India should not grant concessions to ‘save’ Musharraf in the hope he will be grateful. Don’t forget that he defended Jihad as being different from terrorism.


N.S. Rajaram


Saving Musharraf

            General Musharraf is coming to India for a meeting with Prime Minister Vajpayee at the latter’s invitation. There are already noises in some sections of the Indian media and the intelligentsia that he should be ‘given something’ that he can he can take back to Pakistan so he can claim a measure of success. That is to say, these worthies are already urging India to start making concessions, without telling what to expect in return. There is something more serious: Musharraf may have nothing to offer. Like Nawaz Sharief’s trip to Washington at the height of the Kargil Conflict, it may purely be a public relations exercise— to save himself.

Here lurks danger. If Indian leaders are not careful, they could persuade themselves that making concessions to save General Musharraf’s position in Pakistan is the main purpose of the meeting— in return for some vague promises. The problem is, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto thirty years ago, Musharraf knows his own position is shaky, with Islamic Fundamentalist forces practically a law unto themselves. Their influence is rapidly increasing, including in the all-important Pakistani Army. In the circumstances, granting him any concessions in the hope he will return the favor, is to ignore important lessons of history. The reality is, neither Musharraf nor anyone else can go against the political and social currents in the country.


Shimla revisited

To put things in perspective, let us recall what happened at the Shimla Conference thirty years ago, where Bhutto was ‘saved’ by Indian generosity. After Pakistan’s defeat in the Bangladesh War, India held all the cards. But Mrs Gandhi’s Government agreed to highly favorable terms for Pakistan, in return for vague promises. Saving Bhutto should not have been India’s concern; that was his problem. India’s priority should have been forcing a solution to the Kashmir problem. But Indian leaders hoped that Bhutto would be grateful and he and his country would beome friendly towards India. The rest is history.

            India has repeatedly squandered opportunities and allowed problems to fester. George Washington, the first Prisident of the United States, put it this way: “There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.” Indian leaders should heed this sage advice and follow a similar principle. Failure on this front by Indian leaders at crucial points in history — Kashmir in 1948, Tibet in 1950, Pakistan in 1965 and Shimla 1972 — lies at the heart of India’s foreign policy problems. The most recent example is India’s excessively mild reaction to Bangladesh’s atrocities against captured Indian soldiers. The thinking behind it is that a ‘tough’ response on India’s part would hurt the re-election the chances of the present Prime Minister of Bangladesh.


Kashmir is NOT the ‘core issue’

There is another dimension to General Musharraf’s visit that has the potential to trap India in a dangerous position. This has to do with the diversionary tactic of Pakistani officials and some Indian ‘intellectuals’, asserting that Kashmir is the ‘core issue’. As corollary, once some sort of agreement is reached on Kashmir, which typically means that India agrees to reward Pakistani aggression by making the strategically indefensible Line of Control the international border, all problems will be solved. This is a dangerous delusion. To begin with, terrorists will not give up their arms and become law abiding pacifists simply because of a change of name— from LOC to International Boundary. More fundamentally, the ‘core issue’ is not Kashmir but the right of Hindus to rule India. So the Jehad will continue, no matter what you call the LOC.

In his book With Honour and Glory, strategic expert Major General Jagjit Singh puts it this way: “Kashmir is not really the core issue, as the rulers of Pakistan would have the world believe. The aim is far more sinister and is to destabilize India. …It appears they still dream of the Pakistani flag flying over the Red Fort; that one Pakistani soldier is equal to ten of India. Now in possession of the Bomb, does the Pakistani leadership, in fact also entertain a vision of taking over the leadership of the entire Islamic world? …This then is the paradox that bedevils relations between the two countries in Soth Asia.”

This means that Kashmir is simply a pretext to keep the Jehad against India going. Surprisingly, this receives support from writers in Pakistan also. In his article “Precarious position,” the Pakistani columnist MB Naqvi writes (Deccan Herald, May 31, 2001): “Dealing with India is no longer a simple foreign policy matter here. Thanks to unrestrained and unthinking Islamic rhetoric… any government of the day runs the risk of falling foul of powerful vested interests. The latter are primarily the over a dozen Jehadi organizations like Lashkar-I-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen,… How would Jehadi organizations react is now a major constraint for Islamabad’s policy makers.”

Mr Naqvi goes on to observe that these Jehadi outfits managed to gain control of the 1989 protest against misrule in Kashmir, and turned it into the proxy war that we all know. The Pakistani Army was also involved in this escalation. He observes: “These could do what the Army itself could not do… Now of course this interest group [of Jehadi outfits] has grown so rich and powerful that it can, on its own, act as a check on the Government’s ability to move in a direction it does not approve.”

He points out another sinister deveopment that resulted from the late General Zia ul Haq’s Talibinization of the Army and its linkages to the fanatical Urdu press in Pakistan: “Indeed the whole right wing has been radicalized with [the] mixing of India’s misguided anti-democratic policies with the one of opposing Hindu India as such; to all educated and brainwashed and paid Jehadis, the Jehad is against Hindu India rather than any fine discrimination among the policies. The fear is that some part of the Army might have come to believe the notion of Jehad being waged is against Hindu India as such.” In other words, the enemy is Hinduism— not any policy.

This from a Pakistani columnist— not any Hindutva advocate! Mr Naqvi recognizes that Jehad is now part of the belief system of the Army. Even this doesn’t give the full picture. For example, every Pakistani soldier and officer, at the time of commissioning, takes the oath to defend not his country but Islam! In addition, the notorious terrorism manual The Quranic Concept of War, sponsored by General Zia, is required reading for all Pakistani officials, both military and civilian. And Mr Naqvi suggests that it was to relieve the pressure from the Jehadi outfits that Pakistan launched the Kargil adventure. He points out that General Musharraf can take no steps — let alone make any concessions to ‘Hindu India’ — without the approval of the same outfits.

This means that General Musharraf is no position to make concessions at all. In Mr Naqvi’s words: “Success in talks will inevitably require give and take on both sides. Would Musharraf be in a position to give anything at all— and sell it to his hard (and armed) Right?… That is a question that will hover over the conference table in Delhi.” It is ironic that this clearsighted analysis should have come from a Pakistani columnist while his Indian counterparts are exhorting the Indian Government to make concessions, when not busy carrying candles to set at the feet of the Jehadis at the Wagah border.

So what can Musharraf offer? One possibility would be for him to invite Indian troops to cross the border and demolish the terrorist bases that he cannot. That would be a good start. It would solve problems for both countries. In summary, by all means talk, but don’t make any concessions in the hope you will be rewarded. Remember Shimla!