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April 23, 2006
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April 23, 2006

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Home > 2006 Issues > April 23, 2006

The Moving Finger Writes

Peace only on India's terms

Political ?equality? and ?economic and financial strength? are two entirely different matters. On the latter issue, Pakistan is no match to India. And that was conveyed to Musharraf by Bush in no uncertain terms.

One never knows what goes on behind the scenes, when an American president calls on Delhi and Islamabad. What actually did transpire when President Bush discussed matters with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh? And what transpired when Bush held talks with General Musharraf? Consider this: Not long after Bush returned home Dr Manmohan Singh makes a bold offer of ?a treaty of peace, security and friendship to Pakistan and almost simultaneously, as if on cue, Musharraf calls on ?all foreign militants? to leave Pakistan failing which they would be ?crushed?. Strong words these. Was it sheer coincidence as some experts would like us to believe? Or was there an alien but helping hand pushing both parties to make some solemn observations?

Nobody can question the soundness of Dr Singh?s proposals. They make eminent sense. For example he said that it was wrong to link the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan with finding a solution to the Kashmir issue. Suggesting a ?step-by-step? approach Dr Singh said both sides should begin a dialogue with the people ?in their area of control? to improve ?the quality of government?. Everybody knows that there is hardly any self-government in the area of Kashmir under Pakistan?s control. Dr Singh said that borders which could not be redrawn should be seen as ?just lines? on the map so that the people on both sides of the Line of Control were able to move freely and trade with each other. This is not a very novel idea.

When Goa was under Portuguese rule, Goans could enter and quit the state without visas and so could rest of the Indians. And literally hundreds of Goans studied in India and were employed in India. Dr Singh said he also envisaged a situation where the two parts of Jammu & Kashmir can, with the active encouragement of the Governments of India and Pakistan, work out cooperative, consultative mechanisms. It was also possible, said the Indian Prime Minister to come to a ?meaningful agreement? on the Siachin, Sir Creek and Baglihar Dam issues. And even more significantly he added: ?The time has come to leave behind the animosities and misgivings of the past and to think the unthinkable of moving together?. That Musharraf should learn to behave was a message that was originally conveyed by President Clinton and, one suspects, Bush merely repeated it, probably in more strongly cords, when he spoke to Musharraf. The message, as recorded by Stroebe Talbott in his book Engaging India was plainly this: Return to democracy, show restraint in Kashmir; exert pressure on terrorist groups; and help in capturing bin Laden.

According to The Hindu, a string of attacks on prominent leaders of Pakistan-based Islamist terrorist groups has sparked speculation that Pakistan?s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) may be cracking down on organisations hostile to Musharraf?s pro-United States policies. In recent weeks a number of terrorists have indeed been shot. On March 21, Maulana Fazl ur-Rehman Khalil, former head of the proscribed Harkat ul-Mujahideen was captured and beaten up with rifle butts. Earlier in March a group of unidentified men killed Amir Abu Hanif a prominent leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba?s parent organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Some time later police in the troubled South Waziristan province arrested four Hizb-ul-Mujahideen cadre. In northern Waziristan Pakistani security forces killed ?upto? 20 militants. And, according to Indian Army sources, infiltration is clearly slowing down. To what extent Musharraf is serious about coming to terms with India is yet to be seen, though Dr Singh himself praised Musharraf for taking ?bold steps to curb extremism? and complimented him for that.

It is more likely that this time President Bush read the riot act to Musharraf. In other words Indo-US relations have undergone a sea-change and Musharraf is not such a fool that he does not realise that Pakistan?s usefulness to the US is coming to a slow end. For roughly 50 years, as two American South Asia experts Lloyd and Susanne Rudopph have observed, the US had ?destabilised? the South Asian region by supporting Pakistan in its wars with India and encouraging it in its demand for ?parity? with its eastern and five-times larger neigbour. Pakistan?s obsession for ?parity? with India is laughable if it were not affecting the process of establishing peace in the sub-continent. Pakistan?s rule hardly means anything in Baluchistan where Islamabad is hated. The North West Frontier is continuously at loggerheads with the Pakistan administration. If Sindh had its way it would stay out of Pakistan any day. But Pakistan?s pride will not allow it to hold any talks with India except on terms of total equality. That should be of no concern to India. At the United Nations with a membership of 195 countries all countries are ?equal? and in the General Assembly little Cuba or Mauritius carries the same one vote as giant United States does. But political ?equality? and ?economic and financial strength? are two entirely different matters. On the latter issue, Pakistan is no match to India. And that was conveyed to Musharraf by Bush in no uncertain terms. And that was reflected in the joint statement issued by Bush and Dr Singh in July 2005 which laid stress on transforming the relationship between their two countries in establishing a ?global partnership?.

And, no less significantly, an American quasi-official like Ashley Tellis, who is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and known to be close to the US Establishment was to say that the US ?would invest the energy and resources to enable India?the pre-eminent regional state?to secure as trouble-free an ascent to great power status as possible?. Sneers have been heard in many circles about Indian prospects of becoming a ?great power?. It doesn?t fluster Delhi, as it should not.

Greatness is not something that is bestowed but acquired. But if Pakistan can see light and take, as Dr Manmohan Singh said, ?a long view of history?, both Pakistan and India can prosper and keep the United States?indeed all powers trying to play games in South Asia?at arms? length. Pakistani leadership should understand that they have played the British, the American and later the Chinese game long enough to no effect. Now Prime Minister Singh has offered his hand of friendship and Musharraf would be wise to accept it gladly and determinedly. For a start he can dismantle the ISI and on Jammu & Kashmir listen to the Indian Prime Minister?s voice of reason. If India and Pakistan sign a Peace Treaty with Pakistan accepting the reality of Jammu & Kashmir, theirs would be the world. Terrorists, then, could be shown their place in no time, as they deserve to be shown.

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