THE MOVING FINGER WRITES
There is one question that seems to have suddenly erupted regarding Indo-Pakistan relations. Simply put, it is: Can We Trust Pakistan Ever? The question arose following a statement made by Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on 18th April advocating peaceful co-existence with India, adding that the Civil and Military leadership of both countries should discuss ways to resolve the issue. One way, Gen Kayani said, was demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier. This thought may have been the result, as the cynics proclaim, by an avalanche of snow at Siachen that engulfed 138 Pakistani troops, burying them eighty feet deep and killing all of them. Could it be that Gen Kayani’s conscience was pricked by this ghastly accident which had become inevitable, given the circumstances in which Pakistan had stationed its men?
Gen Kayani was well aware of how much it costs to maintain troops at Siachen’s treacherous heights. India itself spends an estimated Rs 3.00 to 3.5 crore a day, or roughly Rs 1000-1,200 crore a year to maintain an infantry brigade on Siachen and its neighbourhood. India can afford to spend that much and the Indian Army which knows its responsibility is not complaining. The men who live on those heights truly are the nation’s unacknowledged heroes. Can India afford to withdraw its forces from the Siachen heights when right now, it has the upper hand which it won at great cost, trusting Pakistan to do likewise? Does the history of Indo-Pak relations permit this large-heartedness?
In 1948 while repulsing Pakistani aggression in the Valley, the Indian Army could have taken all of Kashmir to teach Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his unprincipled cohorts a lesson, but Jawaharlal Nehru stopped Gen. Thimmayya in his tracks at the urging of Lord Mountbatten who was trying to safeguard British interests. India has paid a very heavy price for Nehru’s folly, call it naivette, if one likes. During the 1965 war against Pakistan, the Indian Army was again victorious, but Nehru’s successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri generously returned the strategic Haji Pir to the enemy.
Now we have China peering down on us from the north. India’s goodwill was misused deliberately by Pakistan. In the 1971 war, a magnanimous Indira Gandhi under the questionable guidance of her adviser, P.N. Haksar, handed back almost all the military gains India had won, to Pakistan – the most stupid thing she had done in her career. At a private meeting, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – a professional India-hater than whom it would be difficult to find another one—told Indira Gandhi that he could not get back to his people empty-handed. He bargained hard. India wanted Pakistan to sign a No-War Pact. It had to settle for a mutual “renunciation of force”. India wanted a proper Treaty to be signed. What it got – as a major victor – was an “agreement”!. D.P. Dhar, another Kashmiri adviser to Mrs Gandhi, wanted her to insist on “the settlement of the Kashmir issue as an integral and irreducible content of a settlement with Pakistan. But the final agreement that was signed “spoke only of maintaining the Line of Control”.
According to Ramachandra Guha in his work India After Gandhi, Bhutto had apparently assured Mrs Gandhi that once his position was more secure, he would persuade his people to accept conversion of the Line of Control into the International border. Notes Guha: “The ink had hardly dried on the Simla Agreement when Bhutto reneged on this promise”. Time and time again India has let itself be fooled. It has allowed itself to be taken for a bumpy ride. When will it ever learn? To top it all, a day after Gen Kayani made his conciliatory remarks, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Muhazam Khan openly told the media that there has been no change in Pakistan’s policy regarding Siachen and forces will not be withdrawn from the snow-capped frontiers. He said bluntly: “The country’s policy regarding Siachen at present remains unchanged” but tried to soften his stand by saying: Both the countries are wasting resources… and our point of view is what both the countries should withdraw troops at the same time”.
It will be remembered that in the past India had withdrawn its troops and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had even journeyed to Lahore with manifest warmth, to show India’s desire for peace with its neighbour. But almost unknown to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Gen. Musharraf had ordered the capture of Kargil. For Vajpayee it was not only a stab in the back but it was a slap on his face. He had been consciously and deliberately cheated. Indian troops, as Pawan K. Varma has noted in his book Being Indian had become a victim of Pakistani infiltrators losing the lives of 527 officers and men of other ranks and seeing a thousand more seriously wounded.
What Musharraf did, one can expect Kayani to repeat. There is no more despicable a unit than the Pakistan Army. According to a defence analyst, Gurmeet Kanwal “India should insist on building a clause into a demilitarisation agreement that in case of the agreement is violated, both sides reserve the right to take whatever action they deem fit, including offensive military measures.” Furthermore, India should create and maintain suitably structured reserves for counter-action across the Line of Control at a point of its choosing. According to Kanwal, “these reserves would also be handy for intervention on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, should it ever become necessary” – a point well made.
For that matter perhaps one could go a step further and get a suitably worded Pact under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council. But much – actually everything – depends on Pakistan’s trustworthiness which remains questionable. India just cannot allow itself to be fooled again by a country born in hate, nurtured on hate and sustained to this day on hate. In the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union, it was the latter that ultimately collapsed. India must have patience. It trusts Kayani at its cost. At this point India does not have to run to Pakistan’s rescue at a time when it is financially in distress. Decency is not a word to be found in the Pak Army’s dictionary, and if we haven’t learnt from that, we have learnt nothing.