BJP has bigger responsibilities upholding the freedom of speech: Sudheendra Kulkarni
An alumnus of IIT Bombay, Sudheendra Kulkarni is an Indian politician, columnist and the author of the book ‘Music of the Spinning Wheel’. He is also a former Vajpayee aide, who led the BJP poll campaign in 2004. Being present as a diplomat in drafting the India-Pakistan foreign policies, he currently is the chairperson of the international policy think-tank, Observer Research Foundation.
Kulkarni shares his views with ‘The Manipal Journal’ on Mahatma Gandhi’s future at Centre of Gandhian Peace study, India and Pakistan relations and the recent ink splattering incident in Mumbai.
After the incident in Mumbai do you think that ‘Modi led BJP’ should rethink its 26 year alliance with Shiv Sena? Does BJP need to take a firm ideological stand to cope with the present political dilemma?
I do not want to comment on the internal dynamics of one party and another, that is not the purpose of my visit. But I can address the second part of the question, by saying that any government in India, irrespective of the ruling party has its responsibility to uphold the basic values of the constitution and of our civilization. These values are tolerance, diversity, freedom of speech and since it’s the government of BJP led NDA; obviously the BJP has bigger responsibilities.
Knowing the concerns of implementation of Pervez Musharaf’s four point agenda for Kashmir settlement, how does Modi view the proposal especially after the changes in Kashmir’s political establishment in 2007? Does Pakistan still stick to that proposal?
It is not possible for me to answer what the Modi Government is planning with concern to something that transpired between the governments of India and Pakistan during Manmohan Singh and his counterparts’ tenure. I believe our PM started his term on a very positive note when he invited Nawaz Sharif and other head of states of SAARC countries for his swearing in. It means that he believes in the vision of harmonious relationship between India and other nations.
Subsequently in our dialogues with Pakistan there have been certain flip flops. We take one step and then there is a reversal. Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the joint statement released by Modi and Sharif when they met in Russia in June, this year. The statement was constructive and provided a platform for the two countries to move forward. Our PM will be visiting Pakistan sometime early next year to attend the next SAARC summit which hopefully, should be successful one. It should improve India’s relations with all countries in South Asia especially Pakistan.
Bilateral dialogue may look like the most ideal solution to solve problems between the two countries. But these dialogues very frequently are pushed away and fail when new issues prop up, like cross-border terrorism and India’s allegations that Pakistan sponsors them. What would you say about that?
These are not allegations, these are facts. Pakistan is indeed guilty of encouraging the terrorist groups to attack India and this truth must be accepted by them. How do explain the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai? Dawood Ibrahim, the main convict is being given shelter in Pakistan. Even during the 26/11 attacks, where did the ten terrorists belong?
They belong to Pakistan, and hence cross border terrorism is indeed true. A joint statement was issued in the 2004 SAARC summit, after Vajpayee met with Musharraf, stating that Pakistan shall not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities which target India. It’s a commitment and they must fulfill it. If they have accepted the responsibility, they need to implement it. By doing this they are not just doing a favor to India, but will realize that terrorism is also hurting them. Pakistan is also known to be a victim of terrorism, and should condone it for their sake.
What is the role of military industrial complex in maneuvering, if not manipulating the foreign policy of India and Pakistan towards each other? Since both the countries heavily fund in advancing their military capabilities because of a common sense of insecurity towards each other and not consider the overall productivity, sustainability and empowerment of their respective citizens primarily ?
It is in the interest of arms exporters in the world to keep conflicts alive as they can sell their arms to both India and Pakistan, and make money. Why should we spend our scarce resources on military hardware to target each other? Why can we not have peace? Let’s consider France and Germany. They fought world wars. They also killed each other’s masses. Today are their armies deployed on the borders? Wisdom and statesmanship lies in steps which progressively make it possible for us to have tranquility and peace on the border. We require more co-operation, trade, and increased people to people contact to build trust.
In your book ‘Music of the Spinning Wheel’, you have dedicated certain volumes to Nuclear weapons issues. Do you believe in nuclear disarmament? And do you think India should take the first step towards this goal?
Nuclear arms as Mahatma Gandhi said are a sinful use of science, and the entire world should take steps to eliminate nuclear arms from the face of earth. In my personal view India should not have become a nuclear weapons nation, but now as an important nation of the world, it must appeal to all other countries for a simultaneous disarmament of nuclear weapons within a firm finite time-frame.
How firmly do you believe in your ideologies? You shifted from CPI (M) to BJP because you felt Marxism not only cannot be an idea in India but also in any other corner of the world. You followed the ideologies of BJP since you were a Gandhian and also endorsed Gandhian socialism. According to Gandhi, a nation should hold minimal military defense, where as India is a country with 4th largest military force. Do you think Gandhian socialism could be a failure when it comes to practicality?
I am not with the BJP anymore, but believe that Gandhiji’s insistence on non-violence must become the guiding principle of all foreign policies. This kind of militarization that we observe is major contributor of unhealthy and unfriendly relations among nations. In today’s world, there simply cannot be any use for these weapons, let’s accept this. As you mentioned, India is also a major military power, wanting to be an even stronger military one. It’s unrealistic to think that this situation can be addressed by one nation, alone. There needs to be a global action, especially the people and not the governments of the world.
They must demand demilitarization of International Relations. They must demand that big nations like the US, UK, China, France and of course now India, should in a finite period of time, eliminate weapons of mass destruction and also reduce the military expenditure. This must be a global demand and the people of India should join their voice.
I don’t know if my answer satisfies your question. (Smiles)
Interviewed by Nadeem Ahmed, Nachiket Tekawade and Akash Rathour
Edited by Gargi Kerkar