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July 19, 1999
T V R Shenoy
Mullahs and mind-washing
''On Wednesday, we had the mortification of watching Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz fielding questions from a BBC correspondent. He fumbled and failed to convince. His performance can best be described as an exercise in obfuscation. With this abysmal potential in the foreign service, Pakistan was bound to be a loser.'' That, believe it or not, is not an Indian's judgement, but a quotation from a Pakistani newspaper.
But Sartaj Aziz's performance was no worse than that of Mian Nawaz Sharief as he tried to justify the Pakistani retreat from Kargil. He began well enough, praising Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore. But then he went on to the same tired old lies: India violated the Line of Control, no Pakistani soldiers were involved in the invasion of Kargil, Pakistan wants peace...
As it happens, I was reading an article on North Korea even as Nawaz Sharief was speaking. North Korea, like every other place where Communists take power, is an economic horror-story. Ordinary citizens are starving, a situation that has been going on for several years. But the Communist regime controls the propaganda machinery so effectively that the average North Korean thinks he is better off than the rest of the world. The lack of awareness is so acute that one young boy was quoted saying there are only about five countries in the world.
Now think about this: the military-feudal landlord-mullah establishment in Pakistan has been in power even longer than the father-and-son pairing of the Kims in North Korea. This grouping has been pouring venom into the ears of the largely illiterate Pakistani citizenry for over fifty years. In his speech to the voters of Pakistan, even Nawaz Sharief betrayed his worry at what he described as ''religious parties'' and groups that had once vowed a ''thousand years of jihad against India.''
Under the circumstances, can we in India expect any lasting peace with Pakistan? Remember this is a nation that has been indoctrinated since birth with the idea that India is out to undo what happened in 1947. Remember the mullah-fixation (for want of a better word!) of Pakistan took a quantum leap in the Zia era, with fundamentalist elements entering even the professional ranks of the military. Remember mind-washing isn't confined to the lower classes but goes up all the way to the top.
Months ago, well before Kargil or even the bus journey to Lahore, I heard a horribly depressing story from former foreign secretary J N Dixit. Speaking of a dinner party he attended while serving in Pakistan, he said his host's young son danced around the table shouting, ''Indians are dirty dogs!'' (Or words to that effect.) If that is the kind of stuff drummed into impressionable heads, what hope is there of peace with that nation?
And yet what other choice is there? I know a lot of people feel that India should have crossed the Line of Control even at the risk of losing international support. I have to admit it is thoroughly tempting, but then where would we stop? Would we just blow up the militant camps and their support-lines in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir? But those can be rebuilt.
Or should India have actually liberated PoK at the risk of outright war? Well, first, maintaining peace in the liberated areas would have been no easy task. (Those people have been thoroughly steeped in India-hating ideology.) And, second, there is no guarantee that war would be confined to Kashmir. So where would Indian forces stop -- the Iranian border?
The sad fact is that talks with Pakistan are the only realistic option. I am not saying we should restart the Lahore process immediately; talks should definitely be conditional upon Islamabad meeting minimum guarantees of decent behaviour. India's three conditions -- withdraw troops from Indian soil, respect the LoC, and stop supporting militants -- are the least that can be expected. Finally, there is one thing that we should do: give up the sentimental bilge heard after the Lahore Declaration.
Permit me to quote what I wrote in this column in February: ''All that talk of 'brotherhood' leaves me cold -- as a South Indian I feel no kinship for Punjabis from the wrong side of the border.'' Indians and Pakistanis are not, and shall never be, 'brothers.' But the gods have made us neighbours and we have to live with that fact. May I suggest that the leaders of Pakistan -- assuming they are sincere about peace -- make a start by stopping telling lies to their own people?
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