By Udayan Namboodiri
Bill Clinton'sFebruary 2000 description of Kashmir as the ?world'smost dangerous place? sent complex messages around the world. Subscribing to such alarmist slogans does not help in the resolution of a problem. Rather, they exacerbate it. Though the Vajpayee government of the day did not get swayed, there were elements on its outskirts, and by this I mean the ?security experts? staffing and running the ?independent think-tanks?, who got overwhelmed.
A symbiotic relationship soon grew up between the rapidly emerging ?foundations? in the Western world and these desi supplicants. Seminars and foreign travel resulted in abundance. Over a short time, a vested interest developed in offering ?solutions? and ?proposals? around the hypothesis that an Indo-Pak ?engagement? (based on the bedrock that India, and India alone, forget its historic claims over Kashmir) offers the only panacea to the Kashmir problem.
The message went loud and clear to secessionists that India had a tough government. Nehruvian ambiguity was a thing of the past.
Being a shrewd media manipulator, General Pervez Musharraf realised the importance of these high-profile talkathoners. The latter also enjoyed him because their own importance increased proportionately with the Vajpayee government'snegativity towards the very idea of negotiating with terrorists. Musharraf astutely packaged himself as a victim of his own Frankenstein and feigned concern over the deteriorating state of Indo-Pak relations, which he said, using the language of blackmail, could lead to nuclear war unless New Delhi came on all fours to the negotiating table. Any other self-respecting country would have told the gangster to go to hell, but Vajpayee decided to play along. Agra happened not because Vajpayee was willing to negotiate Kashmir. It was the senior statesman'sopportunity to meet Musharraf and tell him straight that India is not going to succumb to his blackmail.
The ?talk brigade? called the Agra summit a ?failure? and elements within even blamed Vajpayee's?hard stance? for the ?disaster?. But insofar as patriotic Indians were concerned, Agra was a great success. For the first time since 1947, a Pakistani leader was told in unequivocal terms that Kashmir is non-negotiable. ?The core of the core issue is the 1947 invasion by Pakistan,? Vajpayee told Musharraf to his face. The 1994 Parliament resolution'ssanctity in India'sforeign policy outlook was also made unambiguous as was India'scontinuing anger over Pakistan's1963 act of gifting a part of the illegally-held territory to China.
The sublime truth, which is even known to India'sdominant pseudo-secularist, pro-Pakistan lobby, is that Kashmir is more than a territorial dispute. As Jaswant Singh superbly articulated it ahead of the Agra summit, ?It lies at the core of our estimate of ourselves as a nation?. The only ?solution? that Indians want on Kashmir is the return of that part of Kashmir which Pakistan invaded and converted into ?Azad Kashmir?. Once India officially admits that Kashmir is ?disputed?, it would amount to accepting the two-nation theory as the central underpinning of our nationhood. That is why Jaswant Singh often reiterated at global platforms: ?Jammu and Kashmir (he never used the word ?Kashmir?) is an integral part of India and shall remain so.?
Once Vajpayee adopted this supremely nationalistic position, there was little that Musharraf and the wide world of engagement freaks could do. In 2002, elections were held with unprecedented transparency in Jammu and Kashmir. The message went loud and clear to secessionists that India had a tough government. Nehruvian ambiguity was a thing of the past. This even caused a turnaround in the Hurriyat Conference'soutlook. In late 2003, the group split up and the dominant section led by Maulana Abbas Ansari favoured reconciliation with the new paradigm set by Vajpayee.
Terrorism works only as a low-cost option. The international campaign carried out by India against Pakistan was proving highly successful and global public opinion was swinging against Musharraf. The Indian security forces were defending Kashmir and Kashmiris more than competently against terrorism.
By end 2003, Musharraf too realised that Kashmir was a zero sum game for Pakistan. His policy of carrying out low-intensity warfare with India was backfiring. Terrorism works only as a low-cost option. The international campaign carried out by India against Pakistan was proving highly successful and global public opinion was swinging against Musharraf. The Indian security forces were defending Kashmir and Kashmiris more than competently against terrorism. The upcoming border fence and Jammu-Srinagar railway link was combining to project very grim prospects for terrorism. So, in January 2004, he practically fell at Vajpayee'sfeet, hailed him as a ?great leader? and, for the first time a Pakistani leader announced a break from its five-decade-old maximalist position based on the UN Security Council resolutions. Musharraf agreed to talk to India on India'sterms. Vajpayee's1998 master stroke, the ?composite dialogue process?, which Musharraf scoffed at in 2001, was revitalised. Most significantly, Musharraf admitted that Pakistan was sponsoring terrorism against India and promised to stop it.
The situation has changed dramatically today. The Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh dispensation is perceived as weak and dithering, and rightly so. That is why Musharraf is testing the waters of misconduct again. His latest suggestion for redrawing the map of J&K (made over live TV in a characteristic fashion) should be termed as just that and nothing more.