ISLAMABAD, DEC. 29. Despite the progress of the dialogue process, gaps re
mained in the perceptions of India and Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir and
security related confidence-building measures (CBMs) at the end of the
second round of the composite dialogue. Both sides are deeply divided even
on the approach and future direction of the process. India claims to focus
on a "people's approach" without deflecting attention on Kashmir while
Pakistan insists that full normalisation of ties will have to wait for the
resolution of the Kashmir dispute. The difference in the style and
substance of both sides was evident at the separate press interactions of
the Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, and his Pakistani counterpart, Riaz
Khokar. They differed sharply on the status of Kashmir, cross- border
terrorism and people-to-people contacts. Mr. Khokar contested the Indian
view that "much more" needed to be done on cross-border terrorism and
asserted, "as far as the Pakistan Government is concerned, nothing is
happening on the Line of Control (LoC)". The Pakistan Foreign Secretary
said the Indian side had been told that "human rights violations" had gone
up in Jammu and Kashmir and India needed to address this issue. Though Mr.
Saran assured the Pakistani delegation that India was not seeking to
sideline Kashmir through the route of CBMs and people-to-people contacts,
Mr. Khokar made it a point to note: "we also conveyed that the Jammu and
Kashmir issue, which is central to Pakistan-India problems and is indeed a
core dispute, cannot be sidelined or put on the backburner."
Besides food, dress and lingo, people on both
sides of LoC [Line of Control] and border share
their miseries and sufferings as much as India
and Pakistan share other facets of history and
culture. Neither airs, nor water, soil or the
children of the soil are different on either
side. Why then this 'us' and 'them'? Take a trip
across the boundaries and borders and LoC with
Bashir Manzar and evolve your own answers. The
author recently visited Pakistan and Pakistan
Administered Kashmir as part of a South Asian
Free Media Association (SAFMA) delegation.
I have not watched Sunny Deol's Gadhar but have heard the song 'Rab Jane, Kab Guzra, Amritsar, Lahore Aaya; Main Uthe Dil Chod Aaya' umpteenth times while moving on Srinagar streets. Have never had any interest in the song but while driving from Wagah to Lahore, trust me, this was the song that kept ringing in my mind; don't know why, but couldn't help but think about it. Amritsar and Lahore are so close - geographically, socially, linguistically and culturally that Rab Jane Kab Guzra Amritsar, Lahore Aaya, I too didn't know! When you visit some other country, the first thing you encounter is sort of culture shock. But on November 19, 2003, when I as a member of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) delegation, crossed over to that side of divide at Wagah, there was no shock.
On this side near Wagah, I had seen an old Sikh in Payjama-Kameez grazing his buffaloes and just minutes after crossing the Bab-e-Azadi (door of freedom), I saw a young bearded person in Shalwar-Kameez grazing his buffaloes on the other side. Same ambience, same sunlight, same fragrance in the air - everything similar, so shockingly similar! And after some one hour's drive, I was in Lahore.
Our delegation was warmly received by SAFMA friends at Wagah and the secretary general of the Association, Imtiyaz Alam was there at Hotel Avari with open arms to welcome us.
After checking in and freshening up, I, with some other friends, decided to go out to get local SIM cards for our mobile phones as BSNL was not working there. In the nearby market, it was Indian film music being played all over by the shopkeepers. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Didi Tera Devar Dewana, Doli Saja Ke Rakhna - and all such songs. Had most of the people roaming around not been in Shalwar-Kameez, I would never believe that I am in another country - Pakistan.
Lahore is a warm city - full of life. People are extremely hospitable and loving. They are Punjabis, typical Punjabis, ready to lay down their lives for friends but at the same moment would not spare the enemies. And who are the enemies - given the 57 year old history of hostility and enmity - India; who else? And here were the Lahoris hugging Delhites. What is this? I questioned myself. And answers followed during my stay in this beautiful country.
I had never thought of language being a strong cementing force but within hours in Lahore, I realized that language unites people more than any other aspect of life. Punjabi speaking people from our side of the divide, including Jammuites, mingled with the people from Lahore so naturally and comfortably that after some time they were laughing together, sharing jokes, making frequent use of Punjabi slang. This Bale Bale atmosphere reached its peak during dinner. And those among us who couldn't speak Punjabi were feeling a little bit 'left-out'.
At dinner, while SAFMA officials were busy discussing organizational matters and the tour itinerary, most of the Pakistani journalists present there were keen to know about Kashmir. The chats, discussions, arguments continued till late in the night and finally the organizers called it a day as next morning they had the regional conference and a person no less than the President of Pakistan had agreed to inaugurate it. In the morning we all were asked to be on our seats in the conference hall by 0900 hours. Every entrant was frisked thoroughly - no match boxes, no lighters, no mobiles, even ballpoint pens became an issue which finally were allowed to be taken in. Security arrangements too were identical to the ones back home.
We're told that General Musharraf would be coming anytime but this 'anytime' got stretched to around 01100 hours. Here was the man, seen in India as the architect of Kargil war, backed by US as the trusted ally in its "war against terror", ridiculed by domestic Mullahs for snubbing Jehadis and loved by media for being a good newsmaker.
With a broad smile, General saluted the participants in his typical style and moved towards the dice. He was accompanied by Governor and Chief Minister of Punjab. As soon as he sat down on his chair, secretary general SAFMA requested him to come to the other side to cut the ribbon and formally inaugurate the conference Media and Reconciliation in South Asia.
"President sir, you have come from the wrong side. You had to come from left side to cut the ribbon," Alam said and somebody from the audience quipped: "He has come from wrong side in Pakistan politics too!" I am sure General didn't hear the comment.
Imtiyaz Alam spoke at length about SAFMA activities and SAFMA's opposition to no-go zones and support for go-go zones. He talked about Pakistani journalists' visit to India and Indian Kashmir, about Sri Lanka's decision of easing visa regime for journalists of South Asia. Sri Lankan government has started on arrival visa for journalists. Alam wanted similar gesture from India and Pakistan.
While Alam was talking about SAFMA, most of the participants were eagerly waiting for Musharraf's address. And finally it was President Musharraf addressing the conference.
Please take us back!|
Muzaffarabad: Some 700 odd youth are roaming around in Muzaffarabad with nothing to do. Their condition is pathetic. They are all from Kashmir Valley. They want to come back. But how?
These are the youth who crossed over to this part to seek arms training and go back to wage Jihad against India. "But our visit to this part was an eye-opener. It is no Jihad but a commercial game where leaders cash in on the sufferings of Kashmi-ris," said a young boy from Rafiabad. These boys disassociated from their respective groups (Tanzeems) and decided not to be part of militancy and for that they are paying the price. "Those who are in Tanze-ems are enjoying life. They get everything - food, money, places to live. And also those who migrated to this part fr-om border area are comfortable. They get Rs 750 per head per month. Govt. has construc ted hutments for them. They have been provided electricity and water and have separate schools. But we are the worst lot. We're neither Mujah ids nor Migrants and therefore nobody cares for us," said another person who hails fr om a Bandipore village. His ap ple orchards in Kashmir wou ld give him a minimum of Rs 3 lakhs per year and in Muzaffa rabad he is selling fruit on a raidee (wheel cart) on streets.
"I have to play hide and seek with police. Though I pay my Hafta regularly but still they are after my life," he said.
These youth, they alleged were being hounded by ISI and local intelligence people. "They did everything that we should not get in touch with you but we managed and we know what we have to face once you leave," said a 47-year-old person from Hand-wara. He too had crossed over in 1998, but has now decided to say good bye to arms.
"More than 400 boys are locked up in Qilla interrogation centre. They are amongst us who want to go back but not with arms. Life has become hell for us. We have turned into Dhobi Ke Kuttay. Please help us," said another boy from Khanyar area.
"When we tell these things to our Tanzeem people, they say they will allow us to cross but with arms only. And that is what we don't want," said this boy.
"Tell India to allow us to come back. We're even ready to face the interrogation but can't tolerate the humiliation here anymore," said one of the boys.
He said that even the local people are not friendly toward them. But the locals have their own stories to tell.
"They came here as Muja hids. Hum Ne Inhain Aank hon Pe Bithaya. And now they wander here and there troubling us," said an STD booth owner, in the vicinity of the Hotel Sangam, where we're staying. The STD man accused these Kashmiri boys of indulging in eve-teasing, pick-pocketing and other such evils, the allegations refuted by the boys.
ISLAMABAD, DEC. 27. On the opening day of the second round of
composite dialogue, India and Pakistan today agreed to continue the
process on a sustained and serious basis, narrow down differences and work
towards resolution of all issues. The Foreign Secretary, Shy-am Saran, who
led the Indian side at the talks was upbeat about the course of the
dialogue and told a news conference that while there was progress on some
of the proposals, more discussion was required on others. His reference
was the wide gap in perception on both sides about conventional Confidence
Building Measures (CBMs) and differences on nuclear CBMs. In the course of
three-hour-long meeting, the two sides reviewed the progress made so far
on the composite dialogue, held an "in- depth discussion" on peace and
security and a host of CBMs. No new proposals were exchanged. Tomorrow
Jammu and Kashmir, which Pakistan believes is the 'core issue' between
India and Pakistan, would be discussed. Pakistan is not expected to make
any new proposal and focus essentially on the subject of the need to
'provide comfort to Kashmiris' theme enunciated by the Pakistan President,
Per-vez Musharraf, in July last year. In other words Islamabad is expected
to harp on the need for 'reduction' of troops in Kashmir, 'bettering' of
the human rights situation in the valley and need for speedier movement
towards resolution of the problem. The Indian position is that Kashmir is
an internal issue and it is conscious of its responsibilities towards
Kashmiris like any other Indian citizens.
The arrival of a seven-member delegation of
Indian fishermen in Karachi on Wednesday for
talks on the release of their brethren and boats
held by Pakistan is yet another reminder of the
plight of sea-going fishermen on both sides of
the border. According to a news agency report,
Pakistan is currently holding some 869 Indian
fishermen along with 117 boats, while India has
in detention 141 Pakistani fishermen along with
One of the reasons advanced for the greater number of Indian fishermen detained in Pakistan, is that more of them land up on the Pakistani side, impelled as much by wind and sea currents as the promise of more plentiful catch. However, fishermen on both sides argue that in the absence of clearly demarcated boundaries, they often find themselves on the wrong side, often after days at sea; their boats are old and not equipped with technological devices that would alert them that they are straying. Some privately admit that they know when they have crossed the line, but in the heat of the chase as they go after a shoal of fish, they prefer to take their chances rather than lose the catch - going out to sea and maintaining the boats is expensive business. If they don't catch the requisite number of fish, they and their families don't eat.
In any case, they are hard-working citizens who do not deserve to be treated as criminals. They are among the poorest of the poor, struggling to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence from this precarious livelihood that depends for its success on the vagaries of the weather and the moods of the sea. When arrested by the 'other side', their families back home are often left without any support or other means of livelihood. Sometimes families lose several male members at one go to the law-enforcing agencies, rendering their situation even more desperate. Their incarceration can range from months to a couple of years - surely a rather harsh punishment compared to the nature of their transgression.
There has been talk of the government providing fishermen with the expensive computerized nautical equipment that would enable them to keep track of their course. If this becomes a reality, at no cost or at subsidised cost to them, it would be a welcome step indeed. Meanwhile, as the governments of India and Pakistan engage in the peace process and discuss this and other issues, a practical step they could take before the time-consuming agreements are arrived at, is to least direct their maritime agencies to not arrest and detain each other's fishermen. If caught violating international boundaries, their catch could be confiscated, and they could be allowed to return home empty-handed. This would not only save the burden on our respective prison systems, but send out a goodwill signal and simultaneously benefit the powerless and the poor, which should surely be the aim of good governance, and good neighbours.
NEW DELHI, Dec 22 (IPS) - A year after India and
Pakistan launched their first serious attempt at
a bilateral dialogue after their 1998 nuclear
blasts and two major military crises, the
prospect of success looks tantalisingly close and
yet uphill in the last stretch.
Both Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will have to struggle hard to overcome long-standing obstacles and achieve tangible results in 2005.
Unlike in February 1999, when former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee rode the bus to Lahore, or in 2001 when he met Musharraf in Agra at an unsuccessful summit, the bilateral discussions this time around have been more structured, systematic and better prepared.
The past aside, public opinion in both countries also favours reconciliation -overwhelmingly. The top leaders of the two neighbouring countries have also got to know each other reasonably closely. And the Pakistani establishment has shed much of its initial prejudice against Manmohan Singh, whose sober style seemed a contrast to Vajpayee's.
And yet, going by the multiple rounds of talks held at various levels so far, the going will not be easy. All that India and Pakistan have managed to achieve over the past year is to restore communication links, including air, bus and train services ruptured after a December 2001 terrorist attack on India's Parliament.
Although they agreed in June to reopen their consulates in Karachi and Mumbai, little progress has been made on this.
Also, there seems to be some stagnation over trade and economic cooperation - in particular proposed energy links through an overland gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan.
It is only in respect of liberal visa regimes, and greater freedom for people to travel (by no means without restrictions or limits on the number of cities to be visited) that there has been substantial progress. But even this is reversible.
On the two thorny issues - Kashmir and nuclear weapons - there has been no forward movement. But the two states have at least agreed to discuss Kashmir - for the first time ever.
Yet India and Pakistan still remain stuck without any agreement on what seems to be an important confidence-building measure (CBM) - namely the launching of a bus service between Srinagar in Indian Kashmir and Muzafarabad in the Pakistani-controlled part.
Various mutual suspicious and divergent perceptions have been responsible for the slow progress. Pakistan believes India is using CBMs, of which it has proposed over 70, as a substitute for a purposive and earnest discussion of Kashmir. India believes that Pakistan is dragging its feet on the bus route and on economic cooperation because it wants New Delhi to acknowledge the ''centrality'' of the Kashmir issue and address it first. India accuses Pakistan of a single-minded obsession with Kashmir.
Policy-makers in both countries continue to suspect each other's sincerity even as regards Siachen, a high-altitude glacier in disputed Kashmir, where India and Pakistan have waged a costly and counterproductive war for two decades. The absurdity of the Siachen conflict, the world's highest-altitude war, is that retaining or extending the territory has no strategic value or implications for either India or Pakistan. Both governments seem hell-bent on blowing up hundreds of millions of dollars a year and losing scores of soldiers, largely to frostbite, rather than reaching a rational settlement or a minimally agreed mutual withdrawal.
''Siachen and other boundary disputes can be successfully and quickly addressed,'' says Kamal Mitra Chenoy, a professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. ''But for that, Pakistan must feel reassured that India will put Kashmir on the negotiating table.''
The Manmohan Singh government has indeed agreed to discuss the Kashmir ''issue'' - it refuses to call it ''dispute'' - as part of a package of talks on eight subjects. But it is not clear how far it is prepared to go and what its bottom-line is.
In a considered statement, Singh recently ruled out any re-drawing of borders and also the further partition of India-Pakistan along religious lines. India would probably be prepared to go to exceptional lengths in granting autonomy to its part of Kashmir and allowing a "soft border" with a similarly autonomous part of Pakistani Kashmir.
On the other hand, Musharraf has urged that various ''options'' be considered, including treating the old state of Jammu and Kashmir as comprising seven distinct regions and then ''demilitarising'' each.
So far, there has been no meeting ground on these ideas, but once formal, and especially back-channel, discussions get going, there could be some progress.
The critical intermediate issue is whether each of the two governments shows the imagination needed to trigger progress in the short run. One test of this will lie on the issue of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus route, and of the identity documents to be carried on it.
Talks on this have not progressed because India would like passengers to have an ordinary national passport, although the visa/residence permit may not be stamped on it. Pakistan, by contrast, would like entirely different identity papers, which are Kashmir- specific.
But if the bus gets going, many proposals for cross-border trade, family meetings, a postal service and others can come up for discussion. If the bus proposal, made in October 2003, fails, despair and disappointment will follow, affecting the prospect for reconciliation.
Nonetheless, whatever happens on the Kashmir ''issue'', one thing remains clear -- India and Pakistan cannot achieve a sustainable, durable peace unless they grapple with the issue of nuclear weapons.
''So long as the nuclear shadow looms over the subcontinent, it will remain a potential site for serious militaryconflict and a nuclear confrontation,'' says Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Peace Coalition.
''Kashmir is the most obvious flashpoint for a nuclear catastrophe, but there could be others too - a land war where Indian troops enter the Pakistani Punjab. Besides, a nuclear attack could happen out of accident or without authorisation,'' he told IPS.
India and Pakistan have so far refused to address the nuclear weapons issue seriously by negotiating risk-reduction or restraint measures. Both the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (India), and Pakistan Peace Coalition have urged the two governments to enter into an important agreement not to deploy nuclear weapons and to keep warheads separated from nuclear-capable missiles. Both peace groups also want New Delhi and Islamabad to negotiate a moratorium on missile test-flights, to last between one to three years.
Sadly, both countries have made little momentum in that direction. But simply wishing away the nuclear problem will not do. If India and Pakistan want real peace, not cosmetic cessation of hostilities, they will have to grapple with thorny issues.
South Asians may now relax and rejoice. South Asia has ceased to
be a nuclear flashpoint. Declarations to this effect by the rulers of
both India and Pakistan should leave no one in doubt in the matter.
Or, should they? Must not the pious proclamations, on the
contrary, provoke suspicions about the motives behind them?
The first declaration came from India. On December 4, addressing
a group of Indian businessmen, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said:
"No one now talks of South Asia as a nuclear flashpoint." He
explained: "Our political and diplomatic initiatives have begun to
improve the regional security environment - and no travel advisories
are being issued, apprehending war."
The last reference was to the India-Pakistan standoff of early 2002, which created worldwide fears of an imminent nuclear war in South Asia. True, unlike then, foreign governments are not today asking their nationals to take the first flight out of the country. Has the much-hyped India-Pakistan "peace process," however, turned the fears into mere fantasies?
An emphatic endorsement of Singh's statement followed - from Pakistan. It came at the end of yet another round of official-level India-Pakistan talks held in Islamabad. On December 15, Tariq Osman Hyder, head of the Pakistani delegation, told a joint media conference: "South Asia is no longer a nuclear flashpoint." According to him, the flashpoint had faded away because India and Pakistan had entered "a dialogue mode" and made "progress on important issues related to nuclear CBMs" (confidence-building measures). Has the "progress" made the peril that South Asia survived in 2002 a thing of the dim, distant past?
The questions, really, are rhetorical. Hyder was talking after the failure of the two-day Islamabad talks. The main item on the agenda of the meeting was the draft of an agreement on prior notification of missile tests. The agreement remained unsigned at the end of the talks. And no advance on the subject is expected until the next round on nuclear CBMs, for which the date is to be decided by December's end.
The non-progress is the more remarkable because of the fact that the agreement was only supposed to formalize an already established practice and procedure. Since 1999, India and Pakistan have been notifying each other ahead of their missile tests. A formal agreement once seemed the simplest of CBMs for the two countries to produce as proof of their nuclear "responsibility" without cutting back or compromising on their nuclear weapons programs. The agreement has still not been arrived at because of insuperable differences over details like information on the missile's trajectory as part of a prescribed notification.
An agreement, in any case, would not have meant fewer missile tests, or any slowing down of the nuclear-capable missile race. It would only have represented an attempt by both to tell the world that their missile race posed no serious risk to South Asia. It would, in other words, have been yet another attempt by both India and Pakistan to legitimize the Bomb-driven race.
The only CBM on which the two nuke-rattling neighbors have agreed since the start of the "process" is the establishment of a 'hotline" between Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries. This step, too, has only served as an argument in support of the sense of "responsibility" of the two nuclear states and their resolve to minimize the chances of nuclear conflicts and accidents. It has thus been yet another unconvincing attempt by both to sanitize and legitimize their nuclear weapons and programs.
In the course of their talks on CBMs and Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures or NRRMs (the "process" having produced more fashionable acronyms than the faintest advances towards "peace"), the rulers of India and Pakistan have agreed to undertake yet another initiative. New Delhi and Islamabad have agreed to seek "parity" with nuclear powers (P5), "consultations" with them "on matters of common concern," and development of a "common nuclear doctrine." They have agreed, in other words, to knock on the door of the "nuclear club." An improvement on this proposal (worryingly, with the support of some hitherto anti-nuclear activists) calls for an India-convened conference of nuclear powers and "nuclear-capable states" for the same objectives.
All this may make strange allies of the implacable adversaries that India and Pakistan stay despite their intermittent "dialogue process." Just as their uneasy coexistence in the U.S.-headed "alliance against global terror" does. None of this, however, makes the "nuclear flashpoint" a fading memory.
The flashpoint will not fade away so long as nuclear-capable missiles of India and Pakistan remain deployed against each other. It will not, so long as missiles of the two countries stay on hair-trigger alert. It will not, so long as nuclear warheads are not separated from delivery systems.
South Asia stays a flashpoint when Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf sneers that "only a madman" can expect his country's nuclear weapons program to be weakened under him. The danger remains dire, when India's Prime Minister talks, in characteristically soft tones but unexpectedly undemocratic terms, of the need for "continuity and consensus" in the country's nuclear policy. The flashpoint cannot fade away while his government thus affirms its commitment to the policy of nuclear militarism that his far-right predecessors imposed on India.
A freelance journalist and a peace activist of India, J. Sri Raman is the author of Flashpoint (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to t r u t h o u t.
India's arms shopping spree is not so much a
spree as a binge. India is buying weapons from
the US, Russia, France, the UK and Israel and
whoever else who has set up shop in the arms
The educated guess is that the bill for this will be in the vicinity of $95 billion spread over the next 15 years. Does India know of some new enemy that threatens it? India is a nuclear power as is Pakistan and thus there is a balance of terror which acts as a deterrent. Neither country would commit the monumental folly of an armed conflict. Who else is in India's neighbourhood? Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, not even flies in the ointment. So it becomes intriguing why a country with millions of desperately poor people should be spending such colossal sums of money on arms, which are for all practical purposes worthless.
I want to take the figure of $95 billion and what might happen if it was to be invested in the social sector over the next 15 years. Let me start with HIV/Aids. Globally India is second only to South Africa in the number of people living with the disease but is likely to overtake South Africa so fast is it spreading. The estimates are horrifying. The UN Population Division projects that India's adult HIV prevalence will peak at 1.9 per cent in 2019 (when it will have spent its $95 billion for arms).
During 2000-15 the UN projects 12. 3 million AIDS deaths and 49.5 million deaths during 2015-50. These projections are on the conservative side because of the difficulties involved in collecting data. The situation could be worse. Except on special, photo-op occasions such as World Aids Day, I have not read of any concern shown by Indian leaders for what is a clear and present danger that has the making of a national calamity. The BJP fought the elections on the slogan of Shining India. The Congress promised to improve the lives of the people of Rural India. There was some recognition that the poor of India had to be given some stake in the elections. But both parties saw India's poverty as an abstraction. HIV/Aids did not come in the category of poverty. Imagine $95 billion invested in saving lives instead of buying arms to kill people.
This is not an original thought. For years people have been saying that the Third World has no business in wasting its scant resources in buying arms instead of medicines and more often than not the arms are used to kill their own people or, at best, making war against an equally poor neighbour.
The main beneficiaries of this cock-eyed arrangement of priorities are the arms merchants and a few in government who get their share of kickbacks. Nowhere in the world, not even in the United States does the standard of living go up by a fraction because a country goes on an arms buying binge.
On the contrary is often bankrupted and there is no better example than the Soviet Union. We like to believe that the misadventure in Afghanistan brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union. The reality is that it got sucked into an arms race with the United States, trying to match it gun for gun and it went broke.
But an even more important consideration is that most of weapons that are bought (or gifted) are never used and they gather dust until they become obsolete and are replaced.
There is something else that makes a country strong. The United States is the most powerful country in the world and militarily stronger than the rest of the world combined. Yet its military power seems next to useless in the war on terror. It should have learnt this lesson in Vietnam. Military might matters in conventional wars but future wars will not be conventional wars. Barring a nuclear bomb, the Americans threw everything at their enemy in Vietnam. True, they killed an awful lot of people, destroyed cities and towns, poisoned the village and hamlets with Agent Orange but they lost the war.
The same is happening in Iraq. The billions of dollars that make up the defence budget is not proving particularly helpful in putting down the insurgency. No one doubts that the United States has might on its side, not just superior force but overwhelmingly so.
It demonstrated that in Fallujah where the town was destroyed in an effort to flush out the insurgents who had long fled just leaving innocent men, women and children to bear the brunt of the military fury of the world's only superpower.
The United States is also the world's most powerful economic power and, perhaps, can afford its war-machine though surely a day must come that it has to acknowledge that it has more than enough.
But there's lot of money to be made from the defence industry and so the arming of the United States will go on because there is no such condition as more than enough when it comes to making money.
But India is in a different league altogether and does not have money to burn. The Congress party will have to start making good on the promises it made to India's poor. So far there are no indications that Pakistan will want to enter into an arms race with India.
Perhaps, India is hoping that Pakistan will do so. Both Pakistan and India must take poverty alleviation beyond the level of rhetoric and slogan-mongering. I don't think that the poor of the two countries and they number in the millions, are fooled any more. Poverty is neither their dharma nor their kismet. If a lack of food does not kill them, then disease will do so. Nehru's "tryst with destiny" sounds not only hollow but also a cruel joke.
HYDERABAD, DEC. 19. Eliminating nuclear weapons and building peace between
India and Pakistan should be the immediate goals of the anti-war movement
in India, Prakash Karat, CPI (M) Polit Bureau member, said while
addressing a public meeting of the Anti-War Assembly here on Sunday. "As a
first step the two countries (India and Pakistan) should refrain from
deploying their nuclear weapons in their respective armies," Mr. Karat
said and added that this should lead to the complete de-nucle arisation of
South Asia. Nuclear weapons would never allow peace to grow between India
and Pakistan, he felt. Mr. Karat said that despite the defeat of the
pro-U.S. NDA Government, there remained a strong lobby which wanted deeper
military relations with the U.S. and Israel. "Military collaboration with
the U.S. and Israel cannot co-exist with an independent foreign policy,"
he said. "We have to mobilise a larger number of people to stop U.S.
interference in our country. It was only popular pressure which would keep
the present UPA Government from falling into the lap of the U.S.
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Indian Held Kashmir are ugly phrases
because they smack of official patronage, of government-inspired
positions and not even-handed journalism. Why can't we say
Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir and
wait for the issue to be resolved before assigning a name it
eventually chooses for itself?
It is strange that we in India and Pakistan have learnt to pour scorn on embedded American and British journalists who we believe are adept at endorsing the occupation of Iraq by subtle and, where it works better, crude methods.
Using the same argument, how can we ignore that most of us in the subcontinent have been assiduously practising a similar embedded journalism for half a century or more?
We do this by using a vocabulary that is insidious in intent and which creates an enemy in our neighbourhood instead of an organically structured nation peopled by the same kind of ideological jostling that we find in our own respective national boundaries.
Actually, we in India like to proclaim our love or contempt for Pakistan and Pakistanis depending on the season of the year. Even the movies change their story lines according to the season - Border or Mission Kashmir goes with the season of warmongering and Veer Zara, etc., reflect our maudlin love for the "other" side in less vitiated days.
In Pakistan it has been pretty much the same pattern. Like George Orwell's sheep the media in both countries by and large bleats "Four legs good, two legs bad" and vice versa, depending on the mood in the prime minister's office in our capitals as also, in Pakistan's case, at the General HQ in Rawalpindi.
Those who love or hate Pakistan and Pakistanis care little about the finer points of the problem. They suffer from the deception of the tiger in a wildlife sanctuary. If you stay in the open jeep the lurking tiger is likely to mistake you to be part of the jeep and not attack you as it would any other easy prey.
Indians and Pakistanis who care to concern themselves with each other appear to perceive the other side like the deceived tiger. It is scarcely part of a normal discourse in India, for instance, that there are at least four types of political Pakistanis that we are looking at.
The army, the mullahs, the followers of Benazir Bhutto and the followers of Nawaz Sharif represent the four corners. To an untrained Indian mind, they are all part of the safari jeep called Pakistan. That's how a Hindutva rabble-rouser like Narendra Modi could get away by painting all Pakistanis as children of General Pervez Musharraf! Which of course is not very different from the description given by Mr Modi's Hindu fanatics to Indian Muslims - that they are all children of Mughal emperor Babur who kept Hindu slaves and who built the Babri Masjid after razing their scared temple in Ayodhya, as the Hindutva mythmaking has it.
It eventually would take an educated Indian leader like Arif Mohammed Khan to object to Mr Modi. And he did, proclaim even if somewhat impishly: "We are Pathans, we had fought the Mughals. Please do not abuse us."
Last week a large group of Pakistani journalists arrived in India. We are told the Indian government had sponsored the trip. How this media trip was going to be any different from the recent ones organized by some media NGOs is difficult to divine.
Some of these journalists were quoted last week as saying how keen they were to meet former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. General Musharraf had asked them to meet Mr. Vajpayee, one of them said. They would also meet Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. But Mr. Vajpayee appeared to be someone special.
Is there nothing else in India for Pakistanis, more so their journalists, to be interested in? Have they ever tried to meet the ordinary people, people in the villages, in small towns, in the discotheque? How about meeting the Naxalites, the only people, as far as one can remember, who came out in droves in the streets against the war hysteria that was whipped up by Mr. Vajpayee and tacitly endorsed by Ms Gandhi's party through much of 2002?
These orchestrated visits of journalists reminds me of the time when I was under the impression that I was allowed to travel alone in Iran during the Khomeini era. I went to to the Davamand mountain resort north of where the Imam lived in Teheran's Farmaniyeh district. There I found on the snow-laden slopes of the mountains the most amazing sight - scores of women bereft of the hijab were skiing across the picturesque hills. Rock music was blaring from all corners. And the revellers - men and women - were using their skis to write large love messages in the snow to each other, some so large that they could be read from an aeroplane. It was a completely different world to the one we were tutored to believe in.
Click, click, click went my camera. I hadn't of course noticed the 'shadow' that was tailing me, not until the next morning when the camera mysteriously disappeared from the locker in my hotel room. Never mind that. The memories of the Davamand experience are still fresh in my mind. The day this experience becomes possible for Indians and Pakistanis to savour freely in each other's country, small bits of the Orwellian nightmare might begin to wane.
It is regrettable that India and Pakistan have
made so little progress on the worthy proposal,
now 14 months-old, to launch a bus service
between the capitals of divided Kashmir. And it
is equally distressing that they remain stuck in
a conservative groove while discussing nuclear
and conventional military confidence-building
measures (CBMs) which will genuinely reduce the
threat of a conflict in this volatile and
now-nuclearised region. While the hitch on the
first issue concerns the nature of the documents
to be carried by passengers, the talks on the
second are marred by a lack of will to take the
bold steps that are absolutely necessary in the
South Asian context.
In Islamabad talks last week, India and Pakistan complacently declared that Kashmir is no longer a nuclear flashpoint. This is a dangerous delusion. So long as Kashmir remains a contentious issue, it will trigger military rivalry with a nuclear escalation potential.
Beyond a point, it is immaterial who deserves the blame for this stagnation. Each state has its own special concerns, compulsions and anxieties. At the end of the day, what matters is whether the two succeed or fail to address these concerns and allay their fears. The stagnation comes almost a year after the Islamabad breakthrough which re-started their first serious dialogue since the nuclear tests of 1998, punctuated by Kargil and the 10 months-long military standoff of 2002. Unless the dialogue leads to concrete results, India and Pakistan will fail in the eyes of the world community to achieve minimal peace or stability.
That is bad enough. Even worse, the two governments have since launched a huge arms-buying spree. India is acquiring sophisticated air defence systems, new submarines from France and Russia (including a nuclear-powered submarine), the Patriot range of anti-missile missiles from the US, as well as new warplanes and an air-defence ship. India is now among the world's three largest arms importers. Pakistan is buying more P-3C Orion maritime surveillance-cum-submarine-hunter aircraft, six Phalanx rapid-fire anti-ship guns, and TOW missiles, etc.-worth a big $1.2 billion from the US alone.
Washington is encouraging both states to acquire new, ever-deadlier weapons. Indeed, selling such weaponry to them was the principal function of US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfold's recent visit to New Delhi and Islamabad. This has created rancour and resentment in both the South Asian capitals. India's Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has protested at the arms sales to Pakistan. He says the US argument that the sales are meant "to contain terrorist groups like Al-Qaida and Taliban does not stand Nobody uses F-16 fighter planes and other weapons meant for big wars to fight terrorists". He has even warned that the arms transfer could "jeopardise" the India-Pakistan peace process.
Pakistan retorts that India is being "paranoid"; Islamabad's arms acquisition will only "restore symmetry and bring stability to the region". As Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan put it, in criticising Pakistan, India is "misleading Indian public opinion and misinforming the international community." According to him, "Pakistan is pursuing a modest programme to fill up the gap that emerged during the 1990s due to US sanctions" He also accuses India of having a highly ambitious $95 billion arms acquisition programme spread over 15 years.
Mr Mukherjee is right to say that weapons like the Orion and F-16 or anti-tank missiles are meant "for big wars and not to fight terrorism. Nobody uses F-16s to fight terrorism". But that's hardly the point. The new deadly toys are a reward for Pakistan's invaluable assistance to the US in fighting al-Qaeda in and around Afghanistan. Similarly, Washington has rewarded India for its "strategic partnership": first by approving the sale of the US-Israeli "Green Pine" radar and an associated air defence system, and then by offering top-of-the-range weapons such as the Patriot-II missile interceptor which is reportedly effective against low-flying aircraft, as well as other conventional materiel.
Two transformations are visible here. During the Cold War-particularly between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s, and then again in the 1980s-, the India-Pakistan arms race was fuelled by rival powers: respectively, the USSR and the US. Today, the same power drives the engine of that race: the US. India and Pakistan both vie for its attention and favours. In the process, both sustain, and in the long run intensify, their rivalry.
Second, the US is far from even-handed in its treatment of India and Pakistan. In one phase, it tilts towards one; in another, towards the other. A pro-Pakistan tilt took place, for instance, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 2000, following President Clinton's South Asia visit, this tilt was reversed. Washington also consciously plays one rival off against the other by offering different things to them.
In the 1980s, Washington sold F-16s to Pakistan on an exclusive basis. But in the early 1990s, it imposed restrictions under the Pressler Amendment, etc. Then, after 2000, it warmed up to India and offered it "strategic partnership" plus a role in Ballistic Missile Defence. But a few months ago, it suddenly designated Pakistan a Major non-Nato Ally. For all its rhetoric about India's worthy democracy and the country's great "potential", the US does not support India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
Now, Washington is dangling different carrots before the two states. President Bush has again described Pakistan as a "frontline state" which is successfully fighting al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and called General Pervez Musharraf "a world leader". Washington is even more effusive in describing India as an "emerging power, a regional power and a world power with which we want a growing relationship".
US ambassador to India David Mulford says Washington is eager to increase its military market in India. "We would like to be a bigger supplier of military equipment" Mr Mulford says Pakistan does not fall in the same category as India. "It is important to view these relationships each in their own context. It is very important to de-hyphenate the relationship" However, the relationship does remain strongly hyphenated-not least because of Washington. Washington practises double standards based on short-term considerations. Such double standards come naturally to a Superpower. India and Pakistan realise and resent this. Regrettably, they have both fallen a victim to it. All this would be relatively unimportant if it did not have strategic consequences. But it does. The India-Pakistan rivalry is exacerbated by Washington's policies and moves, with their profoundly destabilising and harmful consequences. In particular, the US's conduct can vitiate the present climate of goodwill and put a spoke in the India-Pakistan peace process.
It is not just hypocritical, but downright foolhardy, for Washington both to supply new weapons to India and Pakistan, and then expect them to negotiate an authentic peace. The logic of the first process-arms race, escalation of military preparations, and increased hostility-is sharply different from the logic of dialogue, reconciliation and peace.
It is even more unrealistic and foolish of India and Pakistan to imagine they can continue to arm themselves to the teeth against each other out of insecuity, and at the same time, become self-assured and secure. The hawks told us this would happen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s-through the conventional rearmament route. It didn't. The sale of F-16 warplanes to Pakistan probably featured on the front pages of Indian newspapers on an average of 200 days out of 365 days in the year during the 1980s as a major bone of contention. But the contention didn't end when the planes' spares stopped reaching Pakistan.
Then, said our Right-wing experts, nuclear weapons would provide "strategic balance" and stability. They didn't. India and Pakistan went to war within a year of their nuclear tests! Unless they reach a durable peace, conflict could break out yet again-with a definite nuclear escalation potential.
India and Pakistan have tried to talk peace without taking their foot off the nuclear accelerator or even halting the conventional arms race. This too suits a hawkish prescription based on the utmost cynicism. Indian ultraconservatives believe that the US's "coddling" of Pakistan to the point of it becoming, as one of them puts it, a US "protectorate", is a good thing. It will keep Pakistan on its "best behaviour"; by contrast, "whenever American interest flagged [the] Pakistanis have run riot". Besides, argue these cynics, a close military sales relationship between Washington and Islamabad will help New Delhi demand "parity" or "fairness"-new, yet more lethal weapons from Washington, in keeping with India's "emerging" position.
This logic is fatally flawed: seeking "balance" through new armaments leads to the creation and widening of imbalances. These in turn furnish an argument for "balance" through yet more tilting of the scales. Such tilt in one direction, followed by a tilt in the other, violates the ends of fairness and justice-and peace. If you want peace, you must wage peace, not war. It would be suicidal for Indian and Pakistani policy-makers and opinion-shapers to forget this great lesson of the 20th century.
A former Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force made a poignant
remark at a farewell party in New Delhi.
Leading a delegation of retired military officers to India a few days ago, he said he wished those who had left Pakistan after its formation had not done so because his country missed the texture of society it intended to have.
Probably he did not realise that theirs was not an easy choice. They had to leave because they were non-Muslims. When they locked their houses behind they thought they would return after things had settled down.
There was no going back and this realisation came to them only when they saw two streams of human beings on the main Grand Trunk Road, one flowing towards India and the other towards Pakistan. Muslims went through the same traumatic experience.
However, thousands of them have come back to the state, not Punjabis but others. In contrast, there are hardly any Hindus in West Punjab. This is what makes India different despite all the onslaughts of Hindutva. Non-Muslims would have stayed back in Pakistan if Mohammad Ali Jinnah's reinterpretation of the two-nation theory had been carried out.
Its ethos became secularism, not religion. He said that Muslims ceased to be Muslims and Hindus ceased to be Hindus; they were either Pakistanis or Indians.
Mahatma Gandhi, in turn, declared that he would live in Pakistan and seek no visa to enter. Gandhi was shot dead by the extremists and Jinnah was abandoned by similar elements and left dying as a disillusioned man.
Both leaders who were at the helm of political affairs then did not envisage that the minorities would have to quit because of their religion in the country to which they belonged. Both were dejected when the migration began.
I recall the talk I had with Jinnah in 1946 when he addressed the Law College at Lahore. I was then in the final year. I asked him what would happen in the subcontinent after the departure of the British because the hatred between Hindus and Muslims had reached a boiling point.
He said: "Some nations have killed millions of each others and yet an enemy of today is a friend of tomorrow."
That is history. Look at France and Germany which have fought each other for hundreds of years. I wish that had come true in the subcontinent.
We have fought three and a half wars and killed thousands. Retired military officers who came here and some of ours who went there were then in the forefront. The problem between the two countries has got more aggravated over the years.
Fires of prejudice
What was once a Hindu-Muslim hiatus has now become the confrontation between India and Pakistan which is laced with nuclear missiles. Partition has failed to solve the basic problem of communal bias.
I see the same fires of prejudice burning in the two countries. Misinformation, misunderstanding or misinterpretation of religion is grist to the hatred mill which is working all the time.
The common man wants to bury the hatchet while keeping his identity intact. But fundamentalists on either side sabotage even the most altruistic initiative to span the distance between the two.
It is strange that the Pakistan government should want to take credit for its campaign against prejudice when the history it teaches in schools and colleges is partisan and begins with the advent of Muslim rule in India.
What about the civilisation of Mohenjodaro and Taxila? They do not figure anywhere because they are related to Hinduism. This is how bias is sown. Revising history books should be one step to judge how serious President General Pervez Musharraf is about fostering secularism and Jinnah's legacy.
People-to-people contact has busted the walls of prejudice and suspicion to some extent. Religious parties wield great influence and they run state governments in the North Western Frontier Province on their own and in Baluchistan with the support of Musharraf.
Even otherwise, he has a close understanding with the religious elements which first approved of his presidency and now give empty threats that they will not tolerate his uniform beyond December 31.
The process of people meeting from the different fields in India and Pakistan has diluted religious fanaticism. But when Musharraf says: "I am giving bilateralism a final chance in Kashmir" and when Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh declares "all is not well", the atmosphere becomes heavy.
It means that the two governments are beginning to build a case to restrict the contact.
This necessitates the implementation of decisions reached on some of the confidence building measures. Another round of composite talks that has begun now should see to it. Kashmir is a symptom. The disease is bias.
Our priority should be to establish secularism on both sides. India has been lucky because leaders even after Nehru made no compromise with communalism.
The BJP which did was ousted lock, stock and barrel. In Pakistan no leader after Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan has pursued secularism. The result is that ideologically the two countries stand poles apart.
Musharraf says he is fighting fundamentalists. But he is also seeking their assistance for political purposes. His other problem is the jihadi elements in the military. In truth, fundamentalists in both the countries are vitiating the atmosphere and stoking the fires of prejudice. The eruption in India is met with eruption in Pakistan.
The demolition of Babri masjid is one example. What happened in its wake in Pakistan was equally vindictive when practically all the Hindu temples were damaged in retaliation.
Relations between New Delhi and Islamabad will not improve until fundamentalists are out of the reckoning. If Kashmir is the be-all and end-all for Pakistan, it can be solved only up to the point which has the support of the BJP.
True, former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee deserves all the credit for having set the ball rolling in January this year. Yet how far he would have conceded to Pakistan would never be known. The Manmohan Singh government, I am sure, must be keeping the BJP in the picture behind the scenes. But the stage of assessing how far it is willing to concede on Kashmir is yet to come.
What people on both sides should meanwhile do is to deepen contacts at every level so as to make it difficult for the governments to impose restrictions even when they want to. People should not be dependent on their whims.
In fact, they should be debating the South Asian economic zone, from Afghanistan to Myanmar, to push relations beyond nationalities, borders and religions. It is a pity that the persons who rule the region are pygmies, not visionaries.
The Pugwash Conference on Science and World
Affairs has recently concluded a meeting in
Kathmandu that brought together experts from
India, Pakistan, the United States and some other
countries. Even more significantly it had some
leaders and analysts from the two sides of
Kashmir - Azad Kashmir and Indian-Held Kashmir.
This was a milestone conference for many reasons.
The stimulus for Pugwash came from a Manifesto
issued in 1955 by eminent scientist Albert
Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell. The
manifesto "called upon scientists of all
political persuasions to assemble to discuss the
threat posed to civilisation by the advent of
thermonuclear weapons". The forum got its name
from Pugwash, a small village in Nova Scotia in
Canada, birthplace of the American philanthropist
Cyrus Eaton, who hosted the first meeting. Since
that day, Pugwash has expanded to cover various
areas of security and conflict resolution. It
brings together, "from around the world,
influential scholars and public figures concerned
with reducing the danger of armed conflict and
seeking cooperative solutions for global
During the Cold War, Pugwash provided a forum to antagonists on both sides of the East-West divide to talk to each other candidly in private. This is why Pugwash meetings work on the principle of non-reporting. While the Einstein-Russell Manifesto sets the ideal goal, much of Pugwash's success - for instance, in relation to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons - was owed to its policy-oriented approach. In 1995, it got the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of the work it had done towards non-proliferation and arms control.
For the last four years, Pugwash has also been involved in reducing the risk of war between India and Pakistan - following the nuclearisation of the two countries - and has recently also joined efforts to try and work out a solution to the Kashmir problem. The Kathmandu conference was a follow-up on at least two earlier conferences in Geneva and New Delhi. However, this was the first time it managed to bring together leaders and opinion makers from both sides of the Line of Control.
What is good is the fact that the meeting was facilitated by the governments of India and Pakistan, though there were anxious moments when bureaucrats on both sides tried to throw a spanner in the works. Pugwash was also a little concerned about some press coverage in the run-up to the conference, some of which hinted at its (Pugwash) being part of the American efforts to work out a solution. That is wrong, as Pugwash was at pains to point out. It simply provides a forum for frank and candid exchange of ideas which, most would agree, is important as part of ongoing efforts to improve the atmospherics between India and Pakistan and keep the normalisation process on the rails. Additionally, this particular meeting proved significant because of the interface between Kashmiri leadership from AJK and IHK. It has been a longstanding demand of Pakistan as well as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference that Kashmiris on both sides should be allowed to meet and work out a joint strategy. Therefore, it makes eminent sense for Pakistan to support all initiatives, whether official or unofficial, which seek to do just that.
Given that the UN resolutions on Kashmir have become mostly moribund in the backdrop of India's refusal to accept them, it is important to come up with creative solutions. Also, no solution of Kashmir is likely to stick unless it is generally acceptable to the majority of Kashmiris. This is also the official position of Pakistan and General Pervez Musharraf has reiterated it consistently. A good upshot of the recent meeting has been the committees set up to intensify contacts between leaders on both sides and provide them the space to flesh out ideas discussed at the Kathmandu meeting. That is why this development should be welcomed by India and Pakistan. Both can use the Kashmiris to climb down from their maximalist positions without losing face.
Apart from people-to-people contacts, there is
need for internal dialogue to resolve the Kashmir
Pugwash, a US-based think tank recently organised an intra-Kashmir dialogue between leaders of the Indian and Pakistani parts of state, "to resolve the Kashmir issue", at Kathmandu. The nearly 60 participants included not only politicians, academicians and journalists belonging to the two sides but also former generals and diplomats of India and Pakistan.
Personal level contacts and dialogue are certainly a better substitute for violence. To the extent that the Kathmandu conference creates an atmosphere for peace and amity between the two countries, it should be welcomed as should all other avenues of people-to-people contacts and Track II diplomacy. But if it creates expectations, as claimed by the organisers, that it would seek a solution of the problem, and if these expectations are not fulfilled, a backlash cannot be ruled out.
As none of the participants had authority on behalf of their constituencies or governments, they did not deviate from their formal positions. But an opportunity to know, first-hand, the views from the other side, might be a gain.
If it had been a meet of intellectuals and experts, they could have exchanged their knowledge and views and even prepared a road map for various stages that have to be covered before the final solution is attempted. But if politicians had also joined them, it would have been difficult to avoid a controversy over their representative character. Senior leaders of some of the parties, though invited, chose not to go to Kathmandu. They include Ali Shah Gilani, Yasin Malik, Mehbooba Mufi, Omar Farooq and Yusuf Tarigami. No representative of the Congress party and of the Ladakh region, nor of the Gujar and Pahari communities, was invited.
Would any concrete decision of the conference - apart from pious sentiments of mutual goodwill if at all reached - be acceptable to these absentees? It would be far better to persuade the two governments to allow the leaders and people on both sides of the LoC to visit the other side, interact with the persons of their choice and be acquainted with the realities on the ground, subject, of course, to the security concerns of the two governments. On return, they could discuss their impressions with their colleagues and if they like with their governments.
Internal dialogue needed
Again, this will not, in itself, obviate the necessity of internal dialogue. No two parties in Kashmir valley, at present, are on speaking terms with each other.
The Hurriyat which at one time claimed and was recognised by international media and foreign governments, as the sole representative of the people of the entire, or at any rate of the separatist camp, is split in at least four parts. The relations between what are called the mainstream parties, viz the ruling party, PDP, and the main opposition, the National Conference, are no better.
Much more serious damage that international conferences to find a solution for the Kashmir issue do, is to the internal coherence of the state. As external relations of the state become paramount, regions and communities will have a tendency to be pulled toward divergent directions.
Unless internal harmony between the aspirations and interests of all the diversities with which the state is endowed, is restored, the state cannot aspire for a stable and satisfactory status.
The only other alternative is to split the state, which inevitably would tend to be on religious lines. Can the state, India and the subcontinent afford another division on religious lines?
Any solution - merger with Pakistan, independence, status quo or autonomy of the state - in the absence of a systemic changes in the present over-centralised state, would be wrecked. It would further accentuate internal tensions and divisions. The Delhi Agreement in 1952, on the autonomy of the state, with the overwhelming popular support of the people of the Kashmir valley, it may be recalled, was wrecked, not by the government of India, but by a massive opposition to it by the people of Jammu, who were afraid that more autonomy to the state would increase the capacity of Kashmiri leaders to dominate over them.
Would any other solution like still greater autonomy or independence work if it does not provide for credible safeguards for Jammu and Ladakh? In 1952, my suggestion for regional autonomy to ensure such safeguards was accepted by Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. But somehow it was never implemented.
Again, the J&K state People's Convention, convened by Sheikh Abdullah in 1968 and attended by each and every section of the Kashmir valley, adopted a resolution to seek a solution of the problem which kept in view the interests of all the regions. It offered to settle terms with either of the two governments, to implement a five-tier internal constitution of the state, which would define the distribution of powers at the state, region, district, block and panchayat levels.
If a dialogue is started and a consensus is reached within the Indian part of the state on the basis of the commitment of Nehru and Abdullah in 1952 and of the People's Convention or any modification thereof, it would be easier to initiate a dialogue on the external status of the state, with leaders across the LoC and the governments of the two countries. For there would then be a better appreciation by each community and region, of the aspirations of the others.
[Karachi December 17, 2004]
Yet another opportunity has been missed: Two groups of Indo-Pakistani officials met in Islamabad last week and failed to agree on anything except to continue talking. One group discussed CBMs (confidence building measures) and the possibility of strategic stability; the second discussed Sir Creek. This was a part of second round of composite dialogue, the first having ended in fiasco. It too appears to be going nowhere.
A dialogue by bureaucracies can make no political deviation or concession; they are bound by earlier decisions of their governments. A secretary can only reiterate the laid down position. At best, these officers can better define the differences for politicians to decide whether they should alter their basic positions.
It means that only Ministerial level discussions are indicated. Not that Foreign Ministers will necessarily succeed. They too may not find it easy to make serious concessions. Proper forum for actual give and take on sensitive matters can be Summits. But Summits require elaborate preparations; a lot of hard work goes into them, not all of it by bureaucracies. Public opinion in both countries will have to play a crucial part in creating the political will necessary for substantive mutual accommodation on sensitive matters.
There is a certain credibility deficit: Persistent assertions in America about its facilitation between India and Pakistan for these talks suggest that both sides do not have their heart in the negotiations. They are going through the motions of negotiating in deference to American wishes. Whether or not this is true in India's case, Pakistan has been under American pressure to stop insurgents going into Indian-controlled Kashmir. The US wants a modus vivendi in the Subcontinent to prevent another 2002 like confrontation. Anyway, both countries are strategic allies of America and it has expectations from both. Which is why it is cooperating with both.
But the issue of war and peace between India and Pakistan is primarily a concern of their peoples. Even if the Americans are knocking the heads together, peace, friendship and cooperation between the Indians and Pakistanis constitute a noble aim. The fact that the American are nudging the two sides toward the negotiating table does not mean that the Indo-Pakistan negotiations should not discontinue. This aim should be pursued resolutely and in good faith for its own sake.
That underlines the nub of the matter: what do the ruling elites of the two countries actually aim at and where their domestic preferences are likely to take their countries. Factually, the aims of the two are mutually incompatible. Which is why their officials are unable to agree even on things that are mutually beneficial. Factually the Indian political class is pursuing the objective of being recognized as a great power, with a veto-wielding permanent seat in the UN Security Council. India is therefore acquiring military means of projecting power and has gone a fairly long way toward the objective.
In contrast, Pakistan has viewed this as a threat to itself. Actually Pakistan is a national security state par excellence. It has subordinated everything else to what it conceives to be national security. Pakistani rulers' perceptions are based on the belief that Indian intentions are inimical. While India projects its great power role over large stretches of Asia, they see the net effect of its military build up is to radically threaten Pakistan. That perception has impelled Islamabad to counter India's overwhelming superiority in conventional armaments by an ever-growing reliance on nuclear weapons in addition to some modernization of conventional weapons.
Now nuclear weapons confound everything, producing profound uncertainty and instability in the region. For obscure reasons the Indian government decided in May '98 to test-explode five nuclear weapons. Pakistan felt compelled to follow suit and has created a nuclear deterrent against India. Nuclear weapons are a de-estabilising factor anywhere. They are far more so in the densely populated South Asia where attack time ranges between three to six minutes. In this duration no government can react meaningfully on a matter of highest importance. That forces both countries to remain on permanent high alert. That totally destroys trust between each other.
Nuclear weapons' mischief is enhanced by the reason of their birth. They issue from Kashmir dispute - clearly so in the case of Pakistan while the reasons for India going nuclear remain a mystery. But a Pakistani is not best suited to explore why Indians chose to become a nuclear power. Perhaps their quest for greatness made them acquire nuclear capability. But no matter what the Indians think or aim at, Islamabad believes that the Indian nuclear weapons are primarily aimed at Pakistan and can be fired the minute India so decides. That perception leads to counteraction in kind: Pakistan has to keep its nuclear deterrent in much the same state as India does. This results in an unending arms race for improving and increasing the number of nuclear weapons and constantly adapting their missiles to match the improved weapon designs and sizes. This creates a quasi-war atmosphere. The two sides have virtually been in this twilights zone ever since May '98. What chance do the peacemaking efforts have of succeeding?
Bomb-loving notables of both sides had advocated in earlier 1990s that nuclear weapons would reduce the need for high levels of conventional forces and the Bomb provides security on the cheap. They actually shortchanged us. The famous Neemrana Group made these virtual promises. The two governments bought them. The idea of peace and stability at smaller economic costs turned out to be a fraud; the two countries are not only updating the nuclear deterrent all the time, at great cost, they are also hectically accumulating conventional military hardware at ruinous prices.
A subject like Siachin Glacier on which there was an initialed agreement hangs fire. During the current goodwill based solely on popular expectations the two can easily revive it to mutual advantage. There is Sir Creek where what is required is determining approximately 10 kms of sea frontier. Any basis for agreement on it would be beneficial to both. The recurring sight of two para-militaries flexing muscles to catch poor fishermen is silly. Pakistan arrests 45 poor fishermen accused of poaching in Pakistani waters. Somehow Indians quickly find 55 illiterate Pakistani fishermen poaching in Indian waters. These wretches rot in each other's jail for extended periods and are released after elaborate negotiations. Commonsense and decency can prevent this farcical tragedy.
There are proposals such as a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad or the Monabao-Khokhrapar railway link. If giving relief to the people was intended the two countries should have agreed quickly. Indian government announced not too many months ago a unilateral decision, permitting certain categories of Pakistanis to obtain multiple visit visas easily and for the whole country. It has not been implemented. Perhaps Pakistan refused to make a matching decision. If so where is the unilateral part.
Kashmir is a major subject. But second is perhaps the biggest hurdle to friendly relations, though unrecognized; this is nuclear weapons in the two arsenals. The last one is not even perceived as the biggest hurdle to normal friendly relations.
But trade is mutually beneficial. Since Pakistan government has few cards up its sleeve, it has converted trade and people-to-people contacts into levers to apply on India. It is less than wise; it hurts Pakistan equally, if not more.
NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 15: EXTERNAL Affairs Minister Natwar Singh has
virtually expressed regret over India's current nuclear status. Speaking
to the Korea times daily, he also called upon the two Koreas not to
emulate India's example in becoming a nuclear power. Singh, in the
interview, sought to shift the entire blame for events leading up to the
1998 Shakti series of tests on the NDA Government and its nuclear
stand-off with Pakistan, reported PTI from Seoul. In doing so, he not only
seemed to be going against his own government's stated stand, but also
appeared to be denying the role that various Congress leaders had played
in India's nuclear journey. After appearing to blame the NDA Government on
a visit to Seoul, Singh reportedly tqld the newspaper: "But regret would
be fu-tile...you can't put it back in the tube, it's out." Even the
highest levels of government were taken aback at the Foreign Minister's
views on the sensitive nuclear issue."What can I say...it is his personal
view," said a senior official.
The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace
(CNDP), India, is greatly disappointed at the
failure of the recent official talks between
India and Pakistan to come up with meaningful
nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs).
Although these are no substitute for nuclear
disarmament they can, when intelligently
conceived and sensibly applied, make matters less
unsafe. However, such CBMs are not likely to
emerge when both governments continue buying and
producing more conventional armaments thereby
raising bilateral tensions and mistrust. Nor are
matters helped through false reassurances about
Kashmir no longer being a "nuclear flashpoint"
when serious steps towards resolving the issue
New Delhi and Islamabad seem to lack the vision and commitment to bring about such desired nuclear CBMs. The CNDP calls on both governments to rapidly move towards:
1) Separating warheads from all delivery systems and making such procedures transparent and verifiable.
2) Establishing on both sides of the border a zone of non-deployment of nuclear capable delivery systems.
3) A permanent bilateral test ban pact.
4) Establishing joint teams of Indian and Pakistani scientific personnel to periodically visit nuclear-related facilities in both countries.
J. Sri Raman
Although it would be premature to pronounce a negative judgment on it
yet, the India-Pakistan dialogue is running into a number of
roadblocks and probably a phase of stagnation. The two governments
have made little progress on the worthy 14 month-old proposal to
launch a bus service between the two capitals of divided Kashmir.
They also remain stuck in a conservative groove while discussing
nuclear and conventional military confidence-building measures
(CBMs), which will reduce the threat of a conflict in this volatile,
now-nuclearised, region. While the hitch on the first issue concerns
the nature of the documents to be carried, the talks on the second
are marred by a lack of will to take the bold steps that are
necessary in the South Asian context.
Beyond a point, it is immaterial if the blame for this stagnation lies with Pakistan or India. Each has its own special concerns, compulsions, preoccupations and anxieties. At the end of a year, after they agreed to re-start their first serious dialogue since the nuclear tests of 1998, what matters is whether they have addressed these or failed to do so. Unless the dialogue leads to results, India and Pakistan will fail in the eyes of the world.
Even worse, each of the two has launched a huge arms-buying spree. India is acquiring sophisticated air defence systems, new submarines from France and Russia (including a nuclear-powered submarine), the Patriot range of US anti-missile missiles, as well as new warplanes and an air-defence ship. It is now among the world's three largest arms importers. Pakistan is buying more P-3C Orion maritime surveillance-cum-submarine-hunter aircraft, Phalanx rapid-fire guns, and TOW missiles, etc.-worth a $1.2 billion from the US alone.
Washington is encouraging both to acquire new, ever-deadlier weapons. Indeed, selling such weaponry to them was the principal function of US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld's recent India-Pakistan visit. This has created rancour and resentment in both our capitals. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee protests against the US argument that the weapon sales to Pakistan are meant "to contain terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Taliban ... Nobody uses F-16 fighter planes and other weapons meant for big wars to fight terrorists". He even warns that the sales could "jeopardise the peace process". Pakistan retorts that India is "paranoid" about Islamabad's arms acquisition. This is only meant to "restore symmetry and bring stability to the region" by filling up "the gap that emerged during the '90s due to US sanctions..."
Mukherjee is right to say that weapons like the Orion and F-16 or anti-tank missiles are meant "for big wars and not to fight terrorism". But that's hardly the point. The new deadly toys are a reward for Pakistan's invaluable assistance to the US in fighting al-Qaeda in and around Afghanistan. Similarly, Washington has rewarded India for its "strategic partnership": first by approving the sale of the US-Israeli "Green Pine" radar and the associated air defence system, and then by offering top-of-the-range weapons such as the Patriot-II missile interceptor, as well as other conventional materiel.
Two transformations are visible here. During the Cold War, particularly between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s, and then in the 1980s, the India-Pakistan arms race was fuelled by rival powers: respectively, the USSR and the US. Today, the same power drives the race: the US. India and Pakistan both vie for its attention and favours. In the process, both sustain, and in the long run intensify, their rivalry.
Second, the US is far from even-handed. In one phase, it tilts towards Pakistan; in another, towards India. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, it offered F-16s to Pakistan on an exclusive basis, but in the early 1990s, imposed restrictions under the Pressler Amendment, etc. After 2000, it suddenly warmed up to India and offered "strategic partnership" plus a role in Ballistic Missile Defence. Then a few months ago, suddenly, it designated Pakistan a Major non-Nato Ally. For all its rhetoric about India's great power "potential" and its democracy, the US does not support India's candidature for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
Now Washington is dangling different carrots before the two states. President Bush has again described Pakistan as a "frontline state" against terrorism and called Pervez Musharraf "a world leader". Washington is equally effusive when describing India as an "emerging power, a regional power and a world power with which we want a growing relationship".
Washington practises double standards based on short-term considerations. India and Pakistan realise and resent this. Regrettably, they have both fallen a victim to it. All this would be relatively unimportant if it did not have strategic consequences. But the India-Pakistan rivalry is aggravated by Washington's policies and moves. In particular, these can vitiate the present climate and put a spoke in the peace process.
It is not just hypocritical, but downright foolhardy, for Washington both to supply new weapons to India and Pakistan and then expect them to negotiate an authentic peace. The logic of the first process-escalation of military preparations, and increased hostility-is sharply different from the logic of dialogue, reconciliation and peace.
It is even more unrealistic and foolish of India and Pakistan to imagine they can continue to arm themselves to the teeth against each other and thus make themselves insecure, and at the same time, hope to become secure. The hawks told us this would happen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s-through the conventional route. It didn't. The sale of F-16s to Pakistan probably featured on the front pages of Indian newspapers on an average of 200 days out of 365 days in the year in the 1980s as a major bone of contention. But the contention didn't end when the planes' spares stopped reaching Pakistan. Then, said our Right wing "experts", nuclear weapons would provide "strategic balance" and stability. They didn't. India and Pakistan went to war within a year of their nuclear tests!
India and Pakistan have tried to talk peace without taking their foot off the nuclear accelerator or even stopping the conventional arms race. This too suits the hawks' prescription, based on the utmost cynicism. For instance, Indian ultraconservatives believe that the US's "coddling" of Pakistan to the point of it becoming, as one of them puts it, a US "protectorate", is a good thing. It will keep Pakistan on its "best behaviour"; by contrast, "whenever American interest flagged... [the] Pakistanis have run riot". Besides, US military sales to Islamabad will help New Delhi demand "parity"-new, yet more lethal weapons, in keeping with India's "emerging" position.
This logic is fatally flawed: seeking "balance" through arms sales will lead to the creation and widening of existing imbalances. These imbalances in turn furnish an argument for "balance" through yet more tilting of the sales. A tilt in one direction, followed by a tilt in the other, violates the interests of fairness - and peace. If you want peace, you must wage peace, not war. It would be suicidal for India (and Pakistan) to forget this great lesson of the 20th century.
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