January 2000 News

Silence Pakistani guns

31 January 2000
Indian Express
Kuldip Nayar

JANUARY 31: How would you describe the perennial tension between India and Pakistan?" a foreign journalist asked me the other day. I told him that, like the weather in the subcontinent, the situation was either hot or hotter or the hottest. These days, it is at its hottest. Since I have watched the climate for four decades, I won't be surprised if it deteriorated further and developed into a serious confrontation. The temperature has to be brought down. This cannot be done by a third party. India and Pakistan must do it themselves. They must realise that things can go out of hand if they do not pull back.

Disengagement in Kashmir is only one part of this task. The overall atmosphere of enmity demands immediate talks. Even after the wars in 1965 and 1971, the two countries sat across the table and negotiated settlements: The Tashkent Declaration and the Shimla Agreement respectively.

In today's scenario, when their relationship is at its worst, statements from both sides suggest talks. Prime Minister AtalBehari Vajpayee has said more than once that India is prepared to have a dialogue with Pakistan.

General Pervez Musharraf too has said many a time that he wants to resume talks with India. Still, there doesn't seem to be any likelihood of negotiations soon. The reason is not that any party is putting prior conditions. It is the absence of a proper climate for talks.

People on both sides can build up opinion to pressurise the governments. But the people have been fed with misleading and concocted stories. There is no way for them to know the truth. Even otherwise, the media hype is so much and the official stand so motivated that detecting facts is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The mood is so foul that any word of moderation will be pounced upon by those who peddle hatred.

US Senator Brown, whom I met at a dinner party a few days ago, asked me when India would start negotiations with Pakistan. I told him: "Nothing on the horizon." I said that the point at issue was not the "time" but the"climate". No negotiations would be worth the effort if the guns went on booming. They have to be silenced first.

I made the same point at a peace conference of South Asian countries in Calcutta a few days ago. Some retired senior military officers were in the delegation from Pakistan. They spoke in friendly terms. The resolution passed at the conference urged both Delhi and Islamabad to hold talks without any pre-conditions. However, it stressed that violence should stop forthwith.

Violence is the crux of the problem. Those who are trying to keep the India-Pakistan relations or Kashmir separate from the issue of violence are shutting their eyes to realities. Terrorism and militancy have to stop first. Only then will there be a proper climate for negotiations.If the Pakistan government believes that talks can be held while it goes on encouraging militancy, it is mistaken. There was a time when the militancy in Kashmir did not stall talks. The militancy was mostly local then. The Kargil intrusion killedthe spirit of goodwill that the Lahore process had initiated. I believe that Vajpayee was even rung up by Clinton on starting a dialogue. The Prime Minister's reported reply was that he had to keep in mind public opinion in the country which, he said, was not prepared for talks until Islamabad gave up the proxy war it was fighting.

A Muslim country, which is friendly to India as well as Pakistan, has made a suggestion: "Let all guns be silent, to begin with, for six months." The stoppage of cross-border terrorism is an integral part of the proposal. The security forces in Kashmir will also have to cease firing.

The Pakistan government's stand that it is giving only moral support to the militants may be all right for propaganda purposes. But it is an open secret that even the Pakistani troops have been fighting within the Indian side of Kashmir. As for the militants, there is no doubt about Islamabad giving them training, weapons, funds and shelter.

When Musharraf admitted in an exclusive interview to anIndian daily that "all were on the board" regarding Kargil, he was not only stating that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who feigned ignorance of the operation, was a party to it but also conceding that it was a well-planned scheme. It is now known that the militants were in the forefront in the Kargil intrusion and that they acted under the command of the Pakistan army. When the call for withdrawal was given after Sharif's visit to Washington, the militants too left. In fact, there was a rumpus in Pakistan over reports that the militants were called back.

Not only that, Washington has asked Islamabad to close down the terrorists' camps. The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba were specially named. And what does India or, for that matter, the international community, infer from the threats hurled by Masood Azhar, one of the terrorists released by New Delhi in exchange for the passengers and the crew of the hijacked plane? Azhar is touring Pakistan, openly saying that he is recruiting men for ajihad against India.

Pakistan cannot expect India to believe its statements that it had nothing to do with the hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft. Even the Clinton Administration, which was slow to react initially, has said that a terrorist group, supported by Pakistani military, was responsible for the hijacking although the US President is quibbling over firm evidence.

The very fact that Clinton has so far refused to stop over in Pakistan while visiting India later in the year should make Islamabad sit up and ponder why a `trusted friend' is being treated this way. All this can change if India and Pakistan talk to each other. For that, a suitable climate is necessary. Islamabad can create it.

When the state is involved with terrorism, the redeeming factor in Pakistan is its judiciary. It has retrieved the country's name, which politicians and military commanders have smeared for the last four decades. By refusing to take a fresh oath of office, swearing allegiance to the military regime, sevenSupreme Court judges, including Chief Justice, have proved that it is the constitution and the law they serve, not Musharraf and his cohorts. The late General Zia-ul-Haq had also carried out the same exercise and asked the High Court and the Supreme Court judges to swear loyalty to the military rule. Many judges declined to take oath and went out of office. Many among them are now Pakistan's leading lawyers.

Slowly and surely, the Musharraf regime is being exposed. All its promises and claims are falling by the wayside, one after another. Musharraf's desire to have good relations with India is also like the promises he has made since the takeover. When tested on the ground, they do not hold good. He cannot indulge in violence against India and at the same time say that he wants peace.


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