Gujral Doctrine Security Dimensions of the Gujral Doctrine

02 Aug, 1997    ·   2

Bhabani Sen Gupta analyses the security dimensions of Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral Doctrine aims at building a conflict-free cooperative South Asia and at the same time to build bridges of development cooperation with the neighbours of South Asia . Since one of its principal aims is to resolve conflicts, it has significant security dimensions. It believes in concepts of common security, equal security and cooperative security between and among the countries of South Asia , its neighbouring regions as well as their individual members.



South Asia is a sovereign incarnation of the British empire . Even as the colonial power departed, it left all the fissures of colonial rule behind. For 200 years, Britain practiced the principle of divide and rule in its empire. India and Pakistan were born as two sovereign nations into a pool of mutual hatred, hostility distrust and suspicion. To this inherited pool were added new tensions and confrontations over religion (the two nations theory), territory ( Kashmir ) and national aspirations.



The departure of colonial rule did not resolve the strategic divide between India and Nepal . Over time, turns and twists of Nepal?s domestic politics led to a strategic deadlock between the two close neighbours. The creation of Bangladesh sharpened the strategic conflict between India and Pakistan . The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and liquidation of most of the leadership of the Awami League and the military takeover in Dhaka ,subsequently strained India?s relations with Bangladesh . The outbreak of the armed insurgency of Tamil Tigers in Jaffna created an almost inevitable chasm between Colombo and New Delhi . The chasm did not disappear even as India sent to Sri Lanka a peace-keeping force at the explicit request of the Sri Lankan President. The force was withdrawn a little ahead of an agreed schedule. India-Sri Lanka relations thawed as a result, but rebuilding of the close political-strategic relations of the mid-fifties remained only a mutually cherished goal.



The Gujral Doctrine has for the first time in 50 years reduced tensions and confrontations between India and all its neighbours at the same time. One of its distinguishing marks is that it was launched without a strategic theory or plan . The resolution of the water-sharing dispute with Bangladesh in just three months in 1996-97 almost coincided with the treaty with Nepal for taming the Mahakali river for generation of hydel power. It was followed by agreements with Sri Lanka for expanding development cooperation and was proceeded by certain unilateral initiatives by India to break the long deadlock in Indo-Pakistan relations. All these action-oriented diplomatic thrusts have been the hallmark of the Gujral Doctrine. The Doctrine was not consciously projected as such by its author, India?s foreign minister and (now) also prime minister, Inder Kumar Gujral. It was christened by foreign policy and diplomatic analysts and gradually gained acceptance in all countries of South Asia .



In projecting his new foreign policy, Mr.Gujral sought to bring South Asian relations to match with a major aspect of global change in the 90s- the end of the cold war. The global trend now was that all countries sought to cooperate with one another despite differences and disputes with only two exceptions, one in South Asia , the other in the Korean peninsula. Gujral sought to bring the global trend to South Asia by simultaneous pursuit of six broad principles of diplomacy. First, he unilaterally stopped the daily polemical exchanges between Pakistan and India . Second, he told the people of Bangladesh that in dealing with neighbours, India would not insist on reciprocity. This tactical line reversed the earlier one of the Congress government whose foreign minister, Pranab Mookherjee, while on a visit to Dhaka in February 1996, declared that if India gave water to Bangladesh , the latter must give India transit through its territory to the North-Eastern states. Thirdly, Gujral also announced that no South Asian country must allow its territory to be used against the interests of a neighbouring country. This principle, rigorously observed, would bring to an end confrontations and conflicts between India and Pakistan , India and Sri Lanka , India and Nepal and India and Bangladesh .



The fourth principle of the Gujral Doctrine is that neighbours in South Asia must dialogue tirelessly over a long period until they have found mutually acceptable solutions to their disputes and differences. No dispute, however much entangled with rival national ethos, must remain outside the ambit of dialogue. The fifth principle of the doctrine says that in dialogue, neighbours must treat one another as equals, must not intervene in their domestic affairs, and must respect one another?s territorial unity and integrity. Its last, but by no means the least important, principle was that while entire spectrums of relationships came under sincere problem-solving dialogues, cooperation must begin on agreed terms in agreed areas even as certain disputes remained unresolved. The last principle is an echo of one of the five or six principles of Chinese diplomacy that Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, unfolded in a statement before the Pakistan Senate while on a visit to Islamabad in December 1996.



The Gujral Doctrine produced positive results in a surprising short span of time. The water sharing with Bangladesh passed without problems in the first three months of 1997. Although the Bangladesh opposition tried to question India?s implementation of the accord, the provisions for 24-hour monitoring of the distribution of water by both sides, meant that no complaint of Indian default was supported by monitored statistics. In six months, Dhaka started giving India access to the North-Eastern states where as in Meghalaya, joint industrial projects were quickly approved and began to be implemented. Nepal was happy with the Mahakali river agreement. It employed reputed American consultants to prepare feasibility reports about hydel projects. Nepal was further pleased when India allowed it the use of a 60 km road to export goods to Bangladesh and to ASEAN via the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong . Bhutan offered to augment the supply of water of the Ganga through a canal linking the river to the Santokh river flowing nearby across Bhutanese territory.



The litmus test of the Gujral Doctrine was India-Pakistan relations. Two rounds of talks have taken place between the foreign secretaries of the two governments since the meeting between Mr.Gujral and Mr.Nawaz Shariff at the SAARC summit in Male, with a third meeting due in September. The two countries have found an agreed methodology to discuss the entire gamut of the flawed relationship including Kashmir , which Pakistan has identified as the "core issue". While Kashmir and several related issues including Siachin, peace and security, confidence-building measures are to be discussed by a joint team led by the foreign secretaries, other joint teams are to be announced in September to go into issues like trade, commerce, cultural exchanges and travel.



Even before the official level talks have produced results, a soft thaw has descended on the long-confrontational relationship. Pakistan has bought sizeable quantities of Indian wheat and sugar, and India has bought Pakistani cotton. More important, Pakistan has announced that it will allow the proposed oil and gas pipeline from Oman to the Indian west coast to pass through its territory, drawing from the pipeline oil and gas for its own use, if necessary. The two countries worked closely together for the first time on WTO issues that came up at the WTO conference in Singapore recently. India-Pakistan direct official trade has touched $ 1 billion, increasing at the rate of 30% a year, according to Asia News.



An important thrust of the Gujral Doctrine is to help South Asia to expand its relationship with neighbouring regions. India has adopted the policy of Going East, and Pakistan is following suit. ASEAN has built a visible presence in India?s infrastructure development designs together with South Korea . India?s relations with China have improved significantly. At the latest round of border talks on August 5, 1997, the two sides agreed to identify an interim border and further accelerate the process of demilitarisation of the eastern border. Heavy weapons have been identified for withdrawal from the border regions. Trade and technology transfer relations have been expanding steadily, if rather slowly.



In just about a year, India is conducting active diplomacy of developmental cooperation with more than 40 countries in the regions close to its immediate South Asian neighbourhood. These nations belong to ASEAN, the newly-spawned Indian Ocean Community, the Gulf and Central Asia . India now confidently expects to be a member of the APEC very soon. The Gujral Doctrine has spurred South-South Cooperation in a big way.



The Gujral Doctrine has significantly lowered tensions in South Asia and improved bilateral relations. It has not broken swords into ploughshares, but it may indeed do so if it is practiced for another two or three years. Indian threat perceptions of Pakistan and China have been reduced significantly. Traditional security concerns like huge standing armies, unaffordably high military budgets, issues relating to proliferation of nuclear weapons and development and deployment of missiles however remain unresolved. On the positive side, few in India and Pakistan now talk of war, while fear of Indian aggressive designs have largely withered in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.