July 2004 News

Indian Double Take On Pakistan

12 July 2004
Asia Times Online
Sultan Shahin

New Delhi: India is greatly intrigued at what lies behind Pakistan's soft approach and sweet talk in the peace process, coupled with support for hardliners in Kashmir's All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), continued support for cross-border militancy and orchestrated praise for the sincerity of the previous Indian government and statesmanship of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Asia Times Online sources in the government point to several developments after Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar's recent visit for scheduled talks with his Indian counterpart. The alacrity with which Jammu and Kashmir's APHC - a conglomeration of separatist organizations - acquired its moderate chief's resignation and brought estranged hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani into the fold following the Pakistani foreign secretary's advice to 'set their house in order' underscores the influence Islamabad continues to wield on Kashmir's secessionists. When Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf telephoned the ousted Vajpayee after the formation of Manmohan Singh's Congress Party-led government in May, and sought his help in carrying forward the peace process, the new government dismissed it as a case of a bad hangover after the shock defeat, though making it clear that it did not like it one bit. As the former ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was itself having difficulty getting over the trauma of defeat, it was felt that its counterparts across the border, too, were having the same trouble. The BJP had even carried Musharraf's pictures on its campaign coaches. A budding relationship had been cut short by the unpredictable Indian electorate. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of so-called secular formations decided to ignore the undiplomatic behavior of the ruling general in Pakistan. But both Musharraf and the Hurriyat again made it a point last week to praise the statesmanship of Vajpayee and the sincerity and seriousness of the previous government in seeking to solve long- standing problems bedeviling the two nations. Musharraf gave entire credit to Vajpayee for the present peace process between the two countries. The Hurriyat, too, praised the BJP-led government for its sincerity in conducting a dialogue, while criticizing the Congress- led government for being 'insincere'. Even the Congress ally in the provincial government criticized it for making it feel at every step that Kashmir was a Muslim-majority province in a Hindu-majority India. This has made India's foreign policy establishment sit up and take notice. The sources in the government point to some other factors that they find intriguing. India's army chief, General N C Vij, for instance, reported that the number of infiltration attempts had increased from eight in May-June last year to 12 in the corresponding period this year. This alters the hyped picture of bonhomie altogether. This is not to say that infiltration has not come down. Though Vij chose not to mention this, it appears from all other accounts that infiltration across Line of Control (LoC) that separates the Pakistani- and Indian-administered sections of Kashmir has come down sharply. But India credits this to border fencing and a denser Indian cordon. Indian government sources say that the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is still involved in 'launching' militants, though now they avoid coordinating openly with the Pakistani army posts as they used to do. In addition, while India has almost completely stopped any adverse propaganda against Pakistan, the latter is carrying on anti- India propaganda in its official media. Also, while India trod softly on such issues as Pakistan's membership in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum and its readmission to the Commonwealth, trying not to create any problem for its neighbor, Islamabad continued with its familiar anti-India stance on the Kashmir issue at the Organization of Islamic Conference foreign ministers' meeting in Istanbul. The feeling within the Indian hierarchy is that a reappraisal of what is actually going on is needed. On the one hand, Pakistan appears quite sincere, and on the other it doesn't seem to have changed one bit. What is going on behind the scenes? they wonder. What is the ISI's game plan in continuing to support the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), for instance, which is trying to cash in on disaffection among Indian Muslims created by the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat a couple of years ago? M K Narayanan, former chief of the Intelligence Bureau and now internal security adviser to the Indian prime minister, says the LeT has created sleeper cells throughout northern India, including Himachal Pradesh, a mountainous region bordering Jammu and Kashmir, with little Muslim presence. A source in the LeT confirmed this to this correspondent in Karachi a couple of months ago. He said: 'We are just waiting for another Gujarat-like anti-Muslim violence. Such massacres will not go unavenged anymore.' Significantly, he also claimed that the LeT was reducing its presence in and focus on Kashmir while seeking to build its influence in the wider 150-million-strong Indian Muslim community. 'Even if we succeed in wresting Kashmir from India,' he said, 'it will just become another part of the same ungodly Pakistan. What is the point in augmenting the borders of 'un-Islamic' Pakistan?' Indian official sources also point out that ISI has not reduced its level of support for militancy in India's northeast. Dialogue with Kashmiri separatists is an important part of the ongoing peace process with Pakistan. But the resignation of the central government's key Hurriyat interlocutor, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, as its chief last Wednesday, apparently on Pakistan's dictates, has put the fate of the dialogue in question. He told the Indian Express after his resignation that the UPA government is 'insincere' in contrast to its predecessor, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He said: 'This new government has not shown sincerity towards the talks process. They say one thing one day and the other the next day. They have been putting conditions ... the previous government [NDA] was, however, sincere. They had accepted us as the representatives of the aspirations of Kashmiri people; they didn't put any conditions and also agreed to hold the talks at the highest level.' Apparently, while Ansari was paving the way for the reunification of all APHC factions on orders from Islamabad conveyed to him by Foreign Secretary Khokhar, he wants to put the blame on India for any delay in a third round of talks that should be held shortly. Hurriyat's Ansari faction has now named former chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as its interim leader, aiming to get the various factions on board. 'They [Delhi] want to talk to all. So we will try to gather all together so that we can speak in one voice,' he said, hinting that the next round of talks could be delayed. A day after Ansari's resignation, however, Mirwaiz refused to accept the position of interim chief and said he would push forward the unity efforts between the two factions. Mirwaiz, who is also the founder- chairman of the organization, said: 'There has been some misunderstanding ... I will not function as interim chairman. My responsibility would be to talk to all the members of the erstwhile undivided Hurriyat so that the constitutional shape of the body is restored.' Diplomatic sources say the emerging situation may force New Delhi to request Pakistan to put pressure on the Hurriyat to continue talks. Even though hardline pro-Pakistan Kashmiri leader Gilani, who heads the breakaway Hurriyat group, has refused to react to Ansari's resignation, saying it was immaterial whether the other faction was headed by Ansari or someone else, thus ruling out any possibility of unity between the two factions, New Delhi is worried about the future of the third round of talks and fears it may be in jeopardy if hardliners prevail over moderates. The Pakistani chapter of the Hurriyat had been in favor of a hardline leadership. With the latest events, they will develop a greater say in matters of the Indian chapter of the organization. Gilani had alone opposed any talk with the Indian government unless New Delhi acknowledged Kashmir as a dispute. He also wanted Pakistan's inclusion in the dialogue process on Kashmir.


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