By S M Hali
Rajiv Dogra, India’s former consul general to Karachi, has written a compelling account of the more than six decades old conflict between Pakistan and India. The seasoned former diplomat provides a firsthand account of the fractious relations between the two countries, which were born from the same womb, the Indian subcontinent, on 14/15 August 1947.
In his anecdotal account, Where Borders Bleed, the author has chronicled the events leading up to the partition of the subcontinent. With his succulent brush, he has painted vivid accounts of the personalities that shaped events: Lord Louis Mountbatten, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, et al, to the modern political players like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif. Since the crossing of the nuclear threshold in May 1998, both India and Pakistan have been on the international radar. The close scrutiny is because the neighbours have been to war thrice in 1947, 1965 and 1971, and have been on the verge of armed conflicts on numerous occasions. Being nuclear weapons equipped, any future conflict between the two hostile nations is likely to be devastative.
Rajiv Dogra, the former diplomat, who besides serving in Karachi from 1992 to 1994, has also served as India’s envoy to Italy, Romania, Moldova, Albania and San Marino, and permanent Indian representative to UN agencies in Rome. The 1974 batch Indian ministry of external affairs officer, while covering historical, diplomatic and military perspectives in his epic Where Borders Bleed, asks some piercing questions with the postulation of Pakistan and India reuniting: “Would terror have affected the world the way it has, if Pakistan and India had been a benign single entity? What if India and Pakistan were to reunite, much like East and West Germany? As the now-largest nation in the world, would the mammoth Pakistan-India radically change the globe’s geo-political framework?”
The veteran diplomat does not shirk from engaging with a range of contentious issues that have shaped Indo-Pak relations like water sharing, the flashpoint of Kashmir and the Indian Constitution’s Article 370 that affords special status to the disputed territory, which is the core issue between Pakistan and India.
One would have expected the experienced foreign service officer to avoid speculation and be more factual especially while discussing the sensitive topic of cross-border terrorism. The intricate art of diplomacy entails sticking to facts and presenting concrete logic. Unfortunately, Rajiv Dogra gives in to the temptation of taking a swipe at Pakistan generally and, more specifically, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif. He makes the startling disclosure that Mian Nawaz Sharif not only knew about the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in advance but had also actually given his approval for them. This claim negates Pakistan’s long-standing position that terror is the work of non-state actors.
Recalling a meeting he had with a former Pakistan Supreme Court (SC) judge in 1994 on the French Chancery’s premises in Karachi, Rajiv Dogra charges the then PM Sharif of having advance knowledge of the Mumbai serial blasts. “I had just walked into the splendid garden, when an eminent former judge of the Pakistani Supreme Court shook my hands and said quickly, but sotto voce, ‘The blasts in Bombay were done with the approval of PM Nawaz Sharif.’”
When the “stunned” author asked how he knew this, the former judge is quoted as saying, “A sitting judge of the Supreme Court, who should know, told me.”? Dogra claims that he had “no reason to doubt a man of his eminence”, as the former judge had a “sterling reputation” and it was out of question that such a man would make a comment on the basis of “half-baked information”.
The erudite scholar also debunks suggestions that Pakistani politicians do not have a say in vital strategic issues concerning India, and the ISI and army drive the hardline agenda against India. Dogra has also gone on to claim that Sharif knew Pakistani soldiers were occupying Kargil heights when he welcomed then Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who made the historic Delhi-Lahore bus ride. Rajiv Dogra has also blamed the US for the spread of terrorism. He construes that “America must bear some responsibility for the spread of terrorism in the world.” He asserts that it was the massive infusion of arms and money into Pakistan by the US from 1979 that led to Pakistan becoming a vast repository of weapons for jihadis against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Two questions arise in the mind of any reader: why would Rajiv Dogra wait over two decades to reveal such vital information regarding Nawaz Sharif, if he knew it to be true? Secondly, as an experienced diplomat, why would he resort to pure conjecture? He says, she says statements carry no legal value. What would have been a compelling book is ruined by following the usual agenda of Paki-bashing.
(The writer is a former group captain of PAF, who also served as air and naval attaché at Riyadh. Currently, he is a columnist, analyst and a television show host)
Author: Rajeev Dogra
Hardcover: 296 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications India; First edition (1 February 2015)
The Daily Times, February 03, 2015