Beware of India's Peace and Friendship Treaties
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

One certainly has to hand it to the Indians -- no one can beat them when it comes to deviousness. The latest reflection of this is the so-called "peace and friendship treaty" offer to Pakistan. The malafide intent behind this offer is only too transparent, on two main counts. The first, of course, is that this is yet another attempt by India to avoid moving on the core conflictual issue -- Kashmir.
While Pakistan's leadership has been floating one proactive proposal after another in an effort to move out of the political stalemate on Kashmir, the Indian government continues to show a resolute obduracy on this front. Pakistan's proposals relating to interim measures such as demilitarization and self-governance, as well as a methodology of regional plebiscites has received no positive response from the Indian side. Yet there is increasing movement between the people of Kashmir and Indian obduracy is becoming increasingly untenable.
So what does India choose to do? To try and move the peace process in such a fashion that it somehow bypasses the Kashmir issue. Despite the absurdity of this approach, India will try anything that will allow it to retain the status quo on Kashmir. But does the Indian Prime Minister take us all for fools who cannot understand that peace can only come when conflicts have been resolved? His suggestion that Kashmir should not prevent the two sides from signing a peace, friendship and security treaty certainly seems to suggest such an assumption, otherwise rationality would point to peace following conflict resolution.
In any event, Mr. Singh also keeps talking of borders not being redrawn, but India itself has redrawn its border several times as it has gobbled up Goa and Sikkim along with Hyderabad and Junagadh, and it has attempted to do the same with Kashmir. But even more important, in the case of Kashmir it is not an issue of redrawing of borders, but of drawing up the borders because the LoC is merely a ceasefire line. In fact, this ceasefire line that both Pakistan and India agreed to at Simla has been destroyed by India with its permanent incursions into the Qamar and Chor Bat La sectors. In any event, as long as major political issues remain unresolved, they cannot be bypassed in any peace or security-related treaty between Pakistan and India.
As for the issues of Siachin, Sir Creek and Baglihar, India has made no moves to accommodate Pakistan's objections on the Baglihar Dam nor has it shown a willingness to move towards demarcation of the border at Sir Creek. As for Siachin, India has moved away from the earlier almost-agreed pact on Siachin withdrawal, by now demanding that the place from where the Indians withdraw be demarcated. Effectively, that means accepting that territory as Indian which cannot be acceptable to by Pakistan. So where is the Indian flexibility or desire to seek substantive conflict resolution? Or is India merely interested in inflicting its own preferred "solutions" on to Pakistan?
Some commentators feel that this friendship treaty offer has come in the wake of US pressure to undermine Pakistan's very rational objections to the Indo-US nuclear deal. That may have been part of the rationale for the Indian government, but India has a record of offering these treaties, as the old Soviet Union did, to its neighboring states where the intent is control rather than friendship based on mutual respect for sovereign equality. As the Soviet Union had used the friendship treaties to intervene and dictate to its satellites, so India has been using such treaties to dominate its neighborhood. This is the second count of mala fide intent, as a brief recollection of the history of India's friendship treaties will show.
One should never forget history and we need to recall how India gained control over Bhutan's external affairs. Bounded on three sides by India, Bhutan has always been a key part of India's strategic planning. As early as 1949, India signed a Treaty of Friendship with Bhutan, which remains in force in perpetuity. This Treaty, comprising ten articles, assures Bhutan of India's "non-interference" in its internal affairs in return for Bhutan agreeing "to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations" (Article 2). So effectively, India has control over Bhutanese foreign policy.
In 1950, India signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Nepal with accompanying letters that defined security relations between the two countries, and an agreement governing both bilateral trade and trade transiting Indian soil. This Treaty and letters stated that "neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of the other by a foreign aggressor." Since then, Nepal has found itself hamstrung in developing its relations with third countries, especially China. When it sought to buy a few defensive anti-aircraft guns from China, India blocked the transit trade of this landlocked country. When Nepal sought to have itself recognized internationally as a zone of peace, and received support from Pakistan and China, India felt this was a repudiation of the special relationship and a possible threat to India's security and, therefore, the proposal could not be endorsed!
India also signed an Accord with Sri Lanka in 1987 (Indo-Sri Lankan Accord) before sending in a so-called peacekeeping force into Sri Lanka! In 1972, India signed a Friendship Treaty with Bangladesh also and since then one has seen increasing Indian intervention in the latter's affairs, especially along the border areas with India. This has heightened tensions periodically between the two countries, often leading to exchanges along the border.
So Indian treaties of friendship and peace do little to resolve outstanding conflicts and are primarily intended to allow for greater Indian interventions in the affairs of its neighbors. Would Pakistan actually find this acceptable? Even though, presently, the Pakistani state seems to be going through an inexplicable psychological defeatism, which allows even Afghanistan to kill its citizens and then adopt an accusatory posture, it is inconceivable that the Pakistani state would simply compromise its sovereignty by accepting India's model of Treaties of Friendship, given the model's rather suspect history.
It is time for Pakistan to be more assertive in terms of its national interests and the security of its citizens and its territory. This requires a greater assertiveness within our immediate neighborhood, where a frustrated and weak Afghan government is killing innocent Pakistanis in acts which can only be described as deliberate, premeditated murder; and where a US-bolstered India is seeking to bring Pakistan into its hegemonic embrace.
India needs to realize that Pakistan, whatever its weaknesses, is a regional power with its own regional interests. What it is seeking from India is conflict resolution -- first and foremost. It is as simple as that and Indian shenanigans that seek to detract from this objective should be rejected outright.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)

 


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