Editorial 1\Game is over
Editorial 2\Clear signal
Bill’s visitation
Letters to the Editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1\GAME IS OVER 
 
 
 
 
The 390 minutes that the United States president, Mr Bill Clinton, spent in Pakistan were a bittersweet experience for General Pervez Musharraf. The general had pulled out all stops to ensure Mr Clinton did not bypass his country during his south Asia tour. But the general must have wondered if he had made the right decision. Mr Clinton’s televised address was a sharp rap on the knuckles for the military regime. Half the speech was about how important it was for Pakistan’s future to have an elected government. The US president declined to endorse Mr Musharraf’s regime, speaking repeatedly of the US’s friendly relations with the “people of Pakistan.” It is no surprise Mr Musharraf afterwards went to pains to refute Mr Clinton’s arguments.

The rest of the US president’s address made it clear Washington took a dim view of Pakistan’s continuing use of covert warfare and terrorism to keep Kashmir on the boil. Mr Clinton’s address, in combination with earlier US official statements, sent a warning to Pakistan. Washington had long believed Kashmir to be the powderkeg of the subcontinent. But following the overt nuclearization of the region, US policy was to stamp out even embers of conventional conflict as well. Attempts to rewrite borders “with blood” and promote terrorist activities in Kashmir were unacceptably risky. These were no longer an Indo-Pakistani affair but a threat to global stability. Mr Clinton did not say anything US officials had not said before. But the medium he chose has driven the message home to every Pakistani: any attempt to solve the Kashmir dispute through violence would mean “internationalization” that would be unfavourable to Pakistan. In endorsing the sanctity of the line of control, the US position is nearly indistinguishable from the position India took at Simla.

Mr Musharraf’s search for international legitimacy has become even harder. Pakistani hawks are already saying Islamabad must seek strategic alliances with other countries like Russia or China. They delude themselves. Nuclear risk taking is universally unacceptable. Beijing declined to support Pakistan during Kargil. Pakistani leaders have often sought to compensate for their country’s fractured nationalism and incompetent governance by cranking up tensions with India. Mr Clinton’s message was that henceforth Pakistan needs to practice military restraint and domestic welfare. The Kashmir card can no longer be played. Islamabad needs to start concentrating on governance, on trying to restore and repair their country and its civil society from within. Mr Musharraf has argued that this is precisely what he aims to do. Unfortunately for him, in a post-Cold War world no one believes a dictator can play the role of a nation builder. And Washington, once the bulwark of the Pakistani army, believes this least of all. US officials correctly say nuclearization means Washington can never isolate Pakistan. But Islamabad is now coming to understand that nuclearization also means rogue activities will no longer be tolerated by the international community. The question for Mr Musharraf is whether Pakistan is capable of any other sort of relationship with India. The general’s comments after Mr Clinton’s visit would seem to indicate he is unable to change his tune or unconvinced that he needs to.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2\CLEAR SIGNAL 
 
 
 
 
Uttar Pradesh has proved a tough cookie for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The ups and downs of the state government led by Mr Kalyan Singh, accompanied by embarrassing outbursts of dissidence and accusations of nepotism and thuggism, had ultimately led to Mr Singh’s replacement by Mr Ram Prakash Gupta as chief minister. Who won and who lost were decided as much by the astute backroom boys of the state BJP organization as by public figures such as Mr Kalyan Singh and his intra-party rivals. The UP unit was in turmoil for quite a few crucial months before the Lok Sabha elections, and taught the nervous high command a hard lesson. The new state party chief, Mr Om Prakash Singh, therefore, has decided to dive for the basics. No criminals or other “undesirable elements” are to be accommodated in the official orders of the party organization. Mr Om Prakash Singh feels that it is time to recover the BJP’s image of a party with a difference. The rooting out, to go by what the party chief has said, is to be thorough. Apart from people with criminal backgrounds, contractors engaged by the government and allottees of fair price shops are all to be excluded from official positions. The BJP, which had prided itself on its clean image for a long time, has gradually taken on all the attributes of a party in power. One of these is the rewarding of powerbrokers and suppliers of money and muscle. Mr Kalyan Singh’s UP was an example of the latter. The new party chief evidently wants to recover lost ground.

Unfortunately, he has admitted he can do nothing about ministers with criminal backgrounds who have been inducted into the state government. Here, of course, lies the rub. It is the same problem on a national scale that the Election Commission has been fighting against for the past few years. Barring candidates with criminal charges against them has become a subject referred to piously by all political parties in the hope that nothing concrete will ever be done about it. There is a determined and complicit lack of political will in freeing politics of criminalization. Mr Om Prakash Singh’s decision is a step in the right direction, even if limited at the moment. If he really succeeds in clearing his own stable, a BJP state government of the future in UP may find itself free of ministers with criminal backgrounds.    


 
 
BILL’S VISITATION 
 
 
BY PRAMIT PAL CHAUDHURI
 
 
There was little Bill Clinton signed or said during his visit to India that could not have been done by one of his cabinet ministers. A lot of what he spoke only recapped earlier state department pronouncements. The meagre economic pickings reflected the hurry with which the presidential visit was thrown together. Yet Clinton spent more days in India than he normally does in any two foreign trips.

Superficially this trip was about Clinton and a personal determination to come to India. It was a sentiment so strong it brushed aside a remarkable number of obstacles in its path: India’s nuclear tests, a hysterical Pakistan and an angry Washington arms control lobby.

Clinton showed no interest in India during his first presidential term. He appointed no ambassador to New Delhi for three years. The south Asia desk at Foggy Bottom was palmed off to an old girlfriend. In the early Clinton worldview India only impinged as a part of his plan for a global nuclear nonproliferation regime. New Delhi, of course, had other ideas. The final upshot was India colourfully denouncing the comprehensive test ban treaty.

But the seeds of a new Clinton view of south Asia were being planted. The sower was Hillary Clinton who was captivated by India when she visited in 1995. She told her husband this was a country worth watching. The United States ambassador to India, Richard Celeste, said Clinton “has looked forward to a trip to India since the moment that his wife Hillary returned from her visit to India”.

The president began moving pieces on the board to change Washington’s attitude to India just after reelection. In 1997 the administration undertook a comprehensive review of the US’s south Asia policy. As a US national security council advisor explained, Clinton pushed this because he “felt that south Asia was neglected for too long.”

The review was all important. It seems to have been the engine driving the administration’s India policy the past four years. Even more so than nuclear bombs or nonresident Indians. It called for a “multi-basket” approach to India. The US should engage India on a number of fronts ranging from atom bombs to information technology to clean air. Importantly, it was decided progress in one issue would not be held hostage to another.

The review reflected Clinton’s desire for a whole new relationship with India. It probably outlined an expectation that India’s economic reforms and democratic credentials meant it was a “major power in transition.” Pakistan, on the other hand, was going to hell in a basket.

Clinton personally communicated this new policy to the then Indian prime minister, I.K. Gujral, in September 1997. A few months later, the US secretary of state was saying there would soon be a presidential visit to south Asia. But the visit, which was to waive off the new south Asia policy, got caught in a series of delays. The installation of a Bharatiya Janata Party government, the nuclear tests, yet another Indian election, Kargil — each served to put off the visit. Reportedly Clinton used to repeatedly ask his staff, “So when do I go to India?”

While the visit was in limbo, circumstances helped dilute much entrenched scepticism regarding India. There was the Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talkathon. India’s restraint during Kargil convinced Washington that New Delhi understood the responsibilities that went with nuclear weapons.

Pakistan ended up in the doghouse. Clinton’s recent sanctifying of the line of control and fingerwagging about Kashmir terrorism are not part of the 1997 review. They follow from the US’s anger at Pakistan’s risky strategy of using nuclear weapons as a shield under which to wage covert and border warfare.

Kargil also silenced the nonproliferation lobby’s demand Clinton not visit India unless it made serious nonproliferation gestures. Elections in India, Kargil and the US senate’s no to the CTBT saved the Vajpayee government from having to fulfil the unofficial assurances it made in January 1999 that it would sign. The president still got flayed by the arms control wallahs. Clinton’s visit, wrote The Economist, meant that “if you want America’s attention, behave recklessly and build nuclear bombs”.

But the decision to go ahead with the visit actually flowed from the 1997 review’s argument that the US should not tie its south Asia policy to nonproliferation. Even while speaking about Indo-US differences, the state department’s subcontinent point man, Karl Inderfurth, insisted, “We will not allow our relationships to be defined by a single issue agenda.” Partially because US nonproliferation laws left him little choice, Clinton had to jettison thoughts of forward movement on security issues. So Ranthambore’s tigers did not go along with the lifting of nuclear technology sanctions or bans on arms sales.

Clinton’s persistence is remarkable. Rain or shine, he has pushed for not just a new policy but a new attitude towards India. The first lady’s endorsement is not enough to explain such doggedness. And New Delhi did little to endear itself — Pokhran II helped wreck one of Clinton’s biggest foreign policy initiatives.

One can speculate. Clinton’s worldview is steeped in liberal internationalism. This school of thought argues a peaceful and stable world is best accomplished by promoting liberal values. In a speech last year Talbott said democracies are more likely to abide by international commitments, trade better and fight less. “South Asia”, he added, “has been a testing ground for that proposition.”

Most important, however, is that Clinton believes India will matter in the future. According to Celeste, Clinton has “reflected on which nations will be especially important for the US and the world community looking down the road to 20 to 30 years, India is on the short list of four or five”. It is a theme that pops up in the odd official US statement, often in the same breath as China and Russia. But India gets more favourable reviews than the others.

Like most second term presidents, Clinton has been concerned about leaving his mark on history. He spends a lot of time playing peacebroker — and has even angled for a similar role in south Asia. Early in 1997 Clinton spoke of his 21st century vision. “To me, there are probably six or seven great questions which will determine the shape of the world for the next 50 years.” Among them was how Russia and China defined their own greatness. Four months later he okayed the south Asia policy review. It is safe to say Clinton added India, and how it defines its greatness, to the agenda.

Will Clinton’s faith in India be shared by his successors to the oval office? Administration officials say yes. Just before the visit, a White House official insisted that Al Gore and George W. Bush also “recognized the value of India as a partner of the US”. Probably they will be less complacent about New Delhi’s nuclear ambitions or less enamoured about the still tiny Indo-US economic linkage as Clinton. Hence his determination to set in concrete what he started, writing into the vision statement that future US presidents and secretaries of state must hold regular summits with their Indian counterparts.

There is no surety. A US official called Clinton’s engagement of India “a long, winding and up and down road.” It is perhaps unfortunate Clinton has been able, as he told Indian parliamentarians, to “seize the moment” only as his own oval office tenure is coming to an end. The education of a US president about India is a long and chancy thing. No better evidence exists than Clinton himself.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Prejudice shunned

Sir — West Asia is jubilant after the tour of the pope, John Paul II, to Jerusalem and Palestine (“Crowning chapter to papal legacy”, March 24). Even The Vatican’s critics have admitted that the pope must be congratulated for having apologized to the Israelis for the treatment meted out to millions of Jews by the Nazis during the holocaust. While the euphoria among Israelis about the pope’s emotion-wrapped speeches is yet to die down, the coalition government of the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, is putting aside decades of anti-Semitic venom by non-Jews and preparing the ground for a fresh political beginning. But if peace is to be restored in this volatile region, Barak and Yasser Arafat must end their endless round table talks and make a deal that will muzzle terrorists. If basic security becomes a reality in west Asia, Israelis and Palestinians are bound to see daylight vis a vis settlement of the disputed Gaza Strip. Perhaps some pushing by Washington about curbing militancy could help.

Yours faithfully,
Sunita Tandon, Calcutta

In the presidential wake

Sir — Reports of security arrangements for Bill Clinton’s visit were both amazing and shocking (“Security stung Agra in black balloon welcome”, March 20). People in Agra were asked to close shops, doors and windows of their houses, not even peep at Clinton’s convoy from their rooftops — things even people in the US would not be expected to do for their president. High-profile guests were thrown out unceremoniously from the hotels Clinton was staying in, cargo offloaded at Hyderabad not allowed to be touched by Indian porters, not to mention the Americans’ refusal to use Indian cutlery, linen and packed food.

Is this the way the president of the United States expects to strengthen the ties of friendship with India, by being suspicious of every little thing in the country he is visiting? And what were the Marines doing when India has Z-category security for VVIPs visiting the country? Professionals that they are, they did not flinch to remind the president that millions of dollars were being spent on the president of the US and not on Clinton. Friendship is essentially about trust, no matter whether one of the parties involved is a superpower. When trust is missing, there can be no friendship. Is this the message Clinton’s security tried to convey to Indians?

Yours faithfully,
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta

Sir — Communists in India are a dwindling bunch. Their prominent leaders in Kerala and West Bengal are in their mid-eighties; their popular vote has gone down from 10 per cent to about 4.5 per cent and the dominant faction is about to lose recognition as a national party. With their diminishing influence, they have split into several parties with various suffixes in parenthesis; so has their affiliated students’ organizations, women’s organizations and the rest. But their noisiness and demonstrations are inversely proportional to their relevance and following in the country. Therefore the US president had nothing to fear from the protests lodged by this decaying residue of diehard communists.

These protestors should have remembered that Clinton was welcomed in communist China; he even addressed the teachers and students of Beijing University. Are Indian communists truer to the cause than their Chinese comrades? Why did they not demonstrate against the Pope, the head of a “religious multinational”, who proclaimed proudly that he had come to India to promote a harvest of converts from the poor, illiterate and isolated Indians and other Asian peoples? The fact is that communists in India are congenital wreckers of order and social cohesion, unable to face the failure of their 19th century ideology.

The Indian media should not give undue prominence to the ravings of these faith-hugging babes in the wood.

Yours faithfully,
Bhawani Gupta, Hyderabad

Sir — Whether US president, Bill Clinton, has been able to sell his ideas to Atal Behari Vajpayee is not very clear. On certain issues like democracy and terrorism, there has been certain points of agreement. But as far as the comprehensive test ban treaty is concerned, neither side seems to have budged. The US has its own interests and does not share India’s views on declaring Pakistan a terrorist state.

India also wants free trade to benefit both countries; but for that, a prerequisite is reservations for India as a developing economy. It is also not clear whether the US will ultimately support India’s claim for a permanent seat in the United nations security council. In essence, both the leaders have agreed to meet regularly and discuss problems of mutual interest. The binding factor is their faith in demo-cracy, which hopefully will strengthen ties between the two countries, irrespective of security concerns.

Yours faithfully,
J.N. Singhi, Calcutta

Sir — In view of Clinton’s benign role in securing a Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil last year, it has been thought essential for him to visit Pakistan to ensure that he continues to play such a role in future crises (“Clinton to walk nuclear tightrope”, March 16). General Pervez Musharraf masterminded the Kargil adventure along with prime minister Nawaz Sharif who, on the face of severe Indian army assault, sought US help to save Pakistan from the crisis. The signing of the July 4, 1999 agreement with Clinton followed and the Pakistani army withdrew from Kargil.

It seems that Clinton is eager to end his term in office as a peacemaker in the subcontinent. But he cannot expect to promote peace if the person who signed the agreement with him is toppled for doing so. Hence, Clinton’s decision to meet the military ruler and get a statement from him regarding the Simla accord and the Lahore declaration, respecting the line of control and abstaining from sending mercenary terrorists across the border. If such is Clinton’s intention, then the Pakistan stopover is probably a step in the right direction.

Yours faithfully,
B.C. Dutta, Calcutta

Sir — Persuading the Indian government to sign the CTBT was an important item in Clinton’s agenda. India features in his list, along with Cuba and Israel, while Pakistan is conspicuous by its absence. The US has always tried to extenuate Pakistan’s activities and remain “neutral” despite getting enough evidence of Pakistan’s contribution to the unrest in Kashmir. Maybe it was necessary to attract Clinton’s attention to make the US alter its stand. However, when an Indian prime minister visits the US, he is treated as any other state dignitary, while the Indians have gone overboard with Clinton. Crores of taxpayers’ money have been spent on him. It had better pay good dividends.

Yours faithfully,
Abhijit Banerjee, Durgapur

Last word

Sir — Guwahati woke to the words, “Good morning, Guwahati” on March 13, 2000. Thanks to The Telegraph for expanding its network and publishing from Guwahati itself. Earlier, when the newspaper arrived in the city from Calcutta, inhabitants of Guwahati fed on stale news in the late evening. Weekly supplements like “Knowhow” and “Telekids” used to arrive days later. Moreover, news from the Northeast was not given enough importance. But all this seems to have changed with the bringing out of the Guwahati edition. The Telegraph must also be congratulated for being the first one to crack the medical entrance scandal in Guwahati. The newspaper has already carved out a niche for itself elsewhere in the country. Now the readers of the Northeast feel included within this readership. We wish The Telegraph every success in the future.

Yours faithfully,
Nandini Bhattacharya, Guwahati

Letters to the Editor should be sent to:
The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email:
[email protected]
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company