Delhi's Sharp Message To US On J&K
17 April 2003
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
Jammu: New Delhi is angry, if not aggressively hostile,over Washinton's more-than-necessary interest-'interference' would the word have to be-in the internal affairs of India. The Minister for External Affairs,Yashwant Sinha,was forced to fire another salvo, cautioning the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell,against over-acting. Sinha cannot be faulted for the message, telling Powell-yes, in a blunt manner-that Washington had no role in resolving the bilateral disputes between India and Pakistan, beyond stopping the cross-border terrorism from Pakistan side. Sinha's retort to Powell came in the wake of the latter's statement that he hoped to take up the Indo-Pak issue after the Iraq war. This, to say the least, is an ominous sing for the countries in Asia. When Powell says that he will deal with the Indo-Pak issue after Iraq, India is bound to feel alarmed over the ominous portents that may follow. It was, therefore, very natural for Yashwant Sinha to remind Colin Powell of his country's role in the issue in clear terms and not to transgress the limit. When the American and British forces launched their attack on Iraq last month, Pakistan's soldier-President, Gen. Parvez Musharraf, spoke out his lurking fear that the next target of the allied forces could be Pakistan. And Gen. Musharraf has very good reasons to fear so. First, Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons. Second,Islamabad is a known sponsor of terrorism. These two are reasons enough for the Americans to launch a war against Islamabad, as it has vowed to wipe out terrorism anywhere in the world and stop proliferation of nuclear weapons world-wide. The US has good reasons to come down heavily on Pakistan as it is feared by defence experts in America that some Pakistani nuclear scientists may have helped the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to acquire nuclear weapons. In case of India also the US has at least one reason to chasten this country and that is its nuclear capability. Several Indians, including former Premiers, VP Singh and IK Gujral,have voiced apprehension that Washington may be tempted to target India along with Pakistan after the completion of the Iraq 'adventure'.This may sound an alarmist view, but cannot be ignored altogether. Having taken upon itself the role of a global policeman, the United States can justify any unilateral action against any country which does not toe its line. Colin Powell has already issued a veiled threat to India that it should not take action against Pakistan taking advantage of the Iraq war. Thus India will not be allowed to punish its neighbour for its acts of terrorism. Should India need the US sanction for punishing Pakistan which has done immense damage to this country through the prolonged proxy war? India had expected that the US, in keeping with its avowed policy against global terrorism, would at least declare Pakistan a terrorist state. However, this has not happened. On the contrary, Pakistan has, for the US, become the most important state in the region. The reason is very simple. Having helped Paksitan to overcome its domestic crisis, the US is now extracting maximum advantage from Islamabad. The Afghanistan war has helped the US to station its troops in Afghanistan and, if needed, in Pakistan as well. Thus, for the US, Pakistan has a strategic importance. It is clear that American policy in this region is guided by its own self interest and its so-called war against global terrorism is aimed at protecting those interests. All along the decades old Indo-Pakistan dispute, there have been overt and covert attempts by the United States to somehow find a foothold in the imbroglio, with Pakistan ever willing to bring in the Americans to put pressure on India. However, it was the principled stand of the successive Indian leadership that there was no place for a third party mediation, which kept Washington at bay. From the happenings in the last few years world-wide and in the manner in which the US is trying to find a role for itself into every dispute, even if it is internal or bilateral, Pakistan should have learnt a lesson by now and should have understood the pitfalls of involving an outside power in bilateral matters. There is already a large presence of American troops in Pakistan. It is not a very happy thing for either Pakistan or for its South Asian neighbours. With no signs of the Americans leaving Afghanistan in the near future, it will act as a hanging sword in the region. The best course for India and Pakistan will be to sort out their problems and differences bilaterally and do nothing that will give the US the opportunity to meddle. Yashwant Sinha had a valid point: US may put pressure on Pakistan for cooperating in the drive against global terrorism but should not meddle in the bilateral disputes of the two neighbours. While India has resisted all US attempts to intervene in the past and there is no possibility of New Delhi seeking Washington's help in solving Indo-Pak disputes in future, the danger is of Pakistan being forced to toe American line.