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Cricket Diplomacy and Ceasefires
April 19, 2004
Don't just win the games. Win the hearts of the people as well.' That was the advice Prime Minister Vajpayee gave the Indian cricket team before they headed off to Pakistan.
Games they definitely won. But what about the hearts of the people?
Like US President Bush, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee will do anything and offer anything to win the general election. There was a time, when he announced that India is going for the decisive fight against Pakistani-backed Islamic terrorists and declared 'Aar-Paar Ki Ladai.' He recently declared that there would never be any war with Pakistan anymore. Someone please ask WHY? What has changed that makes Vajpayee so sure?
Just because Akshay Kumar and Shilpa Shetty danced on Pakistani stages does not mean that innocents are not getting killed anymore in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. Just because Shaan sang some songs for Pakistani audiences does not mean that Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the ISI have given up plans to blow up critical installations in India. Just because the Indian cricket team beat Pakistan does not mean that Jaish-e-Mohammad has folded its training camps. Who is trying to fool whom?
Vajpayee wants to win the election and no one should fault him for that. He and his party have every right to run for political office and hope to win the election and form the government. But they have no right to mislead the masses and propagate the blatant lies of love and peace between the two neighboring countries. The Indian team's wins in Pakistan do not bring peace of mind to thousands of Indian parents who continue to lose their loved ones to Pakistani-sponsored terrorism. Vajpayee's message of peace does not bring peace to more than 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus who were uprooted from their homes in Kashmir and have been living without a HOME since 1990.
Vajpayee cannot go around claiming India is 'Shining' while our jawans are getting killed on a regular basis.
Vajpayee's unilateral declaration of truce with Pakistan is premature and unfortunate. Unilateral truces never work and we have ample history to prove that. On one hand, Vajpayee keeps giving in and on another hand Musharraf keeps raising the ante about Kashmir.
In an interactive meeting with a select group of journalists recently, Musharraf said he would 'not be a party' to the present Indo-Pak peace process if there was no forward movement especially on Kashmir by July-August. 'If the peace process does not move forward, then I will not be a party to it. If we do not move forward, I am not in the process. They know that. I told everyone absolutely unambiguously that if you think that I am here to sell Kashmir, you are talking to the wrong man,' Musharraf said.
Musharraf has the audacity to put conditions on the talks while Vajpayee continues to go ahead with his offer of unconditional talks and one-sided concessions.
What happened to Vajpayee's stand that India will not talk unless Pakistan stops supporting cross-border terrorism? Were there any external forces that forced Vajpayee's hand? Were there any back-room dealings and promises that convinced Vajpayee to relax his conditions? Is Musharraf setting a July-August deadline because he has been told by Bush and Powell to deliver Mullah Omar, Ayman Zawahari and Osama bin Laden by August, just in time for the US presidential election?
The Indian public has a right to know what is going on behind the scenes. It is their lives that is in the line of fire and they need to be told what is going on.
Tom Friedman of The New York Times recently wrote that it was not General Powell who convinced Vajpayee to retreat its armed forces back to peace-time positions. It was rather General Electric whose call-centre operations are run by Indian companies in Bangalore. Friedman was discussing how important a role the global economy plays in today's politics. That might be a good column for Americans sitting in US. But Indians know better. There is always a time in every country's history where it needs to draw a line in the sand and take tougher measures even if that means taking a big economic risk. What good is growing economy and purchasing power if one does not survive to use that purchasing power? Friedman is fine with US spending billions of dollars to make the life secure for his children in US. But he is not okay with India taking harsh measures to stop Pakistan from fomenting terror in India.
India cannot afford to keep singing the peace tunes while Pakistan keeps getting billions of dollars of aid, both in kind as well as cash, from the United States. We Indians know it better that most of the foreign aid to Pakistan ends up with jihadi elements that continue to foster trouble in India. So why should Vajpayee keep releasing peace-loving doves at the cost of Indian security interests? To fool the Indian electorate and win elections? I hope the Indian electorate is much smarter and sees through this gimmick.
It is time for the Indian electorate to show its strength and demand answers from candidates from all the parties in the fray. Each candidate should be asked hard questions about his/her plan to make India secure and stronger. Empty promises and unilateral peace-loving gestures should not work this time. Let us make this election an election about India's security and self-interests.
And lastly, please don't get me wrong. I love cricket and I loved how our cricket team beat Pakistan in Pakistan. I just wish our political leadership in North Block had the same strong spine to beat Pakistan at its own game in its own backyard. Wishful thinking?