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Welcome the creators of Kargil with caution

There is talk of ‘peace’ in the air everywhere. Except where it is most needed – in Jammu & Kashmir. Indeed, despite the "great expectations" that have been raised by the prospect of General Pervez Musharraf’s visit in response to Prime Minsister Vajpayee’s sudden and impulsive invitation, violence in the State has only escalated – as it inevitably has in the wake of every ‘peace initiative’ in the past. The saddest note of India’s recent history must certainly be written in memory of the rising numbers of innocents who have been, and continue to be, killed by the capricious ‘good intentions’ of those who control the reins of power in this country.

As a nation, we appear to have an almost infinite capacity for self-deception. Nothing else could possibly explain the excitement and the near hysteria in the Indian media and among what passes for our intelligentsia, over what is no more than a poorly scripted theatrical event.

It is difficult, indeed, even to understand the contra-factual expectations of the incurable optimists who continue to sing orchestrated paens to the ‘breakthrough’ that has been achieved by the Prime Minister’s invitation to Musharraf, despite the churlish deceit of Musharraf’s invitation to the Hurriyat; despite the nonsensical and frantic allegations of ‘repression’, ‘mass rape’ and ‘human rights violations’ by Indian Forces in Kashmir, that are being increasingly aired over Pakistan’s official media, and by senior members of the government there; despite the transparent duplicity of Pakistan’s postures on the mujahiddeen operating from its soil, on the escalating militant violence in J&K, and on the future of Kashmir as the ‘core issue’ of all talks with India; and despite the obvious mendacity and opportunism of the many ‘spokespersons’ of the Pakistani perspective who appear to have established permanent camps in the studios of a multiplicity of television channels.

In all this, it is essential to distinguish appearance from reality, and understand what it is that is actually going on. Any realistic perspectives of the proposed Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting cannot be constructed in the make-believe world that ignores the ground realities of terrorism in J&K – and indeed, disregards the widening range of the ISI’s activities in other parts of the country. It must, in this context, be understood that, for the terrorist, negotiations are just a transient tactic to further his own ends. They are ordinarily entered into only when he feels himself at a disadvantage on the ground; or when these are forced upon him by his public postures and the propaganda objectives he seeks to secure. It is as a supporter and sponsor of terrorism that we should view Musharraf if we are to understand the real motives and strategies of his engagement in the ‘peace process’ with India, and his sudden and new found, though fitful, aversion to the mad mullahs of his own country.

It must be understood, furthermore, that these talks are not of Musharraf’s choosing. They have been forced upon him by Vajpayee’s whimsical invitation; by international pressures for the appearance (even in the absence of any substance) of a ‘peace process’; by the downward spiral of Pakistan’s economy and its rising dependence on, indeed desperation for, some emergency relief from international aid agencies; and by Musharraf’s comprehensive failure to fulfill any of the grand promises of a radical policy reorientation and reorganization of Pakistan’s corruption-ridden domestic polity and administration.

We cannot forget, moreover, that Musharraf is now openly acknowledged as the architect and planner of Pakistan’s aggression in Kargil. India likes to remember Kargil as a ‘great victory’, but it is sobering to remind ourselves that Kargil is not conceived of as a ‘defeat’ in Pakistan, and there is no reason to believe that Musharraf has, in any measure, been chastened by the Kargil experience. Indeed, the truth may in fact be the exact opposite, since he has personally profited immensely from the Kargil fiasco. In the first place, it is a mistake to think that Kargil was an attempt on Pakistan’s part to take Kashmir by force; it was primarily an attempt to internationalize the Kashmir issue and to further destabilize an equation that was rapidly settling into a stalemate that would be to India’s long-term advantage; and on both these counts, the aggression was immensely successful. That such internationalization is yet to translate itself into any concrete benefits for Pakistan is beside the point. More significantly, Kargil created the context for Musharraf’s coup and the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif’s elected government.

From Musharraf’s perspective, Vajpayee’s current invitation and the absurd fanfare over his visit to India has only served up on a platter new opportunities for further internationalization and destabilization over the Kashmir issue, and in the present case, without any effort, cost or loss on Pakistan’s part. By saying that we must put Kargil into the past and seek peace with the present regime in that country, the Indian government not only trivializes the sacrifice of the hundreds of young men who lost their lives to confront Pakistan’s adventurism in that limited war, but also the enormous tragedy and continuous loss of life that is being inflicted on Kashmir by Pakistan’s amoral and lawless opportunism, and its unashamed sponsorship of terrorism.

Of course, if there is some real possibility of peace, we must pursue it. But that is the point. Engagement with the Musharraf regime under the present circumstances does not further the possibilities of peace; indeed, it strengthens forces that promote a complex and corrosive strategy of aggression against India. This is a point that has been exhaustively argued by me elsewhere (see "The J&K ‘Peace Process’: Chasing the Chimera", Faultlines, Volume 8), and these arguments need not be repeated. What must be remembered, however, is that the "unrealistic pursuit of peace can only defer violence, and often magnifies it. The notion of ‘peace at all costs’ is self-destructive, and negotiations based on false premises and projections, and on unrealistic or divergent assessments of realities on the ground, inevitably result in greater escalation – though they may produce a temporary and deceptive lull."

India and Pakistan should, of course, come closer together. Indeed, I believe that it is a historical inevitability that they eventually will, and when they do, and when the current military rivalry is replaced with a strong defense pact between the two countries, they will become truly unbeatable. But this scenario is far in the future, and its terms cannot be negotiated with the present regime in Pakistan. India cannot ask the ‘rest of the world’ to impose sanctions against Pakistan because of the rape of democracy in that country and its sponsorship of terrorism on Indian soil, and at the same time endorse and legitimize the Musharraf dictatorship through its own actions and the almost obsequious welcome it is laying out for this usurper. India cannot argue that the people of Pakistan want peace; that civil society in that country seeks to strengthen its linkages with India; and then act in a manner that strengthens a junta that has crushed the democratic rights of the people and the voice of civil society in Pakistan. Vajpayee’s invitation has already indirectly facilitated Musharraf’s elevation from the CEO of his country to President-cum-CEO. In this, India has contributed directly to the weakening of the previously emasculated forces of democracy in Pakistan, and has reinforced a reactionary military regime and the entire paraphernalia of the subversive intelligence agencies and fundamentalist Islamist forces that stand directly behind it. To say that this has weakened the case for peace in the region is to state the obvious.

What, then, can the Vajpayee-Musharraf meet yield? It must be clear to all but the politically naïve that neither leader is in a position to concede anything of significance on Kashmir – without committing absolute and immediate political suicide. The two leaders will, consequently, make all the politically correct noises, strike postures that will go down well with the media and in the West; sign a few meaningless ‘joint statements’; Musharraf and his Begum will also get to see that Taj; and the meeting may lay the foundations for a series of further meetings. But he Kashmir issue will be decided in Kashmir; either by the terrorists, or by those who oppose and defeat them. And there, appearances and talks of a thousand-year war notwithstanding, Pakistan is at a distinct disadvantage.

It is one of the astute maxims of military history that generals are always fighting the last war; and Musharraf remains trapped in the Afghanistan paradigm, despite the fact that Pakistan’s engagement in that conflict has brought his own country to the brink of bankruptcy and anarchy. But even the tainted victory of Afghanistan is not a possibility in Kashmir. India is greater, deeper, than any of the transient regimes that govern it. Its capacity to absorb the lack of vision, of integrity, of strength, and even the rising incompetence of its own leaders, is immense. India will abide.

(Published in Hindi Daily- Amar Ujala, July 11, 2001)





Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.