I recall Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Islamabad on a chill December day as the sun shone warmly. The hope for peace and freedom filled the air as we inspected the smart guard presented by the Pakistan Army.
The military and its political supporters sabotaged that spring Indo-Pak relations. The PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) was wrongly accused of treason. It is with a sense of personal moral vindication that I watch the army chief, 12 years later, realise the wisdom of my politics and seek to follow in my footsteps in defusing tensions with our larger neighbour.
I do feel a sense of national loss. Twelve years, and many thousands of deaths later, Islamabad begged for a meeting “any time and any place” when a dignified opportunity was available earlier.
The Musharraf visit is controversial for three reasons: legitimacy, military history and Kashmir history.
As an unelected and unrepresentative leader, Musharraf lacks legitimacy. The very army he leads can turn around tomorrow and make this argument when he joins the ranks of former chiefs. Moreover, he lacks the moral and political authority to co-opt the people.
Pakistan’s military history bodes ill for his visit too. Each military dictator was anxious to offer a no-war pact to India which India rejected.
Both countries know that Islamabad can afford an insurgency and needs to avoid war. True to military history, Musharraf made the same offer.
Then there is recent Kashmir history. Musharraf was the architect of the Kargil crisis where thousands of Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants lost their lives. Musharraf, like Lady Macbeth, finds it difficult to wash the stains of their blood from his hands. When he flies into Agra with his delegation, the ghosts of 3,000 Pakistani soldiers, buried secretly, fly with him. He will see their faces as they starved to death on the icy peaks of Kargil when supply lines stopped.
There are the faces of the living, those forced to retreat when America ordered the unilateral withdrawal from Kargil. Can Musharraf offer them something to compensate their earlier humiliation? For what the martyrdom, for what the operation, for what the refusal to salute if the conclusion was an embrace on a summer day in Delhi?
A new, elected government is free of the constraints of the burden of Kargil. And Kargil was a heavy burden. That is why, it is argued, peace was better left to an elected and representative government. That is why, it was argued, far better for Musharraf to focus on the democratisation process.
But it seems “making up with Vajpayee” was a better option than “making up with the Opposition”.
Much of the debate on the Musharraf visit focuses on the intentions of the man as he makes his way half through his term to Agra. His accommodation overlooks the famous Taj Mahal, the monument of love built by a Muslim emperor for his Queen. Obviously, New Delhi hopes the vision can inspire a fresh romance between the two countries.
But are such hopes well founded?
Certainly there is a thinking in New Delhi that more is squeezed from a dictator than a democrat. Pakistanis may believe that democrats pioneered the lasting peace moves between the two countries but Delhi hears other arguments. They remember Zia who defended the loss of Siachen posts as “worthless ice where flowers cannot grow”.
There is little that Premier Vajpayee can lose in sounding out a Musharraf who pleaded from every platform for “a meeting, any time and any place”.
There is much that Premier Vajpayee can gain. Entertaining Musharraf to tea and pastries, showing him his old home, the shops and the shrines, pausing to mention Kashmir and moving on morally vindicates Vajpayee. His policies bring the Kargil architect to his door on his terms.
What of Musharraf?
Three explanations come to mind for the Musharraf visit. First, that Musharraf was reborn the day he seized power from Premier Nawaz. The commando, who refused to salute the hated Indian enemy and masterminded Kargil to highlight Indian impotence, died the day the coup took place. Instead, like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, a soldier for peace was born who yearned to replace the medals on his chest with a Nobel prize.
The difficulty in explaining this “rebirth” is that Musharraf’s views are as good as those of the military Establishment. We are yet to see signs of change in a military Establishment smarting from its Kargil retreat after winning the peaks and facing Indian pounding.
The second explanation is that the Musharraf visit is a tactical move on the lines of the Kargil deception. Catching the enemy unawares is the name of the game.
The third explanation is that the hourglass is ticking away for Musharraf. To win international approval for his continuation in power Musharraf needs to show he is a man the Indians can do business with.
The fourth explanation lies on Pakistan’s Northern Front. Embroiled with the Taliban, under pressure from UN sanctions, Islamabad desperately needs to release the international pressure from the Afghan front. What better way to mitigate the bad-cop image than tactically playing good cop in New Delhi?
There was speculation in the press on the agenda for the talks between the two leaders when they hole up in the retreat together. Islamabad’s press speculated on non-papers, of far reaching and secret understandings reached by both sides.
That appears doubtful. More likely are continuation of the PPP-led agreements.
The PPP agreements that could be taken up in Delhi include:
First, a continuation of the non-attack on each other’s nuclear facilities agreement. Given the nervousness of the international community over nuclear affairs, nuclear risk reduction measures can come under discussion.
Second, the re-deployment to Kargil negotiated in the summer of 1989 can be considered.
Third, the expansion of trade for which much work was done by commerce minister Mukhtar.
Fourth, greater travel facilities between the two countries in the light of the PPP proposal at the Saarc conference in December 1988 for visa relaxation.
Fifth, mutual reduction of troops that was discussed by the two sides during the 1989 talks and for which much progress was made by the intelligence chiefs of both sides.
The West Asia peace talks and the Good Friday agreements on Northern Ireland sparked a flurry of speculation that Pakistan’s all-powerful military dictator could make a dramatic breakthrough on Kashmir. That appears unlikely. However, the foundation for a continued dialogue at the highest levels between the two countries could be laid. The regional association, Saarc, was to provide that opportunity to India and Pakistan. But its meetings were irregular.
Musharraf goes to New Delhi as Islamabad’s weakest ruler. Lacking legitimacy, internal unity and fiscal manoeuvrability, his visit to New Delhi is full of pitfalls. Lacking good advice, or foreign
policy experience, he failed to build the internal consensus that was so necessary to ensure a better base.
The Opposition did test his will to build internal consensus through links, but he found it hard to swallow the release of 10 political dissidents and a date for elections in exchange for political support on his perilous New Delhi journey.
And if it’s difficult to swallow the release of 10 political dissidents, we can imagine how much more difficult it will be to swallow the death of 3,000 innocent soldiers who gave their lives in the mountainous glaciers so that their Motherland could live in honour and in dignity.
Benazir Bhutto is former Prime Minister of Pakistan
The basis of formation of the two states was not only different but also mutually incompatible. The nature of this incompatibility and its relevance to the Kashmir problem has been succinctly formulated by Joseph Korbel, a member of the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan, in the following words: “The real cause of all the bitterness and bloodshed, all the venomed speech, the recalcitrance and the suspicion that have characterised the Kashmir dispute is the uncompromising and perhaps the uncompromisable struggle of two ways of life... a conflict in which Kashmir has become both symbol and battleground.”
In other words, Kashmir has become an integral component in the self-definition of the two states since their birth. For Pakistan, a self-proclaimed Islamic state, it seems unacceptable that a Muslim majority area like Kashmir should be outside its national frontiers. For India, a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic secular state with its own Muslim community — as large as that living in Pakistan — Kashmir is equally vital for its statehood.
However, as it turned out, Pakistan was not able to sustain its viability as a nation on religion alone. The emergence of Bangladesh as an independent sovereign state was a death-blow to the two-nation theory.
It was assumed that after the secession of Bangladesh, Pakistan would become a normal territorial state and give up its claim to speak on behalf of the Muslims of the subcontinent. It was also assumed that Pakistan’s problems with India, including that of Kashmir, would get resolved peacefully through negotiations. That was the hope, particularly after the successful outcome of the 1972 Simla Conference.
At Simla, Bhutto adopted a statesman-like attitude. He agreed with Indira Gandhi that durable peace and stability was a precondition for economic development and social progress, the shared goals of the two countries. To achieve these goals they agreed to bury the hatchet and explore ways and means to settle the Kashmir problem.
The only feasible solution seemed to be to convert the old ceasefire line, renamed the Line of Control, into what Bhutto called ‘a line of peace’.
This was to be achieved gradually by endowing it with the attributes of an international border in an environment of expanding economic co-operation and by first solving less emotionally-charged problems.
It will be recalled that Sheikh Abdullah had fallen foul of India in 1953 on the question of greater autonomy for Kashmir. Indira Gandhi was keen to bridge the differences which had arisen. She initiated parallel but separate negotiations with him to accommodate Kashmiri sentiment for greater autonomy. Bhutto was well aware of this. It was expected that a successful outcome of talks between Indira Gandhi and the Sheikh would help people in India and Pakistan to accept the understanding.
The accord with the Sheikh was reached in 1975. The essence of the accord was acceptance of the fact that the state had acceded to India and a reassurance that its special status, as enshrined in Article 370 of the Constitution, would be further safeguarded. This stand of his was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of the state in the elections of 1977, universally recognised as the most free and fair elections ever held in Kashmir. The Sheikh’s electoral victory was expected to convert the Simla understanding into the Kashmir solution to be finally formalised between India and Pakistan.
But this was not to be. The Simla agreement got gradually eroded.
Within months of its signing, a major event with important economic and political implications took place. This was the sudden enrichment of Saudi Arabia and Gulf sheikhdoms as a result of the Opec (Oil and Petroleum Exporting Countries) success in raising the price of oil four-fold in one blow. This resulted in an economic boom in these countries and made vast amounts of money available for Islamic causes, as interpreted by the fundamentalists.
The investment boom in West Asia opened opportunities for trade and employment which made Pakistan look away from economic co-operation with India. More ominously, Kashmir got added to the list of ‘Islamic causes’ for which petrodollars became available in plenty. The growth of Islamic fundamentalism, fuelled by petrodollars, started giving a religious edge to Kashmiriyat, a popular name for the ethno-cultural sub-nationalism of Kashmiri Muslims.
Kashmiriyat was anathema to fundamentalists who decided in 1973 to create a new generation of “more devout and true” Muslims within 15 years.
Things went according to plan, partly assisted by the Government of India’s high-handed dismissal of Farooq Abdullah, and his replacement by Ghulam Mohammad Shah, who was dependent on the Jamatis for political support.
Insurgency started on target in 1989; within days the entire community of Kashmiri Pandits was cleansed out through carefully-contrived means of mass intimidation and selective murder. Their cleansing was followed by the elimination of secular JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) activists who were betrayed to the Indian security forces by the Hizb-ul Mujahideen. They hoped that the coup de grace will be delivered by the better trained and better armed and more fanatically motivated non-Kashmiri mujahids under the control of the Pakistan government’s agencies.
The more serious onslaught of fundamentalism after the emergence of Afghanistan under the Taliban and the gradual Talibanisation of Pakistan is resulting in large-scale export of terrorists to Kashmir.
General Musharraf has chosen to describe this terror in the highly-emotive idiom of jihad. India cannot accept this visceral hostility which continues to be based on Pakistan’s propagation of the two-nation theory. As a democratic and multi-religious secular state, India cannot accept these circumstances.
The Kashmir problem will be solved if the Kashmiri Muslims are allowed by fundamentalists to assert their Kashmiriyat and if Delhi succeeds in persuading them that their legitimate aspirations of autonomy are safeguarded in law as well as in political and administrative practice. The Indian state has also to reassert its faith in secularism more convincingly.
In such a changed political and ideological environment, leaders in the two countries may triumph and the Kashmir issue may cease to be a matter of such fearful contention between them.
At this moment, this seems to be a utopian dream but history offers instances where such dreams have come true. To cite an instance, the Alsace-Lorraine region was a bone of contention between Germany and France and their rivalry over it lasted 75 years. After the second world war, the region was returned to France without causing any heart-burning in Germany.
This miracle could happen only because soon after the end of the war in 1945, France and Germany decided to bury their past animosity and co-operate to build the larger and more prosperous European Economic Community.
Alsace-Lorraine was easily dovetailed into the new economic community without either of the former contending parties being overly bothered about its exact constitutional status or local political hue. The chances of a similar prospect in the Indian subcontinent seem very bleak, at least in the immediate future. Given the present intensity of its rivalry with India, Pakistan considers Indian proposals for economic co-operation a camouflage for its hegemonic ambitions and is determinedly following a beggar-thy-neighbour policy towards India, regardless of the fact that the policy is hurting it even more. Not merely that, its strategy of ‘thousand cuts’ is aimed at bleeding India to death. After Kargil, Pakistan has embarked on a policy of unprecedented terrorism in Kashmir, which it sanctifies as jihad.
General Asad Duraani, a former director-general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, addressing a seminar in Islamabad which was attended by several foreign diplomats, said openly: “It is our aim to weaken India from within and we can do it.”
A modern-minded and respected columnist like Ayaz Amir wrote in the prestigious daily, the Dawn, “If Kashmir was solved tomorrow, would Pakistan and India rush into each other’s embrace and forget the atavistic memories of the past? Kashmir is not the core issue between us. Size and geography are and will remain so 500 years from now”. On this assessment, conflict with India will continue till Pakistan gets rid of its obsessions.
Jinnah, who used the two-nation theory in his struggle for Pakistan, realised its limitation as a basis for the new state. In his inaugural address to the Constitutent Assembly on August 11, 1947 he outlined the concepts of a modern state in a Muslim society. He was side-stepping the two-nation theory in order to lay the constitutional foundation for a secular, democratic Pakistan. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to implement his proposal and his successors lacked his stature and his far-sighted vision to do so.
Will the real rulers of Pakistan ever make a similar turnaround and take their country closer to the vision of its founder or, will Ayaz Amir’s fear continue to bedevil Indo-Pak relations indefinitely? The peace and progress of the subcontinent will depend on their choice.
P.N. Dhar headed Indira Gandhi’s secretariat and was one of her closest advisers through the seventies
Sudip Bandopadhyay, spokes-man and chief of the Trinamul parliamentary party, said after a two-hour meeting at Mamata’s house that the MPs chose not to tie her to a timetable.
“We discussed threadbare the issue and unanimously authorised Mamata to take the decision — whatever the decision we need to take in this regard,” said Bandopadhyay.
At the meeting, Mamata used a mix of tough talk and high emotion to roll back uncomfortable questions.
“I find that I am facing a challenge from within a party which I built with my own sweat and blood,” a party leader quoted Mamata as having told the MPs. “I urge you all to co-operate with me and take a unified stand to fight the CPM.”
Besides gaining breathing space on the return, Mamata struck at recalcitrant MP Ajit Panja’s base within Trinamul. She set up a one-man committee of Bikram Sarkar, an MP and Panja’s ally, to recommend the mode of punishment for Panja.
The move is designed to force Sarkar, an advocate of Trinamul’s alliance with the BJP and an aspirant for a minister’s berth at the Centre, to forsake Panja. It will also serve as a warning to other MPs.
“He (Sarkar) has been demanding that all nine MPs, including Mamata, must return to the NDA. Now he has been told through the new assignment that if he really wants Trinamul to rejoin the NDA and become a minister himself, he must devise ways to politically liquidate Panja,” said a Trinamul leader. Sarkar is expected to turn in his report by July 15.
Though Mamata has not announced a time frame, the party’s eagerness to rejoin the Central coalition was palpable tonight when it welcomed for the second time Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s summit with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
The Trinamul leadership had earlier showered praise on Vajpayee for taking the summit initiative.
A Trinamul leader said if the return issue was not settled soon, seating arrangement in the Lok Sabha would pose a problem for Mamata, not the MPs. “We sit more or less in a neutral position along with the Telugu Desam. It is the former ministers, like Mamata and Panja, who will face the problem of sitting with other ministers,” a Trinamul MP said.
Trinamul sources said Mamata would have to take a decision on rejoining by July 23 when Parliament convenes for the monsoon session. Mamata could announce a decision at a meeting at Esplanade on July 21 when her party observes martyrs’ day.
CID officials, admitting that “this is not our brief”, said the probe is focusing only on the criminals arrested, their antecedents and how they had managed to get into the stadium. But it will not investigate the political patronage being provided to them.
Before chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya presents his police budget in the Assembly on July 19, the CID will have to apprise him of all details of the case. However, officials said, there are instructions not to proceed beyond the official brief.
The effort, sources said, is not to drag transport minister Subhas Chakraborty any further into the political controversy. “Our reports will in effect be saying nothing, other than matters that are only of academic interest,” an official said. “Even though it is known that the stadium is Chakraborty’s backyard, he will not come into the purview of our probe.”
On the night of June 26, Howrah DSP Humayun Kabir had led a raid at the Salt Lake stadium without informing his superior, superintendent of police Somen Mitra, and ferreted out 16 people from the youth hostel there. While 12 of them were let off later, four were arrested on various criminal charges.
Officials said that during his four years as the SDPO of Barrackpore, Kabir had developed deep roots in the district unit of the CPM and that the raid had apparently been conducted at the behest of a section of the party’s North 24-Parganas leadership opposed to Chakraborty.
Following the raid, the police had arrested Tapas Ghosh, a key aide of Chakraborty who had a free run of the stadium, on charges of harbouring criminals. “But the irony,” said an official, “is that we can neither probe his political links nor who was providing him patronage. Our investigations come to a halt with Tapas’ links with criminals, leaving out the political nexus altogether.”
Similarly, even though officials believe that Kabir had acted at the behest of certain “vested interests”, they are not probing this aspect of the case either.
“What we are probing is whether those arrested from Bantra (in Howrah) were actually trying to commit a dacoity, the charge on which they have been arrested, or whether they have been set up,” an official said.
Kabir had been questioned by the CID on Tuesday to reconstruct the events on the night of the stadium raid.