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|ISSUE 51 January 11, 2003||
New Delhi's War Hysteria
Mohamed Abdi Hassan "Diridhaba"
The 10-month long military confrontation between India and Pakistan ended when New Delhi started pulling back its armed forces from the frontlines to their peacetime locations. A year ago India had suddenly rushed its armed forces to their battle positions for 'a decisive fight' to 'teach Pakistan a lesson'. India's fit of rage rang alarm bells in South Asia and beyond. It followed the attack on the Indian parliament in January 2002 by five unknown civilians armed with small arms. Notwithstanding the reality of the attack, it was an ill-conceived operation. Its motive is obscure and the true picture may take a long while to emerge. For the present, let us examine the balance sheet of India's red alert.
Its coercive policy and intimidating brinkmanship took advantage of the 9/11 attacks and of the subsequent "war against terror" in Afghanistan. The US fury to crush the Taliban and Al-Qa’eda focused global attention on the menace of terrorism. New Delhi seized this opportunity for implementing its agenda in Kashmir to subdue the on-going indigenous freedom struggle that has crippled the valley.
India's additional objectives were to drive a wedge between Pakistan and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, isolate Islamabad in the comity of nations, and pressurize it into accepting Indian dictation. Politically and diplomatically, Pakistan was asked to 'do more' and stop 'cross-border infiltration in Kashmir'. India's war cry was based on the logic that if US had a global agenda for protecting its national interest, why should it not use its own military superiority to achieve Indian objectives in South Asia?
With the sounding of the red alert, India withdrew its high commissioner from Islamabad, cancelled the rail service between the two countries, stopped overflights of Pakistani aircraft, and declined to issue travel visas to Pakistani citizen. These unilateral decisions resulted in a state of no-peace no-war between the two countries, and a military confrontation ensued.
Simultaneously, an extensive diplomatic, political and media war was launched to blackmail Pakistan to either downgrade its Kashmir policy or face military aggression. Pakistan opted for the honorable course and took security measures to protect its interests and to prevent being surprised. While so doing, it maintained that it was against military confrontation and was ready to settle all disputes with India, including the core issue of Kashmir, through negotiations. This reasonable policy won universal acclaim.
The international community expressed deep concern on the deteriorating regional situation and all countries urged upon India and Pakistan to withdraw their armed forces to the barracks, defuse tension, start negotiations, and remove the possibility of open hostilities breaking out between the two nuclear weapon states.
Sustained external pressure, Pakistan's refusal to be coerced and internal ground realities created a realization in India that world opinion had turned against its arrogance of power. This resulted in scaling down the military confrontation. The return of opposing forces to their peace locations is an appropriate opportunity for a post-mortem of the developments that brought India and Pakistan to the precipice of war.
India's declared and implied intentions were to harm Pakistan militarily, diplomatically, economically and psychologically and to cripple or weaken the freedom struggle in Indian held Kashmir. Did India succeed in achieving these objectives, wholly or partially?
Much to the regret of India, the freedom struggle in Kashmir continues and the election drama staged in the valley under the shadow of Indian bayonets flopped as indicated by the poor turnout of voters. US Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that "Kashmir is on the international agenda" and that elections are not a solution of the dispute is based on irrefutable ground realities.
Pakistan declined to compromise its Kashmir policy, and its relations with the APHC remain strong and doubt-free. The people and the government of Pakistan support the right of the people of Kashmir to decide their own future through a UN-supervised referendum.
The people of Kashmir are justified in resisting Indian occupation and Pakistan backs them diplomatically, politically and morally. There is total unanimity on this support within the country. This is significant because political parties in Pakistan differ on many other domestic issues. External pressures have strengthened Pakistan's determination to remain steadfast in its principled stand.
The Line of Control is a temporary arrangement to which the people of Kashmir are not a party. It is destined to disappear sooner than later. If the LoC has any military sanctity, it is to be mutually observed by the troops deployed on either side. In reality, it is observed in the breach. India routinely violates the Loc by firing across it with machine gun, mortar and artillery fire and occasionally with aircraft. UN monitors can best check the Indian allegations of 'cross-border infiltration'.
But India rejects this fair proposal, for spurious reasons. This country has dealt with India's trigger-happy policy with patience and has shown resilience and firmness despite extreme provocation. The people of Kashmir do not recognize the Loc and they feel justified in traveling across it. Disruption of bilateral relations hurt both countries economically.
The cost of maintaining a force in the field is invariably higher than supporting it in peace locations. The suspension of the Samjhota Express and air and bus services adversely affect intending travelers and the inconvenience caused to them cannot be measured in mathematical terms. As a rough guide it is estimated that the economic price paid by India because of suspension of trade and travel facilities is about five to six times larger than what it costs Pakistan.
The Indian media laments that banning of over-flights has badly hurt their airlines, which had to cancel or divert over 120 flights. The loss suffered by Pakistani airlines on this account is relatively small because only about a dozen of their flights are adversely affected. Significantly, Pakistan's economy has shown resilience in absorbing the loss in revenue.
The war hysteria created by India reflects its mindset. It has become a norm with India to threaten its neighbors in South Asia to keep them under pressure. The Indian media frequently indulges in malicious personal slander against Pakistani rulers, which is against diplomatic norms and moral ethics. Such hitting below the belt is not done in a civilized society. This undignified Indian attitude seems to enjoy an official nod because the trend persists. Pakistani society is not fault free, but this does not give a license to any country to interfere in our domestic affairs.
The advice-giving moralists in India may divert their energies inwards. The electoral farce staged in Kashmir and in the home state of Gandhi brings shame to the 'democratic' credentials of 'secular' India. The hands of the ruling junta in India are tainted with the blood of minorities who are threatened to either change their religion or migrate elsewhere.
Narinder Modi and his benefactors in New Delhi are guilty of cold-blooded massacre of over 2,000 Muslims in one state. Sane Indians condemn the atrocities committed in their country against Tamils, Nagas, Dalits, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims.
Pakistan seeks peace but will defend itself from external aggression. It seeks peace not only for itself but also for all countries in South Asia on the basis of sovereign equality of states as enshrined in the United Nation's Charter. India and Pakistan should peacefully co-exist for the common good of their people. Let them fight together against poverty, want and hunger.
Bilateralism is the name given to the game of imposing the hegemony of the strong on the weak. This concept has reached a dead end in India-Pakistan relations and should best be dumped in the Indian Ocean.