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The Rediff Special/ Kanchan Gupta

Mandela ditched India to please US

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The South African Broadcasting Corporation's deplorable description of Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, when they arrived for the inaugural session of the Non-Aligned Movement's summit in Durban last Wednesday, as the prime minister of India and his wife was a premonition of things not going right for India.

And the premonition came true during South African President Nelson Mandela's inaugural address as the new chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement.

In a stunning repudiation of New Delhi's known, long-stated and legitimate stand that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and that any outstanding issues regarding this Indian state are strictly a subject of bilateral discussion between India and Pakistan, he raised the Kashmir issue in the course of his address.

In one stroke he negated NAM's long tradition of not putting on its agenda any bilateral issue of contention and creating a dubious first in the Movement's history.

Never before has any NAM chairman raised the Kashmir issue in spite of the best efforts of Pakistan; on the contrary, in the past every attempt by Pakistan to put Jammu and Kashmir on the NAM agenda has been scotched, bearing in mind three factors -- first, that it would hurt Indian sensitiveness; second, it would encourage raising of a myriad bilateral issues thus diluting the NAM agenda; and, third, it would fly in the face of India's legitimate position on Jammu and Kashmir.

Mandela chose to ignore all these factors and said what he did in full knowledge of its implications. He could not but have been aware that his uncalled for utterances would grievously hurt India and raise serious doubts over whether the present South African leadership truly appreciates India's frontline role in the battle against apartheid and colonialism or, having used India to its advantage during White majority rule, is now eager to please countries whose unfriendly attitude towards India is no secret.

Putting it crudely, Mandela has successfully conveyed to the Indian people at large that South Africa clearly does not believe in the dictum of friendship in gratitude.

So much for India's contribution in making the world realise that apartheid was a crime against humanity at a time when few were willing to raise their voice against White minority rule in South Africa.

As an Indian, I can feel -- and appreciate -- the hurt that must have swept through my country, India, following Mandela's remarks.

For decades prior to India's independence from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi was acknowledged -- and continues to be acknowledged -- as South Africa's gift to India. After all, it was in South Africa that an unknown lawyer called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi perfected his technique of satyagraha, or non-violence, as a tool to mobilise public opinion against colonial oppression.

Mahatma Gandhi provided -- and continues to provide -- the emotional linkage between India and South Africa while the Indians who came to South Africa as indentured labour and later adopted it as their own country provided the cultural linkage.

The two together shaped India's attitude towards the people of South Africa and fired popular imagination, which in turn motivated the Indian government's actions, against the terrible system of apartheid.

When we as a nation stood up for South Africa, we did so out of ideological conviction -- that racial discrimination was unacceptable in civilised society -- as well as our emotional and cultural linkages -- that Mahatma Gandhi began his crusade against colonialism from South African soil and South Africa has a large population of Indian origin.

I recall, with justifiable pride, students of the college where I studied in Calcutta decided to boycott the British Council Library, on which we were heavily dependent, after then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher refused to endorse the call for economic sanctions against the apartheid regime.

Today, as I sit writing this article in Durban, I am overwhelmed by a deep sense personal grief and sadness.

It is almost unbelievable that Mandela could have said what he actually said earlier in the day. This is a grief and sadness I share with millions of fellow Indians.

We did not expect such brutal callousness from the leader of a country that had been the focal point of our collective imagination during the years of struggle against apartheid and colonialism.

Jammu and Kashmir became an integral and inseparable part of India in 1947. Soon after, Pakistan mounted an armed aggression against this Indian state. We took the issue to the United Nations and by the time ceasefire was enforced, Pakistan had forcibly occupied a third of Jammu and Kashmir. That part of Indian territory continues to remain in illegal, illegitimate and improper occupation of Pakistan.

India could have waged war to retrieve its land from enemy occupation. But India chose Mahatma Gandhi's path of peaceful resolution by seeking to engage Pakistan in dialogue.

Pakistan chose a different path -- that of bloody violence -- which today manifests itself in the form of trans-border terrorism.

The so-called 'Kashmir issue' is all about restoring land that legally belongs to India but is in illegal Pakistani occupation to its rightful owner. And this issue can be settled only at a bilateral level; there never was and never shall be any scope for multilateral action to resolve this issue.

Least of all, there is no role for either Mandela or a NAM led by him in the 'Kashmir issue'.

Neither Mandela nor his African National Congress colleagues should believe to the contrary; if they do so, they would only be inflicting delusions of grandeur on themselves.

Leaders rarely write their speeches -- they are written either by their official or political colleagues. A safe guess would be that Mandela's inaugural address was written by a senior political colleague who is known to subscribe to the American world view.

And we know that the reference to Jammu and Kashmir sounds alarmingly similar to what the Americans have been saying for quite some time now.

We also know that this time the Americans were allowed to attend the NAM summit as 'guests'.

It is a pity that Indian sensitivities should have been trampled upon in the race to fulfil American desires. The pity is all the more that this should have been done by Mandela, who has more than once described himself and his country as a 'friend of India'.

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