Crisis India-Pakistan:
Achtergrondinformatie, analyse en nieuws
uit de Indiase, Pakistaanse en internationale media.

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Asian Age, 23.3.02

US tells Pak to hand over India's 20 most wanted

New Delhi, March 22: India said on Friday that it was imperative for Pakistan to hand over the 20 fugitives demanded by New Delhi for any improvement in relations. India said this in reaction to reports about Washington asking Islamabad to take action on the , Indian list of 20. US official Harry Thomas, director in charge of South Asia in US President George W. Bush's National Security Council, had told Indian community leaders in Washington that Pakistan has been told to hand these terrorists over to India or even try them in their own country and convict them. "That is very important. That will lead to a reduction in tensions," he said. An MEA spokesperson said India has been saying all along that asking Pakistan to take action on the list of 20 was a perfectly legitimate demand. "New Delhi's focus is on the return of the fugitives and we stand by that demand," she said.

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The News, Pakistan, March 22, 2002

Smashing the religion-politics nexus

By Praful Bidwai

Terrible events have jolted India and Pakistan during the past week, which are likely to have harmful long-term impact on both societies. If Sunday's killing of Christians in an Islamabad church was an obnoxious act of jehadi militancy, the Shila Daan at Ayodhya, followed by the storming of the Legislative Assembly in Orissa, is significant for the growing conflict between Hindutva and secular-democratic politics in India.

The Islamabad episode has shocked the world community because of the conscious targeting of an international congregation. It is perhaps the biggest setback to Pervez Musharraf's avowed strategic goal of freeing Pakistan from the menace of religious extremism and terrorism, and transforming it into a modern, moderate, Islamic state. It comes on top of the ruthless execution of Daniel Pearl amidst growing uncertainty and doubts over the implementation of the bold programme of reform Musharraf announced on January 12.

Seen from the outside, there are many indications that the pace of implementation of that agenda is slowing down. Interior minister Moinuddin Haider has announced that the government is considering granting amnesty to a select category of individuals belonging to five extremist organisations outlawed two months ago.

Musharraf is also going slow in discussing with the US the possible extradition of Omar Sheikh. His statement that Pearl was killed because he was "over-intrusive" as a journalist is seen even by liberal and progressive Indians as a sign that he is looking over his shoulder, and is more anxious than earlier at criticism within Pakistan that his "anti-terrorism" campaign is being conducted under US and Indian pressure. These Indians are the kind of people who want reconciliation and peace with Pakistan, as well as internal reform leading to democratisation and secularism.

In India itself, the Vajpayee government has taken one more step in pursuit of its retrograde agenda of communalising society and the administration-by pleading the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's case before the Supreme Court for a "symbolic" puja in Ayodhya, and then sending director of Ayodhya affairs in the Prime Minister's Office Shatrughan Singh to receive a marble shila (stone) duly consecrated by mahants and sadhus.

The first move has sullied the credibility of the office of the Attorney General, the highest law officer of the land, who holds a unique position in the Westminster model India has adopted. Not only is the Attorney General the top legal representative of the government; he holds an advisory role and has a mandate to perform comprehensive "duties of a legal character, as may from time to time be referred or assigned". The AG is the only governmental official with right to speak and participate in either House of Parliament.

On March 13, AG Soli Sorabjee made an extraordinary claim, namely that in pleading a pro-VHP point of view before a rather astonished three-judge bench, he appeared not in his official, but in his personal, capacity!

Sorabjee already has a blemished record. He was appointed AG in 1996 by the United Front government. Following a well-established convention, he should have resigned in 1998 when that government fell. Instead, he requested the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance to continue him. That was bad enough. But his self-serving argument last week was downright disingenuous. It was a signal disservice to his office, to the functioning of which credibility and respect for Constitutional norms are central.

Dispatching Shatrughan Singh to Ayodhya in genuflection to the VHP's blackmailers sends out the signal that the Vajpayee government will reward communal thugs through begging them to do what is only their duty, namely, respect the law. If they do not agree, it can even pamper them with dishonourable "compromise" formulas that make a mockery not just of law but of democratic decency and secularism.

The government has thus encouraged and instigated the politicisation of the civil service. This is in line with what Narendra Modi accomplished in Gujarat last fortnight-albeit in more extreme and violent forms by communalising the police and sponsoring anti-Muslim violence. The two processes, of course, differ in magnitude and effect. But kowtowing to communal extremism is identical in both.

It is precisely because the state sends out clear signals that it will placate majoritarian tendencies that Hindutva's goons and bigots have mustered the courage to act as they did in Ayodhya, Gujarat, and now Orissa. It just won't do for Vajpayee to condemn the attack on the Orissa Assembly without linking it causally to the processes he has himself set in motion, including bestowing legitimacy upon the Ayodhya temple "movement", and fomenting communal forms of militarism, especially after December 13.

Members of Vajpayee's own party, indeed of his Cabinet, have repeatedly supported or apologised for unabashed, crude practitioners of sectarian violence. Thus, former Delhi BJP B L Sharma "Prem" declared the rape of Catholic nuns in Madhya Pradesh, apparently by VHP and Bajrang Dal thugs, as an act of "patriotism". And Home Minister Advani, no less, gave a clean chit to these very organisations after the ghastly murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two children in Orissa in January 1999, saying "I have known (them) for a long time and they do not have criminal elements."

Again, last September, Advani ridiculed as a "joke" the charge that the Bajrang Dal is akin to a terrorist organisation. This when Dara Singh, the self-confessed murderer of Staines, is a Bajrang Dal activist, and when the hordes that went around killing and burning in Gujarat were mobilised by the same group.

It is not for nothing that the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas president, and Ayodhya's chief religious villain, Ramachandradas Paramhans, has just declared Vajpayee "a hidden supporter" of his movement: "Atalji wants to support us but is bound by the coalition politics... Atalji is like a 'pativrata patni' who does not take the name of her husband but loves him more. Similarly, he may not take the name of Ramjanmabhoomi but knows that he is in power because of it and supports it in whatever way possible."

Vajpayee can in no way disown his direct responsibility for the sordid spectacle in progress at the India-Pakistan border, where a million soldiers stand testimony to what a former general (V R Raghvan) has called a "tragic paradox": military muscle-flexing to "secure" India's borders while its citizens become insecure and are torched.

Today, even conservative elements in the Indian and Pakistani Establishments recognise the reality of the damage their countries have recently suffered. After the horror of Gujarat, India cannot credibly claim to be a model of pluralist, multicultural democracy, or to be a modernising economy based on solid, secure, social foundations. (Until the latest carnage, Gujarat was India's most industrialised and urbanised state, in the top league in per capita income.) And Pakistan has already lost a good deal of the global goodwill it earned by turning against the Taliban, and through Musharraf's January 12 address.

The setback both societies and states have suffered cannot be undone through half-measures and incremental steps which the Establishment favours, but which leave the basic structures of misgovernance unchanged, the systemic rot unaddressed, and the religion-politics nexus largely untouched. Bold, radical, comprehensive solutions have never been more urgent in this part of the world.



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