Whatever be US Secretary of State Colin Powell's plans to shape future Indo-Pakistan relations one thing is clear: India should not bend to accommodate Gen. Pervez Musharraf, one of the world's arch terrorists. The man is unreliable. He is the classic schemer. Even as Atal Behari Vajpaee was in Lahore on a peace pilgrimage he was planning Kargil. Even as the world was shocked at the October 1 carnage perpetrated by Pakistan-backed terrorists, Musharraf was suggesting that it was a fight for freedom. Never mind if, subsequently, he has sought to soften his stand at America's obvious arms-twisting. Never mind if he felt it necessary to put in a call to Vajpayee to invite him to come to Islamabad for further talk.
One might ask: to what purpose? So Musharraf could re-assure himself and his country that India plans no harm? So Musharraf can have a good night's sleep in the knowledge that India won't slam Pakistan well and good when it most deserves it? How come he has suddenly developed an itch to sound friendly towards Delhi? The truth is that the earth under him is shaking. He may have sacked the chief of the Inter Services Intelligence, Mahmound Ahmed-obviously at America's insistence - and removed his deputy chief of the army staff Muzaffar Usmani, but does he expect them to retire to their homes like good boys and take to gardening? Obviously there are differences within the Armed Forces over Musharraf's U-turn regarding the Taliban.
For all one knows the Armed Forces could turn against him - and the United States. And a Civil War could erupt within Pakistan the consequences of which it would be hard now to calculate. Perhaps it is this fear that moved Powell to call on Delhi. How should India respond? There are two distinct schools of thought in India today. One is that a known devil is better than an unknown devil and that it is wiser for India to support Musharraf than to see him replaced by someone more inimical towards Delhi. But given Musharraf's past record it would be difficult to imagine a Pakistani leader who could ever be more hostile towards India. Musharraf's enmity towards his neighbour cannot possibly to excelled by anyone else. But can India afford to see Pakistan go up in flames? Won't that hurt India indirectly?
The argument is that it doesn't help to have neighbour's bound go up in flames as those flames could engulf one's own house as well. The analogy, however, does not hold good. The break-up of Pakistan and the establishment of Bangladesh hasn't done India any harm, even if the latter's leadership is not necessarily friendly towards us. The break-up of post-Bangladesh Pakistan should not hurt India either. It is time we reduced Pakistan's potential to hurt us whenever it suits it.After all was it not at Simla that former Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto promised that in course of time he will see to it that the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir will be acknowledged as a permanent boundary? Whatever happened to that promise? It was cavalierly broken by his successors and we are paying for Indira Gandhi's that particular folly of trusting a Pakistani leader's words. We don't need to be taken once again for a ride. Musharraf is adroitly playing for time. That it also suits the United States is a secondary consideration. But India has no reason to be nice to a back-stabber.
The debate over whether we should work for a strong or weak Pakistan has been going on for some time now but it is time we took a firm decision on the matter. Can India ever hope to live in security with a Pakistan constantly pushing terrorists into Jammu & Kashmir with specific orders to create confusion in the State? And even if the recent change in the ISI's leadership sounds good, what guarantee is there that after some time it will not be back to its evil ways?
How can we stop the ISI from setting up shop in India at unsuspected places and among hostile groups like SIMI? It is bad enough for ISI to operate in India secretly; it is worse when leftist intellectuals like Justice Krishna Iyer rush to the defence of SIMI on legalistic grounds. With men like Justice Krishna Iyer to befriend SIMI, India does not require enemies. Happily there is that other school of thought such has been vocalised by Air Marshal P. P. Singh, one of India's most decorated officers now living in retirement, which feels that India must take a strong stand against Pakistan. As he was recently quoted as saying: "We are not going to get anything but lip-service from the USA. The best thing will be to tell Pakistan or stop or else face the music". According to Air Marshal Singh India should not fear any nuclear retaliation from Pakistan as it cannot afford to do so.
The fact is that this is the right time to put Pakistan in its place. Whatever Vajpayee has told Powell, and one should not presume that what has been told for public consumption is necessarily the full story - India must now move to resolve the Jammu & Kashmir issue once and for all. The present provides India a golden opportunity to settle a long-standing issue.
India has been advised not to take any strong action against Pakistan in its time of trouble and Powell would necessarily appeal to India's generosity and large-heartedness. But when has Pakistan ever reciprocated India's large-heartedness to any significant extent? Islamabad has preferred to be India's enemy and that is that. Pakistan's good intentions will be judged when it turns over Dawood Ibrahim to India; when it denies safe harbour to other terrorists and criminals like Chhota Shakeel; when the ISI dismantles its secret offices in India; when it ceases toassist Naga rebels in the North East. And when it finally stops cross-border terrorism. Can the United States guarantee these acts and see that they are implemented? Unless the United States leans heavily upon Musharraf, he will do nothing of the kind. And if Powell cannot do what India wants him to do, it should not matter whether Musharraf will stay on in power or is replaced by someone else. That would be a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
But then the question will be asked: Should we accept the United States as a mediator in Pakistan's so-called `dispute' with India over Jammu & Kashmir? Musharraf has equated Jammu & Kashmir with Palestine. It is nothing of the sort. Jammu & Kashmir is legally, constitutionally and in every other way, a part of India and so it should remain. That, indeed, is the position the Indian Parliament had taken and that is the correct stand. Pakistan has no locus standi in the matter and nor has the United States which for fifty years has played Pakistan's game at the United Nations.
No concessions whatsoever should be made to him out of misplaced generosity. By now we should have known his character. That we are still willing to play footsie with him does not reflect too well on our political acumen. Right down from the time of Prithviraj Chavan we have allowed ourselves to be targets of inimical forces. Congress leaders succumbed to Mohammed Ali Jinnah's threat of large-scale violence. Deliverance Day which was observed in India that led to the killings of several thousand Hindus in Kolkata should have served as a warning. It didn't. With the noblest of intentions we - Mr Nehru, that is - took the Jammu & Kashmir case to the Security Council. We are still paying for it. At Tashkent we allowed ourselves again to be bamboozled. The price we have had to pay since then has been even higher.
Once again at Simla we exhibited our tender heart, released some 90,000 Pakistani prisoners-of-war, gave up territory that we have rightfully won and fooled ourselves that we are a great and understanding nation. It did India no good. Now Powell wants us to be once again considerate and thoughtful. What sort of meaningful dialogue can we possibly have with Pakistan when we have been victims of its viciousness time and again? We are being advised by our intellectuals to forget the past and to devise a response which, without amounting to an acceptance of any mediation, would not slam the door for some clear of creative diplomacy to be deployed in the future. Creative diplomacy? Now what is that? P. N. Haksar provided us with a sample of creative diplomacy at Simla and we know what we have since had over a decade of cross-border terrorism. Will our intellectuals never learn from the past?
Musharraf is now in a soup. Let him get singed in it. It is none of our business to bail him out. If another tyrant comes in his place, let him. We should know how to take care of his kind. And if push comes to shove, we should know what to do. There has to be a limit to our generosity and goodwill.
Powell's visit to Delhi is India's last chance, to settle the Jammu & Kashmir issue and live in peace. As an External Affairs Ministry spokesman very rightly said, it takes two to tango. But she should have added that it takes only one to stick a knife in one's back. And trust Pakistan to do it.
Published in Samachar.com True. India should act wisely atleast now. Who can forget the soilders who laid thier lives defending our right.. and the misery of the Kashmiris sand-witched between Terrorists and Security forces? As J&K CM Abdulla says, may be a 4th war between India and Pakistan would solve the Kashmir problem.. once and forever! I believe in peace but I am not a Gandhi either!