By Shyam Khosla
External Affairs Minis-ter, K. Natwar Singh´s statement that India will discuss everything with General Musharraf and that it wants to build on the 1972 Shimla accord that emphasises ?durable peace? and ?final settlement? of J&K is a measure of the Congress party´s arrogance that it, and only it, can pursue a correct foreign policy.
Foreign Secretary Shashank with his Pakistani counterpart,
The minister is behaving as if Shimla agreement was the best that could happen to the country, conveniently forgetting that the ´iron-willed´ Indira Gandhi frittered away at the negotiating table the armed forces´ glorious victory in 1971 achieved at a massive human cost.
There is no realisation in the new government that it was a monumental blunder not to clinch the issue when Pakistan was a defeated country at the mercy of a victorious country?India. A smart Bhutto hoodwinked Indira Gandhi by persuading her to introduce a clause in the agreement that has stalled a ´final solution´ of the Kashmir issue for the past several decades. However, the joint statement issued after the conclusion of the recent Foreign Secretary-level talks at Delhi has given rise to apprehensions that the Congress-led government has weakened India´s approach on bilateral issues.
The joint statement by Prime Minister Vajpayee and General Musharraf on January 6, 2004 included an assurance from Musharraf on not permitting any part of the territory under Pakistan´s control to be used to promote terrorism in any form by placing the onus on Pakistan to prevent violence, hostility and terror. There is a certain dilution on this aspect as the June 28 statement issued after the conclusion of official-level talks merely refers to Pakistan´s ´reassurances´ without identifying them.
The most disturbing aspect of June 28 statement is the simultaneous reference to Shimla pact and the UN Charter. It weakens New Delhi´s persistent stand that all issues between the two countries should be resolved bilaterally and may enable Pakistan to bring in old UN resolutions?that even the UN Secretary General dismissed as outdated and irrelevant?to involve third parties in the talks.
The UPA government has conceded much ground on this issue by virtually making the Hurriyat a ´third party´ in the negotiations. The government encouraged separatists and pro-Pak elements to interact with the visiting Pakistan Foreign Secretary who had the audacity to arrogate to Islamabad the authority to speak on behalf of Kashmiris by making the preposterous statement that ?what would satisfy Pakistan would ultimately satisfy Kashmiris?. It is totally unacceptable and the least the government should do is to make public its displeasure at the statement. If the present government faltered by encouraging separatists to meet Pakistani officials, the NDA government too had failed to prevent Hurriyat leaders from meeting President Musharraf on the eve of the Agra summit. The only saving grace then was that the NDA government did publicly express its displeasure at the separatist leaders´ meeting with the General at the High Commissioner´s reception.
Both the NDA and the UPA governments are guilty of committing the cardinal sin by totally ignoring the wishes of more than three lakh Kashmiri Hindus (popularly known as Kashmiri Pandits) who were hounded out of their homes by terrorists, aided and abetted by Pakistan. Successive governments talked of involving the ´Kashmiri people´ in the establishment of durable peace and a final settlement of J&K but never invited representatives of the hapless Hindus who have been reduced to the status of refugees in their own land for more than a decade. Aren´t they part of the ´Kashmiri people´? Are they being kept away from the negotiating table only because they happen to be Hindus and are peaceful? Is it not a provocation to the restless youth among Kahsmiri Pandits to take to the arms if they want the government to listen to them? It is a tragedy of monumental proportions. The government is doing no good to the nation by pampering those who indulge in terrorism to bring about yet another partition of the country.
The Congress-led-communist-dominated government has displayed a petty mindset by talking only about that Shimla agreement while mentioning only in passing the January 6 joint statement and completely ignoring the Lahore declaration. The BJP-led government had tried to evolve a national consensus on foreign policy, particularly in dealing with Pakistan and Pak-sponsored terrorism.
The new government will do well to overcome petty partisan interests and to build on the gains of the previous government on the Kashmir front while steering clear of the mistakes the previous governments made. This is not happening despite the fact that the government is headed, at least formally, by Dr Manmohan Singh, a thorough gentleman and a democrat.
The government dominated by communists and controlled by Sonia Gandhi has displayed its petty political mindset on numerous issues, including replacing NCERT textbooks with those written by Leftist writers and removal of Governors with an RSS background. Removing Governors appointed by previous governments is an issue on which there can be two views. Constitutional experts have expressed conflicting views on the subject.
Let the experts and political leaders debate the issue that has constitutional and moral dimensions. What is most shocking is that the government is targeting Governors with RSS background. It smacks of fascist tendencies and intolerance that is the hallmark of communists and Sonia Gandhi brand of politics.