`India facing threats from almost all its neighbours`

Former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey retired from Indian Foreign Service in 1991.

Updated: Sep 02, 2012, 14:11 PM IST

New Delhi: India faces threats to its security from almost all its neighbours, be it the spillover of their domestic ethnic conflicts, large-scale illegal migration or providing base for terrorism directed against India, says former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey.

"It is now well documented that Pakistan has been encouraging and assisting terrorists to cross over the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and the international border to indulge in acts of terrorism in India," Dubey writes in his soon-to-be-released book "India`s Foreign Policy: Coping with the Changing World".

"For this purpose, it maintains a whole infrastructure of terrorist organisations and their training camps in its territory. This is a part of its strategy to keep militancy alive in the state and generally to destabilise India."

Dubey, who retired from Indian Foreign Service in 1991, says both Pakistan and China, "from which India faces a direct threat to its security, have been busy augmenting and improving" their nuclear arsenals.

"Besides, there was very recently a sharp deterioration in the international security environment because of some of the unilateral measures adopted by the US under the Republican administration...In such a situation, India cannot afford to take too long in putting in place its minimum nuclear deterrent and for that purpose, acquiring a second strike capability. It must adopt a phased programme within a time bound framework, for achieving this target."

He also says that Bangladesh has contributed to the destabilisation of the northeast by allowing the ULFA and other militant groups to operate from its territory with a view to carrying out terrorist activities in India.

"These groups have been provided shelter in Bangladesh and allowed to run training centres there. Another non-military threat to India`s security from Bangladesh is the large-scale illegal migration of its citizens, which has created law and order problems in the adjoining Indian states and also imposed economic and social burdens on the country."

Dubey writes that Bangladesh`s policy makers, intellectuals and think tanks have been busy building up an ostensibly plausible case justifying such migration.

"The arguments frequently advanced by Bangladeshis are that international migration is a global phenomenon, that Bangladesh does not have adequate space for its large and rising population and that migration from Bangladesh helps the Indian economy as it meets its need for cheap labour.

"From both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, India has faced, from time to time, the problem of the spillover to its territory of refugees fleeing scenes of ethnic violence, often due to the oppression of minorities in these countries. For example, India has harboured Chakma and Tamil refugees feeling Bangladesh and Sri Lanka respectively."

The book, published by Pearson, is not a complete text on India`s foreign policy, as it leaves out India`s relationships with some of its very important partners. The main emphasis in each chapter is on the current state, future challenges and prospects of these relations, and the policies and strategies to be followed for nurturing them.

There aren`t separate chapters on India`s relations with Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and European Union among others.

"I decided to deal with only those topics in the book on which I had already published work in the form of relatively long papers and chapters in books.

"Given the critical importance of India`s relations with Pakistan, I should have written a fresh chapter on Indo-Pakistan relations even if I did not have a full-fledged published paper on this subject. This is particularly so because my position, expressed through very large number of newspaper articles and speeches on the key issues figuring in India`s relationship with Pakistan, differs sharply from the more popular and mainstream points of view on these issues.

"The reason why I could not muster the courage to write a chapter on Indo-Pakistan relations is that with each passing day, my premises regarding and expectations from these relations are becoming increasingly untenable and unrealisable. Yet, I am not prepared to give up my long-term vision of Indo-Pak relations."

According to Dubey, who started his career as a lecturer in economics, India should persist with the goal of multifaceted development of its relations with China, even if there is no progress towards the solution of some contentious issues between the two countries, like the boundary dispute, China`s military assistance to Pakistan and its stand on Tibet and the general issue of human rights and democracy.

"While keeping China engaged in the discussion on these contentious issues with a view to narrowing the differences, India should not allow the differences to come in the way of its effort to bring about an overall improvement in the relations or moving ahead in areas which hold out prospects for an early harvest."

He is also not very optimistic about any significant forward movement as far as talks on the border dispute are concerned.

"For any progress on this issue, it will be necessary for both sides to cede some portion of the territories under their possession or claimed by them. In India, given the current fractious political situation, it is not going to be by any means an easy task to arrive at a consensus on ceding territory.

"The Chinese, on the other hand, are under no compulsion to make adjustments in their claims, without which no solution is possible, as they are sitting pretty on a large chunk of the territory claimed by India, particularly on the western side..."

Dubey says that in the ultimate analysis, any forward movement in the border talks will depend upon China`s perception of India`s economic and military clout and the stake that China has in bringing about a qualitative change in its relations with India.

"India, on the other hand, cannot afford to allow the border issue to be put on the back burner. India`s posture should, therefore, be to ensure that the Chinese remain actively engaged with us on this issue."

He says that the manner in which India deals with its neighbours also leaves much to be desired.

"We are often overbearing in dealing with them. We fail to give their representatives the importance and respect they deserve. We are also over-calculative of the short-term costs of accepting their proposals or striking deals with them."

He suggests that India should take a long-term view of its relations with neighbours and should not be thwarted by setbacks or adverse situations that are bound to arise from time to time.

According to Dubey, who started his career as a lecturer in economics, India should persist with the goal of multifaceted development of its relations with China, even if there is no progress towards the solution of some contentious issues between the two countries, like the boundary dispute, China`s military assistance to Pakistan and its stand on Tibet and the general issue of human rights and democracy.

"While keeping China engaged in the discussion on these contentious issues with a view to narrowing the differences, India should not allow the differences to come in the way of its effort to bring about an overall improvement in the relations or moving ahead in areas which hold out prospects for an early harvest."

He is also not very optimistic about any significant forward movement as far as talks on the border dispute are concerned.

"For any progress on this issue, it will be necessary for both sides to cede some portion of the territories under their possession or claimed by them. In India, given the current fractious political situation, it is not going to be by any means an easy task to arrive at a consensus on ceding territory.

"The Chinese, on the other hand, are under no compulsion to make adjustments in their claims, without which no solution is possible, as they are sitting pretty on a large chunk of the territory claimed by India, particularly on the western side..."

Dubey says that in the ultimate analysis, any forward movement in the border talks will depend upon China`s perception of India`s economic and military clout and the stake that China has in bringing about a qualitative change in its relations with India.
"India, on the other hand, cannot afford to allow the border issue to be put on the back burner. India`s posture should, therefore, be to ensure that the Chinese remain actively engaged with us on this issue."

He says that the manner in which India deals with its neighbours also leaves much to be desired.

"We are often overbearing in dealing with them. We fail to give their representatives the importance and respect they deserve. We are also over-calculative of the short-term costs of accepting their proposals or striking deals with them."

He suggests that India should take a long-term view of its relations with neighbours and should not be thwarted by setbacks or adverse situations that are bound to arise from time to time.

PTI