Hectic diplomatic activity by the international community makes one hope that it may not come to the crunch and the danger of a war in South Asia may after all be averted. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit to the region was followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee to hold talks during the Almaty conference on regional security which begins tomorrow.
Now two American diplomats - Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage - are to visit Islamabad and New Delhi to continue the efforts to bring tension down and avert a war. This is in addition to the telephone diplomacy through which world leaders have kept themselves engaged with Pakistan and India. The latest in this round of peace diplomacy was the statement by US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday.
In a television interview Powell spoke at length about the Indo-Pakistan situation and said things that would be music to Indian ears. He ruled out third-party mediation and referred time and again to the need for Pakistan to "do more" to end what New Delhi calls "cross-border terrorism." While Washington was doing all it could to avoid a war, it was "pressing President Musharraf very hard" to stop "infiltration activities" across the Line of Control by "terrorist organizations."
Secretary Powell was quick to balance the statement by saying America was asking India "to show restraint." Earlier, President Bush had made it clear that President Musharraf "must stop" the infiltration. There was a lot of waffle in Powell's interview, but to the BBC he said he had indications that Pakistan had given instructions to stop infiltrations across the LoC. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also said the US had some indications that Islamabad had given instructions for stopping infiltrations. If infiltration ceased, said Secretary Powell, he would be asking India to withdraw its forces.
Evidently, President Musharraf's repeated declarations that no infiltration is taking place across the LoC seem to have gone largely unheeded in international circles. In fact, statements from world leaders, including Pakistan's "friends and allies," seem to attach greater credence to Indian allegations. Also the real issue - the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people and the gross human rights violations by the occupation forces - seems to have been completely lost in the din and noise about "cross border terrorism."
One way to remove any doubts about Pakistan's claims could be for the UN to post international monitors along the LoC. India has always been averse to the idea, because it knows that the Kashmiri people's insurgency will continue in any case. A way out could be for Pakistan to opt unilaterally for the posting of international monitors on its side of the LoC. Such a team of monitors should be able to report impartially on the truth or otherwise of infiltration from Azad Kashmir into occupied Kashmir. Let those who are harping on the "cross border" theme support this proposal.
Meanwhile, those world leaders who are asking Pakistan to "do more" to defuse tension also, in all fairness, advise India to do a spot of reflection on the causes of the present stand-off and the overriding need for a solution of the Kashmir issue. Without a resolution of this dispute, any pretext would be good enough for India to launch, or threaten to launch, a war on Pakistan.
Editorial published in Pakistan daily Dawn dated June 02, 2002