December 2003 News

Benazir's Misplaced Analysis

16 December 2003
The Nation

Lahore: AGAINST the backdrop of a recent thaw in Indo-Pak relations, Ms Benazir Bhutto, crediting Mr Vajpayee for his renewed peace initiatives despite the undermining of bus diplomacy and the failure of the Agra summit, sees the new year herald an era of hopes and expectations. Addressing a Peace Conference in New Delhi the other day she recapped how the two countries moved away from engagement to estrangement over the past half century and how the military dictatorships in Pakistan jeopardised efforts by the political regimes to make peace with India. She sounded right when she said that democracies do not go to war against other democracies. An oblique reference to Kargil was not a misplaced reference. Given the fact that all three wars between the two South Asian neighbours, now nuclear-armed, were fought when Pakistan was under martial laws, Ms Bhutto's argument that overt statements by the military rulers' for the normalisation of relations must be put to the test is not without a rationale. Regarding the role of the democratic governments contributing to peace process in the past, she prided herself on the signing of the nuclear confidence building treaty with Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 and that of the Simla Pact by 'our parents in the 1970s.' As she discoursed on reducing tension in the region and boosting up Pakistan-India trade, she insisted on adopting such models of conflict management as available from the excellent trade relations China has with India despite border dispute as well as between Beijing and Washington despite their dispute over Taiwan. But while bringing back to her memory a lot of good of the past, Ms Bhutto, her disregard for the centrality of the Kashmir issue notwithstanding, felt no qualms in furthering Mr Vajpayee's agenda for 'soft borders.' Maybe in New Delhi she finds a more responsive audience to accuse Pakistan of declaring 'unannounced war' on India by supporting insurgency in the Held Kashmir in 1989 in which women and children in various Indian States were subjected to the worst repression. Perhaps on Indian soil, her mind fine-tuned to the BJP's perceptions, she takes a tinted view of naked Indian aggression in the Held State with no let up since the recent ceasefire.


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