December 2001 News

After Afghanistan, Kashmir

10 December 2001
The Tribune
A N Dar

New Delhi: It is good that Afghanistan has gone along the lines which should satisfy India. The kind of government that is going to shape in Kabul and the relations it may have with India will not be something that will hurt India as badly as the Taliban did or would have done. This is almost clear. We should be confident that most of India’s objectives in Afghanistan have been achieved. At least Afghanistan will not be the armoury for trouble in Kashmir. That is saying a great deal. But this is the emerging reality. To an extent Pakistan’s capacity to harass India in Kashmir will be lessened. If comparisons are to be made in assessing how India has fared, we should conclude that Pakistan has a great deal to feel sorry for. In the loss of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan should in reality be feeling deeply distressed. It is almost as if it has lost an arm. Afghanistan under the Taliban was a sword arm of Pakistan in providing support to the ISI’s activities. It provided the men for suicide missions not only in Afghanistan but also in Kashmir. It enabled Pakistan facilities for training saboteurs. Pakistan could manage Afghanistan under the Taliban the way it wanted. The Taliban was always ready to beckon to its call. That facility is now lost. Worse, Pakistan was pushed into the American-sponsored alliance against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. General Musharraf has candidly said that Pakistan had to take notice of the new situation that arose after September 11 and change its policy. It could not have remained outside the alliance. Reluctantly, it had to become a frontline state for the American-sponsored alliance against the Taliban. This happened against its inner conscience. It had to work against the Taliban to which it had given birth. Will Pakistan change too? Will it be less warlike? Will it know that terrorism doesn’t pay and should thus tailor its policy? No answers have yet come. One should watch General Musharraf in his television interviews as he goes on to convince the people of Pakistan of the wisdom of the policy he has pursued. He says that he has been realistic. This is not wrong. He could not have remained outside the alliance. If he had, the alliance would have acted against him too. By joining the alliance he has placed himself in the pack sharing the spoils of war. Had he remained outside he would have given a huge advantage to India — something that he does not want to do. And the destruction of both Afghanistan and Pakistan would have been vast. General Musharraf chose the only way he could. But in doing that he had to go against all that Pakistan had stood for. The General is apologetic in confessing to Pakistanis that he had to choose a policy that would save Pakistan although he had to surrender its set principles. The people of Pakistan understand this but something itches underneath their skin. In their heart they know that they had to give up what they had been taught to believe in. This was the close relationship with the Taliban and the common undertaking of profiting by terrorism. General Musharraf has clarified that it was not because of his dislike of the Taliban that he had joined the alliance. He has said that it was the “security of the country and our core interests of Kashmir and nuclear programme (that) were kept uppermost while taking the decision after September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.” This is the key of his policy today. The danger now for India is this: the General has given up Afghanistan and the Taliban to achieve a victory on Kashmir. This is his only consideration now. He would not mind losing anything if he can win a victory on Kashmir that would satisfy the people of Pakistan. Not necessarily a military victory, though he would not like to rule that out, but an overall victory with America’s help that will take Kashmir away from India. This should sound a sign of warning. General Musharraf will have nothing to show if he cannot gain Kashmir for Pakistan. His one point now would be to concentrate on Kashmir. There are two points that can form his Kashmir policy. He may wink over it or he may allow his eyes to be wide open but he would like to push into Kashmir the old Taliban forces, the Taliban-trained Arabs and Pakistanis. How he will do it should be watched. The way the Pakistani authorities have tried to bring them back from Afghanistan shows that it needs them. Yet, General Musharraf cannot keep them in Pakistan. He has no use for them there. They will only mean more trouble to him. He knows and India should also know that if Pakistan manages to send them into Kashmir, many of them will be happy to go there for a job to do. India has not been able to completely stop infiltration across the passes. A large number would get killed as they try to cross the LoC but many can come across. They would fulfil the Pakistani ways of continuing trouble in Kashmir. This is important for Pakistan. The trouble in Kashmir would keep the “dispute” alive as an issue for Pakistan to fight for. For this Kashmir has to be a trouble spot. It would not create the same sentiment and alarm in America and the United Kingdom if there is peace. Killings and destruction in Kashmir would not create the kind of revulsion that the bombing of the World Trade Center did. One method open to India would be to stop the infiltration from across the LoC. Would this be possible? The government’s energies should be directed towards this. After the Afghanistan war Pakistan is morally weakened. The world knows that Pakistan supports saboteurs. Pakistan has got a bad name as a harbinger of saboteurs. The world now knows that it used to be the haven to saboteurs going into Kashmir. This will put a limitation on Pakistan training new saboteurs. General Musharraf would give anything to maintain Kashmir as a disputed territory. The best way for him is to make out that this is no terrorism and the people of Kashmir are fighting for freedom and India is keeping them under its heel. For this his policy planners have invented the jargon that a “freedom fight” is on in Kashmir. Pakistan will try its best to give the trouble in Kashmir this colouring. This will be the shroud under which terrorism in Kashmir can be hidden from worldview. This is a line of propaganda which Pakistan will keep on selling. Because of the trouble and violence, it will be easy for General Musharraf to sell the idea that a freedom fight is on in Kashmir. India should fight this line of propaganda. This is going to be the General’s best line of attack. It would make it possible for Pakistan to tell the world why there is violence in Kashmir. Fortunately for India the world has now known that trouble can be created by one country in another. The forces that were encircled in northern Afghanistan comprised not just the Afghanistani Taliban but also Pakistanis and Arabs. When they were earlier sent to Kashmir, at first the world did not believe that they were sent across by Pakistan. But now it is wiser.


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