Remember Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, who was the Foreign Minister of Pakistan under Yahya Khan? Remember his antics, crude exhibitionism and unparliamentary remarks about Indira Gandhi in the months before the Indo-Pakistan war of December 1971? Remember the way he used to conduct himself in the UN Security Council when it debated the growing tension between India and Pakistan? Remember Benazir Bhutto, his daughter, who was the then Prime Minister,conducting herself hysterically in public in 1989? Remember her going to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, stand before a crowd near the Line of Control, face Indian territory and shout hysterically, "Azadi, Azadi"? Remember the unparliamentary remarks which she used to make about Narasimha Rao, our then Prime Minister?
Indira Gandhi and Narasimha Rao ignored with contempt the behaviour of Z.A.Bhutto and Benazir and continued doing what they thought was necessary in India' national interest. We should similarly ignore with contempt the behaviour of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, and his unparliamentary remarks about Mr S.M. Krishna, our foreign minister, while briefing Pakistani media personnel on July 16 about his talks with our Foreign Minister the previous day.
The government of India, Mr Krishna himself and Mrs Nirupama Rao, our foreign secretary, need to be complimented for conducting themselves with great personal dignity befitting us as a responsible and mature nation with a mature political leadership in power and for refusing to let themselves be provoked and react in kind against Mr Qureshi. One of the objectives of Mr Qureshi was to create doubts in the minds of the Indian public about the credibility and professional competence of Mr Krishna. Another was to create a crisis atmosphere in the hope of thereby making the West and the Islamic world exercise pressure on India. The Bharatiya Janata Party and some of its leaders and spokesmen are unwittingly walking into the Pakistani trap by their campaign against Mr Krishna at a time when the political class should stand united behind him.
When Z.A.Bhutto and his daughter indulged in anti-India antics and exhibitionism there was no global TV. We had to read about them in the print media and wait for the visuals which arrived days later. There were no live transmissions, no live debates. Only we in India followed closely the antics and exhibitionism of Z.A.Bhutto and Benazir. Most of the rest of the world did not. The international community did not have an idea of the kind of foreign minister or Prime Minister Pakistan had.
Things are different today. Thanks to the global TV networks, the whole world had an opportunity of watching live the antics and exhibitionism of Mr Qureshi and the measured and cultured response of Mr Krishna and Mrs Nirupama Rao. It will redound to our credit and make the international community understand--if it has not already understood it-- the kind of Pakistani leadership and the kind of Pakistani mentality we have to contend with.
India's negotiating stance of "action against anti-India terrorism first, rest later" and the growing international understanding of India's stance after 26/11 have unsettled Pakistan. Mr Qureshi's antics and exhibitionism did not reflect any embarrassment or nervousness over the reported admissions of David Coleman Headley, the head of the sleeper cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri in Chicago, to Indian interrogators about the role of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the command and control of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Such embarrassments are flea-bites for Pakistan and its ISI.
Qureshi's antics and exhibitionism reflected his anger and petulance over his failure to bully Mr Krishna and the government of India into changing their negotiating stance and accepting the Pakistani position of "talk on all or talk on nothing" -- just as the antics and exhibitionism of Z.A.Bhutto and Benazir reflected their anger and petulance due to their failure to bully Indira Gandhi and Narasimha Rao into accepting the Pakistani viewpoint. We should ignore the antics and exhibitionism of Qureshi and look ahead.
What now are the options before India? The BJP has demanded that we call off the talks with Pakistan. This will be an unintelligent option. A time could come when have to act on our own against the anti-Indian terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory--either through direct military or through covert action. We have to convince the international community that we tried all other options to make Pakistan see reason and that only when those options failed, we were forced to resort to military or covert action. There are any number of governmental statements and doctrines in various countries regarding the circumstances under which covert action would be justified. The most important of these are a speech given by George Shultz, the US Secretary of State under the then President Ronald Reagan, and an introduction to a report on terrorism written by Mr George Bush, the Vice-President of Reagan and Chairman of the presidential Task Force Against Terrorism. They said that covert action against a State-sponsor of terrorism would be justified when all other options fail.
Negotiation is one of the options that has to be tried. You cannot go straightaway into the covert action mode without trying out the negotiation mode. Negotiations could have one of two outcomes. Either Pakistan sees reason and acts against anti-India terrorism thereby obviating the need for covert action or continues to avoid action thereby justifying our resort to covert action. It is, therefore, important that we continue with our negotiations with Pakistan in the hope of establishing normal relations while at the same time reviving and strengthening our covert action capability for likely use if all other options fail.
Should we continue to negotiate with Qureshi as if nothing has happened after his insulting behaviour towards our foreign minister? Will it not be a poor reflection on us as a nation and as a people and further encourage such behaviour by Pakistan? We should not. At the same time, we cannot refuse to negotiate so long as he is the Pakistani foreign minister. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani has the right to have whomever he wants as his foreign minister, whether we like him or not.
So, the only option available to us to keep the negotiations going while at the same time protecting our national dignity is by confining our future negotiations to the interactions between our home ministry and the Pakistani interior ministry. We should withdraw the invitation to Mr Qureshi to visit New Delhi which was issued before he indulged in his antics and exhibitionism and instead invite Mr Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, for continuing his talks with our home minister.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies