ghani told Pakistan to keep for itself aid worth $500 million that Pakistan had pledged for development in Afghanistan, and instead, use the money to contain terrorists. Kabulov was specifically asked about this comment; his response was that such bilateral issues were out of place at the conference.

Missing the point

In the ensuing narrative, Pakistan seems to have missed giving President Ghani’s pain its due recognition. Ghani’s predecessor, Hamir Karzai, was pronouncedly pro-India, anti-Pakistan. But when Ghani took over in September 2014, it was widely expected that he, (being a Pashtun, one of the major ethnic groups of Pakistan), would tilt towards Pakistan. He did.

One of Ghani’s first meetings was with the then Pakistani army chief, Raheel Sharif, and the meeting was, by all accounts, extremely cordial. If the pendulum has swung to the other extreme now, Pakistan has only itself to blame. It has provided sanctuary to the ‘good Taliban’.

Petting a venomous snake is never safe, it will not refrain from biting you just because you provided it food and shelter. The Taliban, as is well-known, was created with the US’ blessings to jihad-out the Russians, but has since turned against the very state it was meant to protect, namely, Afghanistan, wanting to rule the country itself. Since the Afghan Taliban has lived under the Pakistan’s protective umbrella, Afghanistan is angry with Pakistan. That Pakistan is constrained to sup with the Taliban due to its own geopolitical imperatives is of no interest to the Afghan government. (Recently the Taliban seems to have turned against its own benefactors — it is believed that last month’s attack on the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Noorani, which saw 52 people being killed, was indeed carried out by the ‘Afghan Taliban’ which is supposed to be friendly to Pakistan. The attack was apparently carried out at the behest of the IS which the Taliban is now cosying up to. Thus, Pakistan has trouble on both its borders, at a time when it has to deal with terrorism on its own soil and a frazzled economy.

Pakistan now has no control over the forces it unleashed and expects its neighbours to be understanding of its helplessness — even if they suffer the effects of those forces. Ghani, clearly, was not prepared to play ball. Hence, the fulmination at Amritstar.

Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor, Sartaj Aziz, who represented his country at the Heart of Asia conference, responded to Ghani, mumbling that it was not fair to single out one country for terrorism.

The ‘dialogue’ between Ghani and Aziz turned out to be the highlight of the conference. Kabulov was commenting on that. All he said in essence was, let us not talk about this subject here. His comment had nothing to do with India. Why that has Pakistan in a delirium of joy, is beyond reason.

Published on December 09, 2016
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