Abandoning The Bride at The Altar


Already faced with enough troubles economically and politically, Pakistan now has a full-scale war on its western borders that we did not want and a religious call to arms within our frontiers that we certainly did not need. Compounding our problems, frustrated at seeing years of meticulous planning to isolate and Balkan-ize Pakistan literally go up in smoke on Sep 11, India is like a frustrated bride abandoned at the altar by the bridegroom to return to his original mate. India seems hell-bent on provoking a conflict on our eastern front which both India and Pakistan may well live to regret, if it escalates into a nuclear exchange both may well not live to express those regrets. Lobbying the US for the last decade to get the freedom fighters in Kashmir declared “terrorist”, and Pakistan a “terrorist-State” for good measure, it must be galling for the Indians to have their well-laid plans come to nought. Though he seemed to retract a little when in New Delhi, US Secretary of State Colin Powell may have inadvertently added insult to injury by calling “Kashmir the central issue between India and Pakistan”, “core issue” are code words normally used by Pakistan. Pakistan has returned to doing what it does best, being the frontline State for the US in a war against somebody or the other. Indian intelligentsia and commentators have had real fun over the past year gloating over how Pakistan was on the ropes geo-politically, and economically was about to go under. Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “rumours of Pakistan’s demise seems to have been greatly exaggerated”, unquote.

With the Soviet Union in a state of terminal demise in the late 80’s, India’s foreign policy establishment changed diplomatic tack to work whole hog on three strategic options, one of them remaining constant. Continuity was maintained in the relationship with the successor States of the Soviet Union, the leadership succeeding being the same communists in a new “democratic” garb. The other two options were ideologically far enough apart to be mind-boggling viz either (1) aligning with the US to contain China economically and militarily or (2) creating a Iran-China-India nexus as a new enormous geo-political powerhouse of Asia, and indeed the world. The “new” India dreamed about a “marriage” with the US as an ideal solution, particularly given the growing software/e-commerce link between Bangalore and the Silicon Valley. The new US President’s policy evaluation that China was the major strategic competitor exceeded the wildest dreams of India’s strategic planners, the Bush team concluded that India was a credible partner to contain China. After fifty years of open-ended hostility to the US on every issue under the sun (and possibly the moon) and supporting the Soviet Union blindly everywhere including their all-conceived invasion of Afghanistan, India did a ideological volte face and the new US-India alliance went into the “engagement” stage. By spring this year India felt confident enough in convening the Agra Summit with Pakistan to assuage US concerns about the Kashmir dispute. But the best laid plans of men and mice can go astray, the bride being left standing at the altar on Sep 11 because of the terrorist attack in New York, a body blow to Indian visions for a glorious new millenium. Pakistan spent most of 2001 cast aside in a rather crude display of realpolitik, coming back into favour (and some) post Sep 11 in another crude display of realpolitik. The USA concluded reluctantly but quickly that geography and circumstances thereof required Pakistan to become an ally (of sorts) again. Thanks to a decisive Musharraf, we did not hang around debating a decision.

Colin Powell’s visit was a much needed shot in the arm for Pakistan’s beleaguered President Musharraf, confirming Pakistan’s return to “favoured ally” status was not just a one-night stand, that there was life beyond Afghanistan. In a rather transparent ploy to attract attention, and not be left out in the cold with arch-nemesis Pakistan being rejuvenated geo-politically and economically, India resorted to heavy artillery shelling of 11 Pakistani posts across the Ceasefire Line (CFL), a clear case of “diplomatic blackmail”. Anticipating such tantrums, the US had included India in the “Coalition” even though the Indians have nothing to offer with respect to Afghanistan. Whenever a western luminary visits India and/or Pakistan, something coincidentally explodes in Kashmir viz (1) the brutal killing of Sikhs during Clinton’s visit (2) the car bomb in Srinagar during Blair’s and (3) the sudden attack on the CFL by Indian Artillery during Powell’s. A method in this madness is meant to put the blame on Pakistan, someone in Pakistan would really have to be a moron to initiate any such thing at this time.

Having given quiet counsel for months without reaction, one has to go public on our electronic media. Musharraf has major one Achilles Heel, his media managers are blocking the enormous available talent in the electronic media from being put to good use for the country. No stronger pressure can be applied than the perception that electronic media generates. By protecting people like the corrupt MD Pakistan TV, Yusuf Beg Mirza, we may well miss the boat. Whatever the reason, it cannot be greater than the supreme national interests (and that of Gen Musharraf), Rashid Qureshi must get rid of him. The only public Corporation in the country having no outside Directors, PTV accounts are passed by “unanimous approval” of paid Directors. Moreover can public TV ever compete with the private sector? The world media-persona assembled in Pakistan have to be convinced to ascertain for themselves, on both sides of the CFL, the truth of whether the militancy inside Kashmir is indigenous or the so-called terrorism is a Pakistan export? Unless the Indians have something to hide why don’t they allow the world media unlimited access to visit Indian-Held Kashmir? If Pakistan is the villain of the piece (on peace) as the Indians claim, won’t the people the media interview in Kashmir give truth to the Indian claim? The controlled electronic media in Pakistan lacks the vision and ability to take advantage of this golden opportunity presented to us on a platter. They lack private sector innovation. Musharraf’s success at Agra was mainly due to the free Indian electronic media, we have learnt no lessons thereof!

Sri Lanka is a living (and dying) example of how terror was exported by India’s RAW, making a paradise into hell on Earth. Who invented Prabhakaran? Who taught him to use terror as the ultimate weapon? And who gave the LTTE the explosives and the expertise to use them? For how many years were LTTE cadres trained in camps in Tamil Nadu? When the LTTE suicide squads explode bombs in Colombo, is that legitimate freedom struggle or is it terror? The struggle of freedom fighters is different from the actions of terrorists, the difference in Kashmir needs highlighting. Modern terror is mostly global and lethal in its reach, freedom fighters operate within local geographical parameters and do not target civilians. Terrorists deliberately focus soft targets to spread fear and apprehension, targetting the vulnerable and the weak by horrific acts to obtain maximum impact. The freedom fighter tries his best to avoid innocents being caught in a crossfire, approximating an aerial attack where stray bombs or bad real-time intelligence may inadvertently rain down death and destruction on innocents. Attacking a police station or a military post may be legitimate for a freedom struggle, planting a bomb in a car in a street is not. The freedom fighters are positive in wanting to supplant in governance those they attack, terrorism seeks not only to overturn the system, but to destroy society altogether.

The rule of law is a prime consideration of civilized society, in the “war against terrorism”, should terrorism be targeted only when practiced by individuals or groups? Or whether world cynosure should also be brought on any State which imposes terror on an entire population it blithely claims as its own?

Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).