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l June 2003 l

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 2, No 2 l


It is, perhaps, back to square one!

M V Kamath

It is once again back to square one. The enthusiasm aroused about a possible rapprochement between India and Pakistan by Prime Minister Vajpayee's conciliatory speech in Srinagar has all but died down. In an interview given to the German paper Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeiting on 23 May the Prime Minister ruled out all possibilities of a meeting with Pakistan President Gen Musharraf.

No meeting is planned, he said, not even meetings between top officials. On the same day, Defence Minister George Fernandes, too, made the same point. He even went to the extent of saying that there will be no reduction of forces on the border. The Defence Minister said that Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) were being initiated and the process would take its own time.

Though the Prime Minister's Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra has been meeting top American officials, not to mention President Bush himself in the Oval office, there has been no forward movement. Top officials have come and gone, Mishra himself has met US Secretary of State Powell in Moscow and other officials in Washington, but it has all been so much talk.        

Now Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani is scheduled to meet the same set of officials as well as President Bush himself. There has been some perceptible thaw in Indo-US relations. Thus, the US has informed both Israel and India that it has no objection to the transfer of Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs) to India from Israel. If that sale comes through, not only will India be better equipped to face a Pakistani aerial attack, but it will place Pakistan at a decided disadvantage.        

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Significantly, the US has given the green signal for Indo-Israel cooperation in the manufacture of military equipment. When India gets the Phalcon radars, they will be mounted on Russian-built Illyushin-76 cargo planes of the Indian Air Force to warn of incoming missiles. In all these days it is India that has been making positive moves. It is India which was the first to name the High Commissioner to Islamabad in the person of Shivshankar Menon. India would like to have immediate civil aviation links, but Pakistan has so far offered only landing, not overflight rights. India had offered both. The Samjhauta Express and Lahore bus service remain day-dreams. They have not yet been put in operation.        

Pakistan has taken no steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in its own territory. What is worse India, to its shock, found out that Pakistani terrorists have been occupying about 100 square kilometres of Indian territory, 35 kms inside the Line of Control around Dilkaka in Jammu & Kashmir.        

Several terrorist outfits most notably the Lashkar-e-Toiba had apparently been jointly using the base inside India for planning, coordination, transit and safe-keeping of arms. But on the theory of better late than never Indian Armed Forces have now managed to clear 40 per cent of the area killing some 62 of 350 suspected terrorists. There has been no word of apology from Islamabad.        

Indeed, infiltration figures have remained practically constant. The figure was 300 between January and April 2003 compared to 340 the same period last year. India estimates that some 1,000 jehadis from Pakistan will cross the Line of Control this year. True some Indians held prisoners in Pakistan have been released. But according to knowledgeable sources, hundreds of Indians continue to languish in Pakistani jails. There is no word about them. Pakistan is agreeable to put some 70 items on the list of open Indo-Pakistan trade. India wants trade to be opened up in at least 1,000 items.        

Clearly there is a deadlock. What seems to be the case is that there is a wide-spread belief in Pakistan that India has taken up the peace initiative out of military and economic compulsions! Nothing could be more ridiculous. India remains strong. Unlike Pakistan it is by no stretch of imagination a 'failed state' and is actually marching towards prosperity. Stationing troops along the international border has certainty cost India dearly, but is has been within manageable limits.        

But the military men who make policy in Islamabad evidently cannot see beyond their noses. These are the people who had hoped to bring India down to its knees by a thousand cuts. These are the same people, apparently, who once pushed the theory that one Pakistani soldier is equal to 10 Indian sepoys. Though defeated three times in over 50 years Pakistan's arrogant policy-makers have still not learnt their lessons nor are they willing to face reality.        

When Pakistan's corps commanders met recently, they apparently were still unwilling to settle for peace with India. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's visit to Islamabad in the circumstances, has been in vain. Even after writing off over two billion dollars of debt that Pakistan owes, the US government has not succeeded in making Pakistan see the light.        

As late as 29 March this year, a joint statement has been issued by the United States and Britain demanding that Pakistan respect Line of Control and fulfill its commitments to stop infiltration. Pakistan could not care less. But as if to meet pressures from Washington, a senior Pakistan official has put forth a six-point agenda for a 'structured dialogue on security issues' to be accepted by India and Pakistan.        

In an address to the UN Conference on Disarmament held in Vienna on 22 May, Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Riaz A Khokar sought 'foreswearing in the use of the threat of use of force in settling disputes, inclusion of a permanent mechanism for bilateral dialogue and initiation of result-oriented talks for devising mutually acceptable confidence-building measures in the nuclear field.        

He also called for stabilisation of conventional forces at levels consonant with the legitimate security needs of States in south Asia and renewed commitment to jointly combat poverty hunger, illiteracy and disease. That speech, apparently, was for consumption of Western powers, a public relations exercise to show the statesman like quality of Islamabad's vision for at the ground-level there has hardly been any movement.   

For the objective observer it seems that what Pakistan's diplomats say abroad is unacceptable to the military planners at home. How long can this situation last? What message will Advani convey when he meets with President Bush? Gen Musharraf, too, has been invited to Washington later in June.        

Will the United States finally seek to intervene in a purposeful manner and read the Riot Act to Musharraf or will it let the south Asian scene drift indefinitely, forcing India, finally, to take matters on hand and teach Pakistan a lesson of a life-time? In his Srinagar address and subsequently in his speech in Parliament, Vajpayee had said that his latest offer would be the third and last he would be making.        

It would be a foolish Pakistan to miss this opportunity for settling a long-drawn out dispute so nobly offered by India but then whoever has ever given the hate-filled policy-makers in the Pak Military marks for wisdom?

The author is a veteran journalist and chief of the Prasar Bharati

Copyright 2002-2003 Shyam Lal Watt Foundation

All Rights Reserved

Jammu & Kashmir News - May 2003:  l Militants vow to oppose Pakistan ban  l  Peace process should be sincere: Sonia Gandhi  l  Mufti favours opening of transit point at Uri  l  Hizb ban has not stopped infiltration: Army  l  UJC throws weight behind Geelani  l  Give up rigid stand, Lone to Hurriyat  l  J&K groups, Al Qaeda have ties: US  l