Vajpayee's tit-for-tat?? -- by Humayun Gauhar Back   Home  

What if the wily Vajpayee, smarting under Kargil, decides to embarrass the architect of his humiliation? Vajpayee entered Lahore not knowing that we were sitting atop Kargil. Musharraf could be enticed into the spider’s web in Agra, not knowing what is in store for him; the communiqué already hammered out by bureaucrats and America’s ‘agenda’ notwithstanding. It could be a decoy. So while Musharraf is enjoying the vegetarian delights of Vajpayee’s table, he could be embarrassed by something he didn’t foresee. Fanciful though it might sound and fanciful one hopes it is, but one cannot rule out the distant possibility that Vajpayee may well take the person that he believes made a fool of him for a ride. When an Indian junior minister said on BBC only the other day that Azad Kashmir should revert to India the exasperated interviewer demanded why not Pakistan as well? “Why not?” remarked the minister. No matter how unthinkable the chances of Vajpayee deliberately tit-for-tat humiliating Musharraf, the Indians are famous for greater and fancier perfidy, like the fraudulent annexation of Kashmir after the inveigling of Mountbatten.

In a brief circulated to Congress the Henry L. Stimson Centre says: “[A] failed summit would be more damaging to Musharraf, compounding his poor international standing.” Vajpayee wrote at Minar-e-Pakistan: “I wish to assure the people of Pakistan of my country’s deep desire for lasting peace and friendship. I have said this before, and I will say it again: A stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest. Let no one in Pakistan be in doubt about this. India sincerely wishes the people of Pakistan well.” As he was thus writing, Stimson continues, “...two brigades of the Pakistan Army and mujahideen were preparing to scale the heights above Kargil in a daring effort to seize and hold territory on India’s side of the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.” Vajpayee’s Lahore visit was a “surprise” and he “has again clarified his intentions by his surprise invitation for another summit. But what about Musharraf? This is the key question overhanging this summit. Is he now ready to chart a new course for Pakistan’s betterment, and if so, can he deliver?” If Vajpayee didn’t think so “why would he bypass the usual diplomatic channels and go right to the top...professional diplomats shudder at unscripted summits, but the scripts they have followed in the past have produced little positive result.

Diplomats can succeed only when their leaders are ready. So why not find out if this is now the case?”

That’s balderdash. The US has a script and we all know it. Stimson thinks Musharraf, like Vajpayee, “is quite capable of taking bold risks, as is amply evident from his biography” (they go by biographies in assessing leaders?) and believes that after coups Pakistani generals “shy away from subsequent risk-taking, having no domestic mandate to pursue major course corrections.” That’s bull again, because they believe that only Pakistani Generals and Hindu fundamentalists can enact the US script - a settlement that removes Kashmir as a nuclear flash point; making our nuclear capabilities safe by US standards; and changing Pakistan’s Afghan policy. “The Agra summit,” Stimson proceeds, “gives both leaders an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to reduce the dark shadow cast by weapons of mass destruction over the Subcontinent.” In the studied dissimulation you can find the script if you look hard enough.

Both countries have been known for witlessness and ingenuity, the pity being that they have been witless more often than they have been ingenious. Only a fool would bet anything on what India or Pakistan has up their sleeves. India’s 1974 nuclear explosion forced Pakistan to make its own weapon and achieve military parity with India that it never had. Indra Gandhi threw away India’s inherent advantage in one silly act of haughty arrogance. Then there was our Operation Gibraltar when we ended up fighting India without intending to. That was because of the massive intelligence failure that the Kashmiris would revolt and also because Mr. Bhutto kept our Delhi High Commissioner’s message from President Ayub that India was going to attack across international borders on September 6. Thus was the myth of the invincibility of one carnivorous Pakistani being equal to five herbivores Indian blown away. We finished in one fell swoop the Hindu fear of the Muslim fighter built over 1200 years.

But it is to the few moments of dazzling brilliance we look, like Bhutto walking tall in Simla and wresting the advantage from India without a card in his hand. All he had were such deft political fingers that he insinuated them under the Indian bird and took away her eggs one by one, without Indra realising it. Come to think of it, what Bhutto agreed in Simla might well end up getting formalised as ‘The Final Solution’. Bhutto, more than any other, personified in his being the complexity of the character of Pakistani rulers - at once brilliant and stupid, sadly stupid more times than brilliant which led to his messy end and much of our messy situation. His was schizophrenia of the most potent kind. Our attitude towards Bhutto is schizophrenic too, polarised between love and hate, oscillating between admiration and distaste.

So what Kashmir solution is realistic? Obviously one with which the Kashmiris, Pakistan and India can live. Such a settlement can be acceptable to all concerned, for they would then have a chance of getting it past their hard-liners and selling it to their people. A realistic solution is a sensible solution. Realism demands that both India and Pakistan get to save face. Saving face demands that both lose some and gain some. We gain our Northern Areas and lose Azad Kashmir; India gains Jammu and loses the vale.

Kashmir is unified and becomes independent. But even this would be unacceptable to India, as would the one to which it is actually agreed, plebiscite. Put yourself in India’s shoes. There are many freedom struggles at various levels in progress in India and agreeing to independence of or plebiscite in any state would fuel the other struggles. An independent Kashmir would depend heavily on Pakistan, not the old coloniser, so Pakistan will get all the advantages of having Kashmir without the responsibility and costs inherent in integration. Thus if Pakistan is realistic Kashmir’s independence might be acceptable to it, but not to India for it loses face in both solutions.

What is acceptable to India are Confidence Building Measures over some years while Kashmir is placed in deep freeze. Once confidence has been built we can tackle Kashmir.

Sounds great, but totally unworkable, for it is a formula, not a solution. It is putting the truth in a coma and playing a deadly parody of peace. Both countries are highly unstable and any change in status quo would spell the end of the coma when everyone will wake up with an almighty shock. In all this theorising we always tend to forget the people central to the dispute, the Kashmiris. Any solution unacceptable to the Kashmiris has no future. Their’s is a homegrown freedom struggle and the notion that without Pakistani help it will die a quick death is arrogant on Pakistan’s part and wishful thinking on the world’s part. They are Muslims with sympathisers in Pakistan, India and the rest of the Muslim world. They will not even receive a setback for long because Pakistan would never be able to police such a long and difficult border. Soon India will start accusing Pakistan of being two-faced, pretending to stop ‘cross-border terrorism’ while surreptitiously encouraging it. And that will be that. End of ‘solution’, end of story.

There is the possibility of the permanent division of Kashmir by formalising the Line of Control. It could be argued that if Pakistan accepted the division of two Muslim majority states in 1947, Punjab and Bengal, it could accept partition of a third. But would the Kashmiris, who are not divided by religion as the Punjabis and Bengalis are? The Vietnamese didn’t. Neither did the Germans. Nor will the Koreans much longer, or the Chinese. Why the Kashmiris? Who the hell do India and Pakistan think they are to partition a people?

One cannot find a solution that would be acceptable to India. There are solutions that would be acceptable to Kashmiris, like plebiscite or unification and independence. There are solutions that Pakistan could consent to. But what could India live with without fuelling its centrifugal forces and jeopardising its integrity? There is a mountain to climb here and it can only be done if Indian, Pakistani and superpower hearts are clean. The hearts of the Kashmiris are being torn out.

Agra will begin the process of enacting the US script. The final act is probably planned for after June next year, just before politicians of some genus under elections of some breed enter and spoil the show. Musharraf would be well advised to drag the process out for as long as possible because once the script has been enacted the dictator becomes redundant and is dumped by the US. See what happened to Zia once the Afghan War was won?

This article was published in TheNation, Pakistan with title 2001: Taj Odyssey.