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


The Daily Star (Bangladesh), 22 October 2001

Counter-terrorism: War as a communal weapon

Praful Bidwai writes from New Delhi

The parivar's equation of Islam and terrorism is insane. A dozen punitive attacks on "terrorist" camps won't wipe out Kashmir's militancy, whose sources are largely domestic. There is no military shortcut to addressing Kashmiri aspirations for democracy, autonomy, justice and peace... India and Pakistan can't have a conventional conflict without risking a nuclear conflagration. Kashmir may be a bilateral issue. But nuclear dangers concern the whole world.
The government could not have hurt democracy and insulted the public more grievously than it did by reappointing Mr George Fernandes as Defence Minister. It has compounded the offence by swearing in Mr Harin Pathak, charged with murder, as Mr Fernandes' junior.
Mr Fernandes quit the Cabinet after Tehelka convincingly exposed serious corruption in arms deals. It also showed his official residence was used to negotiate sleazy contracts.
The original reasons for Mr Fernandes' resignation remain valid. The Venkataswami commission has upheld the authenticity of Tehelka's videotapes.
In democracies, ministers are not meant to wait till their wrong-doing is legally established. The criterion of innocent-until-proved-guilty applies to criminals. Politicians must accept constructive responsibility for wrong-doing in their ministries.
Thus, railway ministers must resign following a serious mishapnot because they personally tamper with fishplates, but because they fail to manage the railways safely with sound procedures. Mature democracies respect constructive responsibility.
A good example is Peter Mandelson's resignation from the Blair cabinet for his indirect role in helping the Hinduja brothers. In India too, C.D. Deshmukh and T.T. Krishnamachary resigned from the Nehru cabinet, accepting responsibility. More recently, Madhavrao Scindia resigned for similar, commendable, reasons.
Constructive responsibility is not some unattainable noble standard, but a basic democratic convention. Such conventions demarcate democracies from banana republics and dictatorships.
The Vajpayee government has contempt for such conventions. It has reduced democracy to a cynical calculus of numbers. Mr Pathak can now strut about giving orders to generalsalthough there is a well-supported case against him of murdering a policeman in uniform during a communal riot.
This is wholesale re-writing of the ground-rules of democracy. In principle, this is indistinguishable from the way Indira Gandhi amended the election law after a High Court held her guilty of electoral malpractice to exempt herself from the law's scope.
Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee is personally responsible for this new assault on democratic sensibilities. It is he who re-inducted Mr Fernandes, claiming there is "no case"despite Section 8-B of the Commissions of Inquiry Act.
Mr Vajpayee brought back Mr Fernandes for three reasons. He was making a nuisance of himself, something the NDA can't afford with elections due in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Secondly, RSS hardliners became increasingly uncomfortable with Mr Jaswant Singh's holding of the Defence portfolio when war broke out in Afghanistan. They think Mr Singh is too soft on the US. The RSS lobbied heavily for Mr Fernandes, exploiting its re-established proximity to Mr Vajpayee.
This again belies the claim that Mr Vajpayee is a "liberal".
The third reason is worse: the BJP plans to up the ante and embark on a military misadventure in Kashmir through Mr Fernandes. Beating war drums could be its sole chance of not losing heavily in UP.
There is pressing evidence for this. The army's "punitive" raids of October 14-15 were timed to coincide with Mr Colin Powell's visit. They were this misadventure's first instalment.
Evidently, the government, frustrated at the attention Pakistan is receiving as America's "frontline" ally, wants to use today's anti-"terrorist" climate to attack the Kashmiri militants through "hot pursuit" and "pro-active" manoeuvres in the Valley.
According to officials, the government reckons it could pull this off without inviting serious reprimand from the US. Right now, the US, it believes, is far too preoccupied with bin Laden to want to restrain New Delhi unless Indian troops cross the LoC.
This might be the BJP-RSS's best chance to stir things up in Kashmir and score points against Pakistan.
A "proactive" stance could at least give the BJP an opportunity to politicise the "war against terrorism", whip up bellicose Hindu-nationalist sentiment, and win the make-or-break UP election. According to the latest Lokmat poll, the party stands to win just 102 seats (of a total of 403).
This diabolical military plan is in keeping with the sangh parivar's handling of terrorism. That approach depicts Islam as a militant, war-like, pro-terrorist religion. Thus, sarsanghachalak Sudarshan says that all Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims. He is thoroughly wrong.
The sangh approach separates terrorism's context from what's happening in Palestine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and many Muslim-majority countries. Here, US policy is a critical factor in the repression and dispossession of people who happen to be Muslim.
It is because Israel and Saudi Arabia are America's strongest Middle Eastern allies, and because the US has rained destruction on Iraq, that tendencies like Al-Qaeda find fringe support.
Many people can't make you-are-with-us-or-against-us choices about this war. Lakhs [1 lakh = 100000] have marched against it in "Catholic" Italy, "Protestant" America, "Hindu" India and "Buddhist" Korea.
The parivar's equation of Islam and terrorism is insane. A dozen punitive attacks on "terrorist" camps won't wipe out Kashmir's militancy, whose sources are largely domestic. There is no military shortcut to addressing Kashmiri aspirations for democracy, autonomy, justice and peace.
India and Pakistan can't have a conventional conflict without risking a nuclear conflagration. Starting such a conflict through "pro-active" operations spells trouble. Kashmir may be a bilateral issue. But nuclear dangers are not. They concern the whole world.
Finally, the people of India, in particular UP, are not so senseless as to be taken in by the BJP's military ploy. The Afghanistan war is far from popular. It has already caused 300 civilian non-combatants' deaths.
The war could soon degenerate into butchery. That would be extremely unpopular in India.
Demagogues like Mr Fernandes don't sound convincing when they paint China/Pakistan or "cross-border terrorism" as the greatest danger to Indian security and unity, when the real danger is internal. The VHP's October 17 storming of the Ayodhya "temple" shows that.
Mr Vajpayee has to his shame called the episode a "security lapse". As in Kashmir, so in Ayodhyaand with the Lucknow Vidhan Sabha on their mindsVajpayee & Co are playing with fire.
Praful Bidwai is an eminent Indian columnist.


[22 October 2001]

Current Crisis and Pakistan: Alternative Thinking

by Dr. Iftikhar H. Malik

Pakistan's decision to join the Anglo-American alliance intent upon undertaking military strikes against Afghanistan was perceived as a rather less undesirable choice than staying neutral or taking an altogether antagonistic stance against a revengeful power seeking blood. The Indian enthusiasm to offer bases and unfettered support hastened Pakistani decision though the New Delhi's move might have been geared to put Islamabad into a more awkward position {age-old India-Pakistan conspiracy cliché!). Following a BBC World Service interview soon after the New York tragedy, Dilip Hiro, a fellow commentator on Muslim affairs, hated to be in Musharraff's position of being put between the devil and the deep sea. My own view was that Musharraff had been arm twisted though the short-term military and economic gains were seen weighing heavily against long-term socio-ideological cost that might further fragment Pakistan's precarious ethnic pluralism. Pakistani elite were quite ebullient on Colin Powell's apparent support on disallowing the Northern Alliance a de-facto role in the future dispensation. The US Secretary of State's rather routine reference to Kashmir dispute as "the central issue" dividing the two neighbour further placated their worries while upping India's denunciatory antenna. Given the fluidity and volatility of the situation so close to Pakistan and the various spillover affects, Pakistan soon found itself in a dilemmic situation. The latent American insistence on prolonging the bombing campaign, involvement of the ground troops and, most worrying of all, a rekindled support for the Northern Alliance, in the wake of more militarist attitude from New Delhi seem, to have dampened the erstwhile buoyancy. Irrespective of Powell-Rice rift, Pakistan must steer a cautious course and simultaneously should begin some soul-searching.
There are three or four major dimensions to Pakistan's front-line role in the current crisis, which need country's urgent attention. Firstly, it must be accepted by the ruling elite, especially the generals and their supporters that an immensely plural country like Pakistan cannot and should not be left to the whims of its intelligence agencies. Time and again we have seen that the four acronymic challenges to Pakistan--Karachi, Kabul, Kashmir and Kalashnikov culture-owe their intensity, to a great extent, to the intelligence agencies framing and implementing narrowly defined policies more often averse to the larger national interests. The encouragement to certain ethnic outfits in Sindh, Jihadi groups and the Taleban all have brought Pakistan and Afghanistan to this multiple catastrophe. The people are demoralised; economy is in tatters; the Afghans of all shades of opinion and ethnic stock hate Pakistan; thousands of innocent lives in Pakistan not to speak of the unaudited material and natural resources expended in the last 23 years on the western front all have gone in smoke. These intelligence outfits unilaterally created monsters to appease their masters over and above national prerogatives; armed and financed them, and now their weapons are trained on innocent Pakistanis and Afghans. The precious money has gone on those weapons, which are now being targeted by the Americans and consequently the innocent Afghan lives being wasted. Fair enough, the CIA, other intelligence agencies and the regional contenders all have equally contributed to buzkashi in Afghanistan.The Pakistani youths are being killed in droves in the name of Jihad while the only major port and the financial capital staggers through the numerous crisis, hartals, sectarian killings and chaos. How could Islamabad's spoofs justify to their people and the wretched Afghans that after creating and prompting Taleban, now they are earnestly eliminating them? One sees the blood and hard earned money of the poor fellow Pakistanis going up in flames in Afghanistan with every American bomb the way every Indian strike in Kashmir further impoverishes this entire poor region. The sectarian conflict, another legacy of General Zia's military rule, itself flourished on the back of intelligence outfits.
Secondly, it is important to note that the military and mullahs-both professional in their own way-are not the ideal functionaries to run any forward-looking society especially Pakistan, which was enshrined in the Jinnahist vision of tolerance and equal citizenry. The only positive result of this current military campaign may be the overdue break-up of that nefarious nexus though one has to apprehensive of the resumption of the nexus once the smokes have receded. Pakistan's overwhelming Muslim credentials should not allow mullahs to hijack the agenda the way Islam must not be seen merely a religion of few assorted rituals. On the contrary, it is a global civilisation incorporative of human rights, egalitarianism, arts, philosophy and enlightenment. While one shares the anguish of the innocent Afghans in suffering due to Talebanisation and others, further compounded by Western hegemonic militarism, one must not forget that it is not just the maulvis who are tragic-stricken. The pacifists and other humanitarian groups across the world including Pakistan and India are decrying the brutal military strikes but our sympathy and resistance to this Western arrogance and others' opportunism must also guard against a secret entry and rehabilitation of the fundamentalists. Equally, Afghanistan's neighbours must all desist from using one ethnic group against the others.
Thirdly and quite significantly, it is not a sheer restatement rather an urgency that Pakistan quickly reverts to a full-throttled and unfettered democratic course. The country must not be further humbled by yet another military take-over and there is a genuine worry that the 11th of September may prolong the generals' night. The elements of corruption and sectarianism spawning law and order situation in the country earlier used as pretexts for the fourth military take-over have failed to deliver; only adhocism remains ascendant. One may, however, see some temporary economic boost due to foreign injections, but in the long run, a few individuals representing a status-qouist pressure group like military, cannot lead the country. The Army's own professionalism, calibre, training and transparency have been time and again seriously compromised and now the holy cow is seriously infected with disease. Basic democracies, indirect elections, partyless politics and restoration of presidential system will simply deepen our governability crisis and if the military generals are patriotic--which I think they are-- then they must rise over and above their sectional biases. The elected politicians must govern the nation. Better politicians will come from amongst the bad politicians and not by thwarting constitution and democratic institutions.
Fourthly, everybody asks: why Taleban? The simple answer other that chaos within the Mujahideen-run Afghanistan in the early 1990s could be the economic adversity and political disempowerment of our neighbours. If Pakistan follows the same course, its Talebanisation could also be on the cards. Other than being a politico-economic malaise fundamentalism grows on the debris of a country's educational system. Excepting an elitist school system serving a very thin class of `God chosen' let us accept the total debilitation of our state-led educational system with madrassas filling in the vacuum and by offering a reductionist version of Islam. We can restore our educational system and other areas of hitherto ignored development sector only if we redefine security in reference to our strictly domestic prerogatives rather than in terms of troops, tank and targets. India is not going to relent on Kashmir nor can we afford two full-length, full-time war zones. We have lost our case in Afghanistan despite all the sacrifices thanks to our hotheads, and in the case of Kashmir we urgently need to assume some alternative strategy. We must engage this huge and rather insensitive neighbour in an economic dependency relationship, which will make it difficult for her to destabilise us. We have tried military and geopolitical strategies for so long; let us give peace a chance and let the economic forces tame this bullying elephant. India is provoking us on Kashmir since it knows that our friends in London and Washington have no desire and will to embroil themselves in our regional mess. They simply want to score a quick victory at the express expense of poor Afghans-the third world's non-white, impoverished, `uncivilised mobs'-to appease their cannibalistic ogres. Let us not expect too much from such time serving allies; rather initiate a new beginning focusing on peace, democracy and development. Our own house needs to be in order before we may further destroy ourselves worrying for the entire cosmos around us.


The New York Times, October 21, 2001

Can War Bring Peace to Kashmir?


LAHORE, Pakistan
If the United States is serious about removing the sources of anti-American terrorism, then at some stage Washington will have to tackle the conflict in Kashmir. At present this is the last thing American officials want to do. They have enough on their plate in Afghanistan. But as Secretary of State Colin Powell's experiences in Islamabad and New Delhi illustrated, the Kashmir dispute has the potential both to infuriate India and to weaken the regime of our Pakistani ally, President Pervez Musharraf.
A strong behind-the-scenes American diplomatic initiative needs to begin now, because the context created by the campaign in Afghanistan offers unique opportunities, as well as great dangers, in India and Pakistan. One of the chief dangers is presented by the Jaish-e-Muhammad, the leading Islamist force active in Kashmir. It has been labeled a terrorist organization by Washington and faces a probable sharp reduction in Pakistani support. This means it has little to lose - and the Jaish-e-Muhammad has indeed threatened a terror campaign not just in Kashmir but across India.
This could incite both communal strife within India and even harsher Indian repression in Kashmir, thereby contributing to radical Islamist unrest in Pakistan. It could also lead to renewed fighting between India and Pakistan across the line of control that divides their respective Kashmirs, as shown in recent days by heavy Indian bombardments.
The opportunities are provided by the sea change that has taken place in Pakistani policies as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks and President Musharraf's decision to support the American campaign in Afghanistan. For the first time, there is a real willingness among leaders of the Pakistani state and army to cut back or end support for the Islamist elements based in Pakistan who fight in Kashmir; and for the first time, in private at least, some are willing to concede that Pakistan's entire Kashmir strategy of the past 54 years has proved fruitless, damaging to Pakistan and in need of radical revision. This is really striking, because support for Kashmiri independence from India has been at the core of the Pakistani army's ideology since the army was founded. It presents a chance that we must encourage India and Pakistan to seize.
The struggle against Islamist terrorism makes finding a settlement in Kashmir very important to America's national interest. As long as the conflict there continues, it will suck in terrorist elements from elsewhere in the Muslim world, and these will find sympathy and protection from the Pakistani population and some in the armed forces.
Besides, while the rivalry between India and Pakistan is very damaging to both countries, it is increasingly ruinous to Pakistan. The effort to maintain adequate defenses against a country with seven times Pakistan's population has led to military spending averaging around 30 percent of the budget in recent years, dwarfing the amounts spent on education, health, welfare or infrastructure and severely reducing economic growth. Lack of education also contributes to a level of population growth that is among the highest in Asia and continually nullifies improvements in living standards.
These factors create a real danger that Pakistan could follow Afghanistan into collapse - but on a much larger scale, and with nuclear weapons. Few more menacing scenarios for the growth of Islamist terrorism could be imagined.
If a settlement is to be found to Kashmir, the greatest initial concession has to come from Pakistan. Islamabad must publicly recognize that the greater part of Kashmir will remain under Indian sovereignty, and must drop its demand for the implementation of United Nations resolutions calling for a Kashmiri plebiscite on national status. These resolutions may be justified in principle, but there is simply no way India will accept them. It cannot be forced by Pakistan or anyone else to do so.
In return, New Delhi must drop its pretense that the Kashmir problem is not central to Indo-Pakistani relations and is a purely internal Indian matter in which the world community has no legitimate role. The international terrorist threat, and the possession of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan, have rendered these propositions obviously absurd.
If both countries could get over these initial hurdles, then the way might open for a settlement involving partial demilitarization, open borders, new administrative units and internationally supervised regional elections on both sides of the Indo- Pakistani frontier.
Unfortunately, past experience suggests that the parties are unlikely to get over these hurdles without a lot of help from their friends, and above all from the United States.
Anatol Lieven is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for Inter national Peace.

index, 20 October 2001

The Talibanisation of Kashmiri nationalism

Shabir Choudhry explains why he resents the politicisation of Islam by the jehadis and how they harm the true cause of the Kashmiri people - self-determination

London, October 20

Last year I wrote a series of articles criticising acts of senseless violence that resulted in loss of innocent human life. I tried to differentiate between violence and freedom struggle. I argued that acts of violence, targeting innocent citizens, should not be carried out under the noble name of jehad . The teachings of Islam, and the rules of engagement in jehad , do not allow the killing of innocent people.
At that time, jehadi forces were at a peak, and few people dared to criticise them, fearing reprisals. One might call it imprudence, but I was one of the few who spoke out against them. As a result, I was accused of being anti-jehad , anti-Islam, anti-movement and pro-India. My crime was to oppose "Islamisation" or "Talibanisation" of the Kashmiri struggle for independence. In my view, this changed the character of our freedom struggle, and was not in the best interest of the freedom movement. Our struggle was for a united and independent Kashmir, where all Kashmiris, irrespective of religion or social background, could live in peace and harmony.
Maybe I said these things prematurely, and consequently, I was severely criticised by jehadi groups. There was also criticism forthcoming from within the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), because my articles were causing embarrassment in many quarters. Friends and family advised that I keep a low profile for sometime, for fear of bodily harm.
No doubt Allah is great, and truth always prevails. September 11, and the subsequent international reaction, has changed the attitude of the world to many things, especially towards the use of religion to promote political agenda. This change is also reflected in the writings of Pakistani writers.
Imtiaz Alam, a known columnist of The News notes it like this, "He (President Musharraf) has to be aware of not only extremists, who are preparing for small mutinies and forming a joint front with the Taliban in the frontier regions, in particular, but also those jehadis who have an international agenda and are not loyal to the cause of Kashmiris. Before we go to the UN with a clean chit in 90 days, and before India succeeds in converting the political issue of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris into 'terrorism', we have some time to help the Kashmiri resistance isolate foreign elements who want to defame their liberation movement by targeting civilians and resorting to individual terrorism." (The News , London, October 10)
It is unlikely that Alam would have written this piece before September 11. His assessment - that the presence of non-Kashmiri militants creates the impression that it is not a Kashmiri struggle - is correct. Also, it hands India a propaganda stick - that outside interference is responsible for the problem in Kashmir. It has always been our endeavour that the struggle remains a "Kashmiri" struggle. However, forces beyond our control worked to change the character of the movement. In spite of this, we have done our best to maintain the true face of the movement - one of a Kashmiri struggle for independence.
This aside, the jehadis do not share common cause with the freedom-loving people of Kashmir. We want to determine our future, and once we attain that goal, we would be keen on friendly relations with both India and Pakistan. The jehadis, on the other hand, are working towards hoisting their flag on Red Fort in New Delhi, then on the White House in Washington. The strange thing is that, in their view, the route to New Delhi and Washington goes through Srinagar. In other words, until their mission is accomplished, we must bear the brunt of their actions.
It is said that a freedom fighter is a terrorist if you look at the flipside of the situation. This debate has been going on for decades, and it is unlikely there will ever be a consensus opinion on this terminology. Although there is no agreed definition of a freedom fighter, one can say that a freedom fighter does not wage a war on people. Besides morality, there are also strategic reasons for this rule - a freedom fighter has to earn the goodwill of the people. S/he cannot survive without their sincere support.
The aim of the freedom fighter is to fight against colonial rule, oppression of the State and injustice. The target, therefore, is necessarily non-civilian, and the attempt is to create awareness against the injustice. A terrorist, on the other hand, kills people indiscriminately to achieve his goal, whatever that may be. This policy or strategy of indiscriminate killing clearly distinguishes a terrorist from a freedom fighter. The ruthless actions of terrorists alienate them from the people.
Similarly, some governments also resort to indiscriminate killings of ordinary people in order to generate fear and prevent them from cooperating with freedom fighters. But more often than not, this policy backfires - it generates hate and opposition against the government, as has happened in Kashmir. The gross human rights violations, and there is ample evidence of it, perpetrated by various governments in Kashmir resulted in further alienation and anger. Indian policy planners and officers of the paramilitary forces wrongly assumed that by their heavy-handedness, they would be able to control the situation. Killing of innocent civilians, crackdowns, custodial deaths and imprisonment without trial only served to strengthen the resolve to fight for freedom.
It is high time India and Pakistan realise that they have tried everything - full-scale wars, border clashes, Kargil expedition, Simla, Lahore Declaration and Agra - to settle the Kashmir dispute. The dispute, however, continues, threatening peace and stability of the region. Events in Afghanistan have overshadowed other disputes temporarily, but it must be remembered that the Kashmir dispute and Palestine pose a grave threat to world peace. There could be no peace without resolving these disputes amicably, and according to wishes of the people.
Pakistan and India have clashed over everything since 1947, but strangely have agreed to keep the Kashmiri people away from the negotiating table. This, in spite of the fact that many rounds of bilateral talks have not helped in approaching a solution. This is the first time in the troubled history of India and Pakistan that they are on the same side of the divide, supporting the fight against "international terrorism". That has, though, not inhibited their constant bickering and criticism of each other. There have even been some border clashes, and there is a serious danger it could escalate into a war between them, adding a new dimension to the problems of the region.
Both India and Pakistan need to realise that the international political environment has changed dramatically, resulting in new alignments. In this changed environment, the international community has little or no tolerance for violence, and does not subscribe to any policy that could possibly lead to disputes settled by use of force. It is, therefore, imperative that they learn from their past mistakes, carefully analyse the situation around them, and find a way to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
Even before September 11, there was no military solution to the Kashmir dispute, and this is why I have been urging India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute by a process of dialogue between all the parties to the dispute. It must be remembered that the situation in Kashmir is not a simple law and order problem, as some sections of the Indian establishment think. Nor is it a religious war or problem related to the "two nation" theory, as projected by the Pakistan. It is an issue of the Kashmiri right to self-determination. And any attempts to crush the freedom movement by use of force or to divide the state, would lead to more trouble in the region, and possibly a war.
In its editorial, Kashmir Times advises the Indian government, "New Delhi has not learnt any lesson from its past mistakes, and is looking at the problem of terrorism or violence in Kashmir in isolation and purely as a law and order problem to be dealt with by using of maximum force and repressive measures. Such a policy has proved counter-productive in the past, and the consequences of fighting militancy with use of excessive force in vacuum can be even more disastrous. The violence in Kashmir is not the cause, but the consequence of New Delhi's failure to solve the basic political problem of Kashmir. Stepping up military action, without taking steps to find a solution to the basic Kashmir problem, will only lead to further alienation of the people. Any kind of terrorism has to be eliminated, but more important and crucial in the fight against terrorism is to win the hearts and minds of the estranged people." (Kashmir Times, October 13)
(The author is a JKLF leader, and director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs, London)


Source:, Published on Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Walk Softly in Nuclear South Asia

by Zia Mian

Before September 11, South Asia's problems were legion: over a billion people, most of them desperately poor; a history of war and violent conflicts; rising religious militancy; hard-line Hindu nationalists in power in India, the army in charge in Pakistan; newly tested nuclear weapons and a get-tough mood. Now, it is also the frontline of the US war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. South Asia may not be able to take the strain. The US needs to ensure it does nothing to worsen the many crises in South Asia and that it thinks long-term, not short term, about its policies in the region.
The greatest concern is Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf justified the October 1999 coup that brought him to power by citing the prevailing sense that Pakistan's economy, government, and society were on the verge of collapse. The fall has been swift; about one in three Pakistanis now live below the poverty line, double what it was a decade ago. There have been eight governments in this time. All of them have become wary of setting-off the widespread public resentment and anger at the hopelessness of everyday life. They have struggled to not provide political opportunities to the radical Islamist groups that have emerged and feed off the misery. Too often, they chose to make concessions to radical Islam. The military is in the same fix.
The US bombing campaign against Afghanistan in response to the terrible attacks of September 11 has opened wide the door for Islamist groups, with their history of anti-Americanism and strong ties to the Taliban. They have taken to the streets challenging Musharraf and his decision to support the U.S. The longer the U.S. bombs Afghanistan, the more civilians get killed, the greater the humanitarian and refugee crisis, and the more organized and angry the Islamists' challenge. Musharraf and the army may hold the line, but the Islamists will come out politically strengthened. Musharraf may win this battle but lose the war.
The US should heed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and suspend its bombing campaign to allow relief supplies to reach the more than seven million Afghans in direst need. Calling in the UN Secretary-General and newest Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kofi Annan, showing him the evidence and asking him to mediate with the Taliban for a hand-over of Osama bin Laden for trial would acknowledge the vital role of the UN. Both would strengthen the hand of Pakistan's government against the militants.
Pakistan is also trapped by its conflict with India. Reflecting the intensity and depth of this battle, India and Pakistan have each sought to take advantage of the situation after September 11. India immediately offered political and military support to the United States in its conflict with the Taliban and urged it to include Pakistani-supported Islamic militants fighting in Kashmir as targets of the US assault on terrorism. Pakistan, under enormous pressure from the US, eventually decided to turn a liability into an asset and sought to cash in on its location and its leverage over the Taliban.
Seeing Pakistan win the US over to its side, and with the militants continuing their attacks in Kashmir, India is now trying another more dangerous gambit. It has threatened to follow the US example and attack militant training camps and bases in Pakistan. In an ominous development, India has ended a 10-month long effective cease-fire and started shelling Pakistani forces across the border that divides Kashmir.
The US must press Pakistan to end its support for the militants, restrain India from actions that may trigger a South Asian war, and get serious in working with the international community to resolve the more than fifty year old Kashmir dispute. For this effort to be taken seriously, the US must show by word and deed that unilateral military action is not the order of the day.
A longer term danger is that of nuclear weapons in South Asia. The May 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan put the world on watch. The US and the international community used sanctions to pressure both countries to exercise restraint, and to signal a refusal to accept new nuclear weapons states. But, in its search for support in the region, the Bush administration has let go the already waning US hopes to reverse the nuclearization of South Asia. The US is lifting all its sanctions against India, most if not (yet) all sanctions against Pakistan, and economic and military assistance is being offered to both.
India and Pakistan may return with renewed vigour to their conventional and nuclear arms race. India seeks US arms to add to its $4 billion arms deal with Russia and $2 billion deal with Israel. Pakistan's limited funds have stalled its military purchases. With the army in charge, any resources freed by a blanket lifting of sanctions may go to catching up with India. With political and economic pressures eased, both sides may speed deployment of their nuclear warheads. South Asia may escape the frying pan of terrorism only to fall into the nuclear fire.
Also long term is democracy. General Musharraf's new status as ally in the war against Afghanistan and the man most likely to hold Pakistan together may lead to the lifting of the US sanctions levied after his coup. But, concern about Pakistan's stability should not translate into abandoning democracy and Musharraf should not be allowed or encouraged to stay in power. The two previous Pakistani generals who seized power each kept it for the better part of a decade. Civil society withered both times.
Musharraf should hold to his promise of elections and restoring democracy by next October. Elections may be just what it takes to mobilise the majority of Pakistanis in the battle against radical Islam. Whenever they have been allowed to choose who should govern them in the past, Pakistanis have decisively rejected Islamic political parties. They would do so again now. The small crowds on the streets supporting the Islamist groups are testament to that. Ten years without democracy may change their minds.
Dr. Zia Mian researches South Asian security issues with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. He has taught at Princeton, Yale, and Quaid-i-Azam University (Islamabad, Pakistan). He is the co-editor of "Out of The Nuclear Shadow", a collection of the best South Asian writing on nuclear disarmament.


Tue, 16 Oct 2001

Offers of Peace

Nirmalangshu Mukherji
Delhi University, Delhi

Within the last week, two governments have made offers of peace. The first offer came from General Musharraf who called the Indian Prime Minister to express his concern about the ghastly event in Srinagar, and to urge the resumption of dialogue at the highest level. The second offer came from the Taliban agreeing to hand Osama bin Laden over to a suitable third country provided (a) the bombing stopped, and (b) evidence of bin Laden's complicity in 9-11 produced.
Both offers raised a glimmer of hope and sanity amidst catastrophic human disaster. If accepted, the Taliban offer could have provided a peaceful way out of the war without compromising the basic value of the international rejection of terrorism. The acceptance of the Pakistan offer could have allowed India and Pakistan to form a coalition, supported by over a billion people, to thwart some of the NATO designs that are currently unfolding in the subcontinent.
In fact, it would have been better if these offers generated from the US and India. After a week of savage bombing, the US could have declared a unilateral ceasefire and requested negotiations. Following the swift, official condemnation of the Srinagar event from Pakistan, Bajpayee could have called Musharraf to express his appreciation and suggest talks. In a global conflict in which no one occupies high moral ground and everyone is the loser, such small, timely and totally safe gestures of statesmanship can make or break histories.
As things stand, both offers have been summarily rejected. The US rejection is based on the axiom that its demands are non-negotiable. The Indian rejection harped on the obstinate issue of cross border terrorism. It does not require great political acumen to understand that if Pakistan agrees to solve this issue to the satisfaction of India, then there is very little to negotiate. Assuming that the government of India understands this as well, the rejection in effect amounts to non-negotiability. The small prospect of peace that appeared on the otherwise continuous scenario of war and hatred was thus smothered. Hands in glove, the mainstream media hardly pressed the issue beyond minimal reporting, giving the impression that the gestures carry no real meaning for now; the war must go on to its logical conclusion.
Justifying the logic, it has been suggested that the offers came from beleagured states after they have been placed in tight spots. >From this undeniable fact it is then inferred that acceptance of the offers will only release the grip to enable these states to spring back to their earlier machinations. The Taliban offer, for example, is seen as an effort in 'stalling', as a commentator observed on the BBC. The grip, therefore, should not only be held in place, it should be ceaselessly tightened until the demands are unilaterally met. George Bush wants to continue bombing until they 'cough up' Osama bin Laden and the Taliban is removed from power. The hawk-infested security system in India expects Pakistan to obey its dicta as 'international pressure' mounts and Pakistan disintegrates.
The nations of Afganisthan and Pakistan could well disintegrate to leave its people at the mercy of warlords, jehadis, mercenaries, contras, and puppets. Yet, it is clear by now that the Taliban will not voluntarily hand bin Laden over to the US. It is also clear that it is beyond the current capabilities of General Musharraf to call a unilateral halt to the operation that India calls 'cross border terrorism'. So the brutal conflicts will continue both in Afganisthan and Kashmir, and will possibly engulf other parts of the subcontinent, the middle east, parts of Africa - and spread beyond. One could almost visualize terrorists of all shades rubbing their hands in glee.
Yet, to return to the belligerent argument sketched above, the ground realities in both Afganisthan and Pakistan have radically altered since 9-11. First, Afganisthan. With a ruined economy and complete isolation leading to the closure of all supply routes, the Taliban system just cannot survive in its old form. A negotiating table at this juncture might well open up the possibilities for extracting as much democratic and humanitarian mileage under international supervision as is possible in this devasted nation. Once they are allowed to retain a semblance of pride, they might - just might - agree to a more decent form of governance involving broad sections of the Afghan people, including the refugees in various countries.
By any rational standard, the Taliban offer, which are designed to save their pride, is perfectly legitimate. If a sovereign state is asked to hand over one of its subjects, it has the right to examine preliminary evidence to decide whether the person ought to face judicial procedure at all. Satisfied, it has the right to ensure his justice and security. Without this surety, bin Laden can only be brought dead, if at all. The Taliban could have claimed, as they did initially, that their own judicial system is adequate for the purpose. But, on the possible objection that they could be viewed as a party, they have agreed to hand over bin Laden to a judicial system that is not a party to the conflict. In effect, they are asking for a reciprocity. Bombing and murder can always be resumed. But, it is quite possible that, once a neutral party is mutually agreed upon, the Taliban may not even want to see the full evidence.
The outright rejection of these possibilities only helps in raising a series of suspicions about the motivations of the US. These suspicions are gaining in international currency since they are viewed as consonant with US policies in the past. First, it is suspected that the US does not want to bring bin Laden to justice since any non-violent method of doing so will allow him to open his mouth. Bin laden is not only the author of a discourse of hate, he is also a prime collaborator and, thus, witness to the gory history of the last decades; bin Laden is better brought dead.
Second, there are growing doubts if the US has tangible evidence against bin Laden at all. The decision to 'reveal' the evidence only to its NATO allies and Pakistan carries no credibility since these parties are not in a position or mood, as the case may be, to disagree even when presented with blank sheets. The argument that revelations at this stage might hamper 'on-going' investigation is even more factitious, since it is easily seen as an excuse to prolong the conflict indefinitely. The international community, especially those who want to believe that bin Laden is innocent, can only infer that the US has more to hide than it is prepared to disclose. This gives bin Laden all the mileage he needs.
Third, as many commentators are beginning to articulate, it is difficult to dispel the misgiving that, in the name of fighting global terrorism, the US is basically interested in using the opportunity to establish permanent military presence in the area for noted geo-political hegemony: the Cremian oil, the Chinese, the Silk Route, the mountain passes, the southasian market, and much else. Otherwise, it is hard to believe that thousands are going to be killed and maimed, entire nations devastated, regional conflicts allowed to take ugly turns, the rest of the world held in fear - all because the dead body of a single, essentially unworthy person is given such a high value.
Clearly, the three items of suspicion cluster. Recall that the Taliban made its offer within the week of 9-11. Given the paroxysm and the madness of that moment, it is understandable - though not morally and politically justified - that the offer was entirely ignored. Now, people are beginning to ask questions, forcing the media to at least cover the issue. Even with this minimal reflection, it is not difficult to discern which way the needle of suspicion is turning.
Somewhat different considerations, especially with regard to the scale of consequences, apply to India's rejection of the Pakistani offer. Here as well, the ground realities have radically altered since 9-11. With a fragile economy and seething, conflicting discontent engulfing the country, Musharraf has no choice but to turn against the mullahs and to act as a frontline state in the current conflict. The dangerous contradictions of this stand are obvious. Clearly, the only way out for Pakistan at this juncture is not to be involved too deeply in the NATO dragnet. This requires that Musharraf is able to muster and represent the vast but disorganized common opinion against the US without fanning the fundamentalist. The fundamentalist cannot be removed from the scene until the Kashmir issue begins to get addressed.
The only people who opposed the Agra initiative were the fundamentalists in India and Pakistan and the militants in Kashmir; the people who had the greatest hope out of it were ordinary Kashmiris, Pakistanis, and Indians. These are also the masses who are opposed to NATO presence in the subcontinent. Thus, one sure way to resist both the murder of Afganisthan and the call of the fundamentalist is to bring these masses together. Under the circumstances, the masses cannot raise a common voice unless their leaders do. The reactivation of the Agra process could have gone a long way in achieving these goals.
Musharraf's offer of dialogue must be seen in this light. With the atmosphere of negotiations returning to the subcontinent, there was the opportunity to spread it across other borders. If India and Pakistan were to start talking with over 50,000 deaths in the background, the US would have found it at least embarrassing to show its bloody face. The only hitch of course is the undemocratic character of the rule in Pakistan. Yet, the irony is that the dictator General Musharraf currently stands between a total surrender to NATO and other generals quitely waiting under the wings of Jamait-ul-Islami and the like.
By rejecting the offer on narrow, hawkish grounds, therefore, the Indian leadership has spurned a golden opportunity to change the otherwise inevitable course to disaster.


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Landelijke India Werkgroep - 11 oktober 2002