|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | T V R SHENOY|
June 4, 1999
T V R Shenoy
Technology doesn't lie
Fifty years ago, Jawaharlal Nehru decided to pose as the great champion of internationalism -- and referred the Kashmir issue to the United Nations. This happened just as the Indian Army had the so-called 'tribal invaders' on the run.
The global body appointed the Nimitz Commission, named after the retired American admiral who led it (one of his advisors, incidentally, was the father of Madeleine Albright, now United States secretary of state). Thanks to the bias of these supposedly neutral men, Pakistan was permitted to retain control of the land it had illegally seized.
In the Indo-Pak War of 1965-66, both the reigning superpowers were bent upon forcing India to make peace. The Americans, despite the distractions of Vietnam, found time to play a little 'food diplomacy', a potent weapon in those days.
The Russians, under Alexei Kosygin, wanted to show who was top boss in Asia. The result was a negotiated peace when Indian tanks were literally within a few miles of Lahore.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon indulged in his infamous "tilt" toward Pakistan. We hear a lot these days about the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the subsequent refugees crisis; in 1971, Islamabad presided over the massacre of a million or more innocent men and women in what is now Bangladesh, and eleven million people fled to India (five times as much as the Kosovars today).
Yet on December 7, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly voted by 104 to 11, under American pressure, asking India for an immediate cease-fire. In case Delhi hadn't got the message, the Americans sent the USS Enterprise, armed with nuclear weapons, into the Bay of Bengal.
It is not my intention to recite the full history of the Western powers' bias towards Pakistan (though it is useful to recall all this). No, I merely invite you to look at the contrast between those earlier occasions and what is happening now. Though elements of the media are still stuck in the past, the official reactions have been remarkably muted, even helpful on occasion.
Permit me to quote Karl F Inderfurth, the US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs: "Clearly the Indians are not going to cede the territory that these militants have taken. They have to depart, and they will depart, either voluntarily or because the Indians take them out."
This is a stronger statement than some of the things that Defence Minister George Fernandes has been saying! It also represents a failure of Pakistan's attempt to globalise the Kashmir issue. What has led to this sea-change in policy?
Partly because technology makes lying harder. Ever since Pokhran-II, satellite coverage of South Asia has been increasing. Those pictures refute fibs about not sending troops (the most graphic account of the conflict I have heard so far came from an old friend in London).
It is known for instance that the militants are currently occupying bunkers constructed by the Indian Army on the Indian side of the Line of Control. Those same satellite photographs are also said to reveal supply-lines to the militants, obviously set up and maintained by the Pakistan army. Finally, there is no record of Indian planes crossing the border.
It isn't really feasible for Pakistan to convince others that India is responsible for the ongoing mess. But why did the Pakistanis -- their army, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or whoever -- go out on a limb in this manner? Why did they choose Kargil, an area dominated by Buddhists and Shia Muslims (most of the invaders are Sunni)?
There appear to have been three objectives. The first, of course, was to internationalise the Kashmir issue -- a sign, by the way, that Pakistan is incapable of taking on India without somebody holding its hand.
The second aim was to isolate Ladakh from the rest of India.
Finally, it was hoped both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharief would be too embarrassed to proceed with their Lahore initiative.
It remains to be seen whether the third objective shall succeed. The second is on the verge of failure with India reacting with far greater force than was anticipated, including air strikes. And the first has been an absolute failure -- the biggest surprise, perhaps, is that even China has refused to support its ally Pakistan.
But it should be stressed that wars are not won by diplomacy alone. Nor, as the Americans are discovering in Kosovo, are air strikes the cure-all solution. If it comes down to hand-to-hand combat, the Kargil crisis could continue for a couple of months from what I hear.
What it really boils down to is this: the Pakistanis can take their medicine right now or do so for six weeks. But the tender nursing from the West and China which they received in the past is no longer available.
|Tell us what you think of this column|
SHOPPING HOME | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS
PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK