The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- Advani fits perfectly into Pakistan's stereotype of the Indian

Lal Krishna Advani has walked into a psychological and propagandist trap. His claim that December 6, 1992 was 'the saddest day' of his life, which a horrified Vishwa Hindu Parishad at once rebutted, will strengthen Muslim belief in Hindu hypocrisy. By flagging off a temple project, worshipping at a shrine and demonstrating an eager interest in other such edifices, he has reinforced Pakistan's view that for all its secular posturing, India is a Hindu country. A Pakistani senator's suggestion that Pervez Musharraf should perform a similar function at Ayodhya reduced Indian liberalism to the level of Pakistani theocracy.

Like Mohammed Ali Jinnah's refusal to countenance Congress Muslims, Pakistani politicians have little time for secular Indians. Credible leaders of Salman Rushdie's 'land of idol worshippers' must be ostentatiously idolatrous. And who better than a moustachioed dhotiwallah driven by the conviction that the mythical Rama was born on the site of the Babri Masjid and must be worshipped there with the panoply of Brahmanical ritual' Advani once observed that Muslims knew where they were with him. By nicely fitting into Pakistan's stereotype, he keeps glowing the fires of Pakistani communalism vis-'-vis India.

It was a masterstroke of Musharraf's to parade the Hindutva chief as his guest. Pakistanis see the awesome Hindu face of the India that challenges their Islamic theocracy. And the president's American sponsors are convinced that he is heroically reaching out to the most intransigent of his adversaries. Since Musharraf gains handsomely from both quarters, Advani should charge him a hefty fee. Undoubtedly, the Americans would reimburse their pet general.

Actually, Advani may not think differently on Kashmir from, say, Inder Kumar Gujral. All this talk of hawks and doves recalls a disgruntled Congressman, now rehabilitated as a Union minister, mocking the supposed difference between the Gandhi brothers. Both would drag people to the operating table, he announced, but while Rajiv used anaesthetic, Sanjay wielded the knife cold. India's (or Pakistan's) hawks and doves might similarly disagree on methods but never on the objective.

That needs stressing lest anyone imagine that Advani has suddenly shed a hawk's beak and talons, or that Musharraf extended the invitation because of an equally sudden transformation into a cooing dove. Jokes about 'horns' and 'hardliners' when the two met confirmed that they are far too wily as tacticians to be swept away by sentiment. Hard as nails beneath the soft soap, each is impelled only by his vision of what best serves his country's long-term interest. No Pakistani will surrender his claim to the entire princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. While Indians may be willing to write off Pakistani Kashmir, no one here will consent to sever links with the portion that is already in India. No enthusiastic confidence-building measures, euphoric atmospherics or American applause can wish away these imponderables.

The 'core' (to use Musharraf's term) issue behind the parleying remains unchanged. Manmohan Singh is honest enough to declare that boundaries cannot be redrawn, certainly not on religious lines. Nor can he be bound by any deadline. Musharraf has made it clear that he will not be fobbed off with Kashmiri autonomy, no matter how generous. The azadis make no bones of what they want. As for the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, about the only distinction between Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hawk, and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, the dove, lies in the language they think it expedient to use. When Farooq accuses India of violating 'the logic of Partition', he is articulating exactly the same belief, albeit in the language of diplomacy, that motivates azadis and terrorists.

It would be interesting, if politically risky, to find out how many Indian Muslims disagree with that view of what should be India's and what Pakistan's. Bangladeshis make no bones about seeing the Indian position as only a ruse to deny the logic of Partition by denying Kashmiris the right to make a second choice, as they themselves did in 1971.

If minimum positions cannot be reconciled, why are the two sides going through these elaborate many-layered motions of seeking a settlement' Partly because to do so is the job of politicians and diplomats who are directly engaged in the business of foreign policy. Partly, because what is called second-track diplomacy provides academics, retired diplomats and out-of-work journalists with a rewarding outlet. Partly because of obligations to special constituencies. And largely because the common American umbrella under which both parties now shelter forces them to put up a certain front.

The possibility of a genuine desire to reduce the risk of confrontation between two nuclear powers must also be considered. Interaction at various levels, trade, tourism and other exchanges, is always welcome. It is nicer when the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's Yasin Malik rides openly across than when he sneaks through for arms. But all this makes little difference to positions that reflect, and are rooted in, domestic politics.

Manmohan Singh gains points in India by being seen to be striving for a peaceful resolution of the dispute. Musharraf loses points in Pakistan (and Kashmir, witness Geelani's outburst) for doing just that. As he confessed in Agra, if Indians expect him to ignore Kashmir, he had 'better buy back the Neharwali Haveli and move back over here'. No wonder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto dared not go public with his realism on the line of control. The suggestion of a Pakistani intelligence hand behind the recent uproar in Afghanistan warned that the jihadists there are alive and well.

India, too, is obligated to the US but not to the same extent as the most allied of US allies, to quote Benazir Bhutto. Since Manmohan Singh's domestic position owes nothing to American recognition or props, he can dispense with play-acting while George W. Bush's 'major non-NATO ally' is forced into the contortions of peace-making, blowing hot one day and cold the next, desperately trying to juggle several balls at the same time.

The title is no empty honour. It enrols Pakistan in an exclusive club of countries that enjoy a privileged security relationship with the US. They are granted significant benefits in foreign aid and defence cooperation, are eligible for priority delivery of defence material, and the purchase, for instance, of depleted uranium anti-tank rounds. They can stockpile American military hardware, participate in defence research and development programmes and benefit from a loan guarantee programme that backs up loans issued by private banks to finance US arms exports.

These rewards for supporting the war on terrorism ignore Abdul Qadeer Khan's blackmarket in nuclear material and technology. They also disregard the finding of the official American commission probing the 9/11 strikes that Pakistan was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden. According to the commission, Pakistan broke with the taliban only after the attacks, even though it knew the taliban militia was hiding the al Qaida chief, whom the US already sought for attacks on embassies in Africa.

'The Taliban's ability to provide bin Laden a haven in the face of international pressure and United Nations sanctions was significantly facilitated by Pakistani support,' said the report. 'Pakistan benefited from the Taliban-al Qaida relationship, as Bin Laden's camps trained and equipped fighters for Pakistan's ongoing struggle with India over Kashmir.' Nevertheless, it became a key US ally, broke with the taliban (Pakistan's own creation), allowed American troops to use Pakistani air bases and intelligence to oust its erstwhile prot'g', and arrested more than 500 al Qaida fugitives who had been given sanctuary.

Talking to India is part of the act. Pakistan will also restrict its help for terrorists so long as Musharraf's survival depends on the US. But this promises no comfort to India. For no matter what legalistic comparisons are drawn between Texas and Kashmir, American spokesmen have made clear that they, too, believe that India violates the logic of Partition.

Farooq rightly warned his supporters to expect no miracles from the trip.

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