Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Jamila Verghese
Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Pakistan may protest, but has no locus standi. It has yet to grant self-determination to PAK and the Northern Areas and to abandon terror as its chosen means of arbitration. The Hurriyat should be given one last chance to participate without any pretensions of a veto.

Detoxifying Pakistan

The J&K polls have been a triumph of self-determination over the gun. Kashmir is neither a “Muslim” issue nor a “disputed” territory as the West blindly believes.

By B G Verghese

New Deccan Herald, 29 December, 2008

The conduct and outcome of the J&K polls against a separatist boycott has been a triumph of self-determination over the gun and a clear expression of the popular desire for democratic governance and a peaceful resolution of all issues in contention. The answer to jehadi terror is to press ahead with internal reforms for which the first three parties campaigned, namely, further autonomy and further devolution to and within J&K. The BJP, which has not done badly in Jammu, has a different take on both issues but, having lost fairly and squarely, must cooperate in taking advantage of the latest window of opportunity to bury the past and win the future.

Pakistan may protest, but has no locus standi. It has yet to grant self-determination to PAK and the Northern Areas and to abandon terror as its chosen means of arbitrement. The Hurriyat should be given one last chance to participate without any pretensions of a veto. Internationally, the Manmohan Singh package that would construct a trans-border relationship built on making boundaries irrelevant, should be reiterated with the prospect of ultimately leading towards some kind of J&K confederation, first proposed by Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah in 1964, without derogation of current sovereignties. But first, Pakistan must verifiably abjure terror and irredentism as instruments of policy.

Zardari and Co. may quibble about the unfortunate misconduct of sundry “non-state actors” in Pakistan but they are fast losing credibility. Islamabad’s u-turns and wretched denials have become legion - its refusal to acknowledge Kasab; the cover up in his village, Faridkot; the “disappearance” of Masood Azhar, who was officially under “house arrest”; the public declaration of war on India by the Jaish, matching Pakistan’s diversionary war manouevres.

Pakistan has been in denial since birth about its identity, history, geography and culture, about every critical stage of its role in J&K, about its nurturing the Taliban, about A.Q. Khan, about its terror trail and about its state-sponsored non-state actors who are denied by the Pakistan military when they fall in battle, as in Kargil. In short, Pakistan has been living a lie that has become an albatross around its neck.

The Indian Government has shown great restraint and wisdom in not rushing to war or even rash, uncalibrated hot pursuit that could escalate, invite international pressure on it to avoid lighting a nuclear fuse and obfuscate the real issue. This would play into the hands of Pakistan’s military and jihadis in justification of their “ideology” rooted in a curious notion of India’s “original sin”- the allegedly fraudulent annexation of J&K, a Muslim majority state that belonged to Pakistan by virtue of the two-nation theory”. Hence the hardy refrain about “root causes” and the “core issue”.

The two-nation “ideology”, now rooted in a larger radical Islamism, has found its sword arm in the Pakistan Army which, with its creature, the ISI, has taken over an increasingly Talibanised state that has enslaved the essentially liberal Pakistani people, victims of “Kashmir”, militarization and  jihad. Democracy has been eclipsed

We should therefore respond to the Mumbai attack not by adventurism, but by allying with incipient democratic forces in Pakistan. The key is with the US and lies in de-militarising Pakistan and de-legitimising the Pakistan Army’s self-assumed role as the sole keeper of the national interest. The problem is that the US and the West, apart from having treated (the) Pakistan (Army) as a frontline ally against communism since 1948, now require Pakistan’s support and access through it for their campaign against the al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. Billions of dollars have gone into military aid to Pakistan, a considerable part of it openly siphoned away for supporting cross border terrorism and jihad in Kashmir and elsewhere in India and in building up the Taliban in Afghanistan to gain the strategic depth it seeks to derive in its unilateral confrontation with India. This assistance has caused enormous collateral damage in India and beyond.

The US and IMF are currently negotiating another $ 15 billion economic and military aid package with Pakistan. This will only further empower the military. America’s war in Afghanistan and FATA are hated by the people on both sides of the Durand Line who have suffered collateral damage and indignities. The US/NATO presence has long been part of the problem rather than the solution. The alternative is to curtail or altogether withdraw military assistance to Pakistan. This will not leave a vacuum in Afghanistan and enable the Taliban to prevail if the Afghanistan operations are brought under a UN-mandated anti-terror policing-cum-peace-keeping mission in which US/NATO troops could play a role, wearing blue berets in a force otherwise made up from other nations, including India. This should be coupled with a peace initiative and reconstruction effort led by regional players like India, Pakistan, Iran, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan and China, with Russian, the US and EU support.

International pressure and the threat of economic sanctions should be employed to compel Pakistan to place a reformed ISI under civilian control and to de-corporatise the Pakistan Army which owns very substantial and critical military-industrial-landed assets that reinforce military hegemony and the infiltration of civil society. Disestablishment of the Pakistan Army as a political and economic overlord would enable civil authority to assert itself and give democracy a chance to strike root.

India is not Pakistan’s enemy. Islam is in no danger from anybody other than the mullahs who have assaulted it. Once Pakistan is freed of the incubus of its Army and the false ideology of forever being the Indian “other”, it will discover its identity and soul as a nation, a good neighbour and a country at peace with itself and the world.

Kashmir is neither a “Muslim” issue nor a “disputed” territory as the West blindly believes. The two-nation theory is a vicious doctrine that would destroy every plural and democratic society. It died long ago and Jinnah himself buried it on August 13, 1947. The issue is terrorism and a false revanchism defeated repeatedly by history and Pakistan’s failed wars. This is the first thing President-elect Obama must learn when he turns to South Asia. The earlier US texts on Kashmir are plain wrong and have put a premium on aggression. This should be India’s grand strategy and the agenda it should pursue with the new Obama administration in alliance with the people of Pakistan who deserve to win their independence from a perverse military-radical Islamist colonialism that has laid the country low.

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