The vanishing grey

Dawn, Karachi
May 25, 2002

By Kuldip Nayar
(The writer is a freelance columnist based in New Delhi)

Assuming there is no war or a large-scale retaliation against Pakistan because of America's pressure and other considerations, what would India do if there were yet another incident like the one near Jammu? The limit, if there was any room, was reached after the Indian parliament was attacked more than five months ago. The outcry at that time was no less than what it is today.

Understandably, no government can sit quiet when its capability, if not legitimacy, is questioned. But has it any long-term strategy? After every attack by the terrorists, it is given out that the diplomatic activity would be widened and the border vigilance increased. But what has happened so far?

As for diplomacy, no country in Europe is willing to buy our line that Gene ral Pervez Musharraf is not sincere in suppressing terrorism against India. Winning back opinion in our favour is the real test of diplomacy, not the false claims by the ministry of external affairs. Regarding vigilance on the border, terrorists from across continue to strike at will despite the wall of soldiers.

It seems the hardliners are determined to sabotage everything, including the coming state elections. Abdul Gani Lone, who was shot dead, was a moderate. That slogans like 'Pakistan Zindabad' were raised at the meeting where Lone was killed is significant. Pakistan is wrong in inferring that India does not want to solve the problem of Kashmir.

In all Indo-Pakistan agreements from Tashkent to Lahore, New Delhi has mentioned Kashmir. But is cross-border terrorism the solution to the problem?

New Delhi's credibility is doubted since the government has not issued any White Paper to give concrete evidence on how the number of terrorists trained, armed and sheltered across the border is increasing, not decreasing as the US state department says. When it comes to reaction, New Delhi is fierce but rhetorical, threatening but tentative. It lacks a policy. Pakistan is a hostile neighbour and, good or bad, we have to live with it.

Civil society in Pakistan is our best constituency. We have practically no contact with it. Whatever little link there was, we snapped it by stopping the train, the bus and the plane operating between the two countries. Unwittingly, we have made people in Pakistan pay for the follies of the military government, knowing well that the public does not count in the governance of that country. It is as much fed up with the regime as we are. The demand by political parties that a caretaker government should replace the military rulers spells out popular feelings.

Our policy after the takeover by General Ayub Khan in 1958 should have been to help the Pakistanis to get back democracy. India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was correct in bemoaning in parliament the military takeover in Pakistan. But then the "doctrine of necessity," the reason which the Pakistan Supreme Court used to ratify the coup by Musharraf has guided New Delhi as well. Without demur, it has accepted the military rule in Pakistan as if it is inevitable.

Instead of getting absorbed in sterile Track-I or Track-II talks between the people selected by the two governments - it was Washington's idea - India should have worked for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. It is true that it is up to any nation to have the government it likes. But do the Pakistanis have any choice? Military rulers have come whenever they have wanted to and withdrawn whenever they found the people's ire against them.

Without interfering in Pakistan's internal affairs or adopting a holier-than-thou attitude, our endeavor should be to enable the people in Pakistan to rule themselves. We should openly and persistently knock at the door of countries all over the world to point out how the military in Pakistan pushes out the elected governments at will.

It would be ideal if the West, particularly America, were to join in this effort. A country that swears by the charter of freedom cannot and should not be on the side of military dictators. But then Washington has a penchant for autocrats. It believes that the ideal of democracy is dispensable if there are compensating considerations.

By pointing out to Washington that it has gone back on its promise to fight terrorism wherever it existed, we will not reach anywhere. It would not have woken up to the menace of terrorism in the first place if the happenings in New York and Washington had not taken place. So it is futile to expect anything from it except sermons on restraint.

One does feel sad that Indo-US relationship that was on the up has been adversely affected. Both the prime minister and the home minister returned from Washington last year with the assurance that the tilt, if any, would be towards India.

No doubt, America has not spared words in condemning the acts of terrorism in India but it has never mentioned any country by name. It is difficult to believe that Washington does not know the name. With all its intelligence agencies working in Pakistan and India, in fact all over the region, and the satellites hovering in the sky, America has a full and clear picture. But it prefers to keep quiet.

Obviously, it wants Pakistan's support in dealing with the Taliban and Al Qaeda who are spread all over Pakistan. They have the support of religious elements from within. That may explain why Islamabad has said 'no' to America's action in Waziristan on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda militants are living after leaving Afghanistan.

It is obvious that America does not want to take a stand, which is not to the liking of Musharraf. It does not seem to realize that he has two yardsticks for measuring terrorism - one for Washington and another for India. He believes that when it comes to India, he does not have to comply with the promise he made in his January 11 speech to suppress the jihadis and religious zealots. In fact, he has released most of the fundamentalists he had arrested. Seventy training camps of the terrorists have come up already.

Washington realizes that Musharraf is under pressure from within and should not be driven to the wall. New Delhi does not believe this because it is well known the Taliban and the Al Qaeda are the creation of Islamabad. It is not beyond the military regime to chastize them or their supporters in Pakistan. When it could contain them during America's action in Afghanistan, why not now?

Musharraf had to divert attention from the dubious referendum he held to install himself as president for five years. He couldn't get the legitimacy that he wanted to earn because most people stayed away from the polling booths. He considers confrontation with India the best way to end the debate on his election.

There is little likelihood of terrorism coming down because Musharraf believes he can thus focus international opinion on Kashmir. From the Kargil war to the incident in Jammu, his entire effort has been directed towards it. America can influence Musharraf, not through sweet talk but by withdrawing the economic munificence it continues to shower on Pakistan.

Islamabad must realize that for any attempt to solve the Kashmir dispute, there has to be an atmosphere of peace in which India and Pakistan could sit across the table and also involve the Kashmiris at an appropriate time.

The problem with the two countries is that the grey area between them has shrunk so much that what is visible is either white or black. It is sad that no serious effort has been made even by eminent people on both sides to discuss Kashmir to find some mutually acceptable solution.

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