December 2001 News

Put Kashmir on ice

2 December 2001
Times of India
K Subrahmanyam

New Delhi: FOR many people in India and Pakistan, the clock appears to have stopped ticking after the Agra summit. This is not the first time that Indians have tended to ignore the inexorable march of history. In the eighties, even as Pakistan used to the hilt the US obsession with defeating the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, Indians harped on about implementing the Simla Pact. Pakistan altered ground realities by acquiring nuclear weapon capability, getting sophisticated conventional weapons and training thousands of militants to wage a proxy war in Kashmir. While the Simla Pact was about confidence-building, Pakistan changed things to such an extent as to make Kashmir the core of a contentious relationship. This fitted in well with Islamabad’s espousal of the two-nation theory. At Agra too, India emphasised the need for confidence-building through stopping cross-border terrorism while Pakistan wanted to revive its claim on Kashmir as part of its larger commitment to the two-nation theory. The events of Agra have been swept away by the tidal wave of 9-11 (attacks on New York), Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ and the exposure of Pakistan-Taliban links and Pakistani ‘freedom fighters’ who were part of the Taliban being killed in their hundreds at Kunduz or Kandahar. General Musharraf has been compelled to act against his rabid religious leaders and crack down on his jehadi militias who have been carrying out a common programme of terrorism against the civilian populations of Kashmir and Afghanistan. The only reason the global alliance has spared Pakistan and General Musharraf from direct action is his total submission to the US and his promise to push Pakistan towards ‘moderate Islamic state’ status. It is, therefore, totally unrealistic to talk of continuing the Agra process. Just as the Soviet intrusion into Afghanistan totally changed the history of the subcontinent, the American Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ and Pakistani promise to move away from extremism towards Islamic moderation will now change radically the history of the subcontinent. Obviously Pakistan cannot prove itself to be a moderate Islamic state without giving up its espousal of the clash of civilisations thesis in the form of the two-nation theory, reversing its Islamisation drive, closing down madrassas, giving up the pursuit of an interest-free economy, Hadood punishments and so on. The Americans cannot afford selectively to allow some terrorist organisations to carry on their activities after the present operations are over. It is like dealing with cancer. One cannot leave traces of the disease in some parts of the body and hope it will not spread again. Otherwise, they will be repeating the mistake they committed in 1989. Terrorism against Kashmir and Afghanistan are only training exercises for terrorism against the US and Europe. The US government and agencies are, therefore, likely to stay on in Pakistan and the US’s full pressure will be felt by Pakistan only after a non-Taliban government takes over in Kabul and Pakistan is no longer needed to prosecute the military campaign in Afghanistan. It is also quite obvious that the US is likely to engage itself directly in making Pakistan a moderate Islamic state and in that attempt it has no grounds to repose any confidence in any of the political parties in Pakistan or in General Musharraf. Its strategy will be to pay Pakistan in economic terms for every step Islamabad takes towards moderate Islamic status. It will have to ensure that Pakistan does not get any more external support for its nuclear and missile programmes. It will have to encourage various incipient political forces in the country to play a more constructive role in Pakistan’s future politics as a moderate Muslim state. That is the long war against terrorism that is being talked about. Meanwhile, more information will be available on the financial flows that have been sustaining terrorism including on the hawala channels. In these circumstances, what should the Indian prime minister be talking to General Musharraf about at the SAARC summit? The first and foremost topic has to be the General’s programme to make Pakistan a moderate Islamic state and how he proposes to deal with the fall-out of Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ in his country. India should offer to sign a declaration with Pakistan pledging both countries to multiculturalism and a mutual struggle against terrorism. It should be pointed out to General Musharraf that it would contribute to greater confidence-building between the two countries and enhance Pakistan’s credibility in the international community. The events after Agra have demonstrated conclusively that religious extremism and terrorism are the issues that need to be faced jointly if the economic development of this area is to be advanced further. Therefore, whatever happened at Agra has been buried in the rubble of the collapsed towers of the World Trade Center. Both India and Pakistan have to review their sterile relationship of the last 54 years in the light of the developments since 9-11.General Musharraf chose wisely not to follow the path of Saddam Hussein, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. That decision and consequent developments will have an enormous impact on Pakistan’s relations with China, its relationship with the US and the West, domestically on the political evolution of the Pakistani polity and its economic prosperity and, above all, on Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. General Musharraf will be prudent to continue his policy of realism and call off his confrontation with India on Kashmir. His success in controlling the Islamist upsurge in support of the Taliban demonstrates that most of these extremist posturings on Talibanisation or Kashmir were deliberately engineered and kept alive by vested interests. Pakistan is to hold elections next year and restore democracy. The nature and outcome of that political process will be watched with interest by the entire international community, particularly the US. In fact, the outcome of those elections will prove how far General Musharraf succeeds in steering Pakistan towards moderate Islam. In such circumstances, while India should not refuse to talk to General Musharraf, Islamabad cannot be allowed to dictate the agenda — Kashmir as the core issue or Kashmir as the first issue. What concerns India and the rest of the world today is how Pakistan is going to rescue itself from the vortex of terrorism into which it has allowed itself to be sucked in and how it is going to advance purposefully towards moderate Islam. That will be the only issue which the rest of the international community will be discussing with Pakistan in the next few years.


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