For a British foreign secretary, David Miliband is remarkably ill-informed. Worse, his lack of tact and diplomatic skills is parlous for a man in his position.
His recent trip to India was a failure by any measure. He misbehaved with external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But that was the least of it. He lectured both men that India needed to “resolve” the Kashmir “dispute” if terrorism in the region is to abate. His article in The Guardian left nothing in doubt.
What he ignored was the complicated history of the problem, with its origins in the British colonial era; the role of Pakistan in fomenting terrorism and its plain desperation to wrest the state from India; the successful conduct of elections in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the voting record of the people there. He also ignored the steady flow of Britain’s Muslim citizens to Pakistan’s lawless areas, something that contributes more to terrorism in Afghanistan than the alleged dispute in J&K.
What explains his arguments?
As always, Britain has taken a cue on what to do from the US.
Barack Obama’s argument about the cause of the Afghan problem lying in Kashmir was sufficient for someone of Miliband’s intelligence. Enough at least to come and lecture the leaders of a country that has battled terrorism in its northernmost state for 22 years now.
There is also a link to the personal fortunes of the British foreign secretary, who has ambitions greater than what circumstances permit now. Miliband’s ambition to become prime minister is no secret. In this venture, he can scarce afford to displease his American masters.
If Obama says Kashmir is a problem, then so be it. But then, he should realize that diplomacy and personal interests are two very different matters.
Miliband’s misadventure in India is unlikely to have any lasting impact on relations between India and his country; it will, however, leave a bad taste for some time to come.
This, however, should be an occasion for New Delhi to pause before it continues with breast-beating about terrorism to other countries. Waging a war against terrorism and countries that sponsor it is India’s problem. Why should any country come to India’s aid? A diplomatic offensive against Pakistan is one thing, but getting insulted by an ignoramus is another matter altogether.
David Miliband: An ill-informed person or a badly behaved one? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org