New Delhi: Pakistan as a state has always been beyond its means, but will always be kept afloat through international financial institutions or foreign benefactors because no country wants a “nuclear Somalia”, former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan and Myanmar Vivek Katju said at an event in Delhi Saturday.
He was speaking during a discussion on recent developments in South Asia and how they affect India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.
The discussion was chaired by former major general in the army Ashok K. Mehta, while the speaking panel included Katju, Krishna V. Rajan, India’s former ambassador to Nepal, and Dr Gulbin Sultana, Associate Fellow at the South Asia Centre of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
Gen Mehta began by asking Katju about his take on the economic and political crises unfurling in Pakistan, and who would take responsibility in its “hybrid government”.
“In Pakistan, nothing unusual has happened as far as its financial situation is concerned, it has gone through this period for decades now,” Katju said.
“Pakistan as a state has always been beyond its means and so it has as a society. But at the end of the day, the Pakistanis don’t seem to be bothered, because they know full well that no country wants a nuclear Somalia,” he added.
The former envoy further said that the country will “always be kept afloat, whether that will be through the instruments of the international financial institutions or through the benefactors of the Arab peninsula, principally the Saudis and the UAE, and to some extent the Chinese”.
“Indian analysts should understand that’s the advantage the Pakistanis have,” he added.
Katju went on to say that China won’t do to Pakistan what it did to Sri Lanka vis-a-vis the “debt trap”.
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India-Nepal ties in right direction, says Rajan
Speaking about Nepal, India’s former ambassador to that country Krishna V. Rajan said it is the right time for India to revitalise its ties with the bordering nation as a “friendly PM”, Sher Bahadur Deuba, is at the helm of affairs there.
“Thanks to Mr Deuba the prime minister, he has pushed through the American strategic project, the MCC…It is intended obviously to counter Chinese influence in Nepal; it is part of America’s Indo-Pacific strategy and India is very much a part of it, because India has signed hydro-power projects with Nepal, which have been impending for so many decades…,” he added.
Rajan said India-Nepal relations are in the right direction now: “So now you have the US, Europe, India all focusing on development in Nepal, and a friendly PM, a PM who wants to keep China out. India, in any case, is not going to let a Sri Lanka happen in Nepal, there is no reason to lose much sleep over the economic problem in the country.”
He further said: “Nepal feels it is an equal partner and yearns for a sense of equality and India hasn’t been able to provide that.”
Speaking about the situation in Afghanistan, former ambassador Katju said India has done well in providing economic assistance to Afghanistan and it should look to re-establish its presence in that country by reopening the embassy after the turbulent exchange of power back in 2021.
He further said that India should do so after security assurances from the Afghans, which they are most likely to abide by.
‘India should show great sensitivity to its neighbours’
Towards the end of the discussion, the panel appeared to be in agreement that India should make its presence felt in the neighbourhood and project itself as a leader in the region.
“It is a positive sign that India is engaging in Sri Lanka and on behalf of Sri Lanka in the IMF and should continue to do so,” said Dr Sultana.
Katju said India should show “great sensitivity” to its neighbours.
“I am reminded of what Mr Gujral used to say and his approach was the stance that India will take you along as long as you don’t trouble us on our security and that is a valid proposition.”
Rajan further said that India needs to define its vision for its ‘Neighbourhood First’ approach. “India should come out with the vision for what it means by its overarching approach of ‘Neighbourhood First’. India should put a lot more energy into it.”
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)
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