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July 31, 2001

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A letter to Pervez
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Arvind Lavakare

Why don't you just take sanyas, Mr Prime Minister?

Respected Prime Minister

On July 21, Pakistan-sponsored terrorists killed 13 persons near the Amarnath shrine in Jammu and Kashmir. Barely 24 hours later, another group of terrorists gunned down 15 more people, including three children and two women. Yet, 48 hours later, you told our nation's august Lok Sabha that you had, at Agra, achieved a "degree of understanding" with commando Cain of Kargil '99, and that you "will build on this further." Now, now, Mr Prime Minister, are you playing the divine dove amongst the wolves or are you plain dumb?

At least one senior journalist feels you believe you will play a historic role in resolving the long embittered Indo-Pak relationship. However, all that crap of a unilateral ceasefire on Ramzan day, of sucking up to the USA's promise of lifting sanctions, etc, have veered laymen, this one included, to the conviction that your ever-willingness to bend backwards is the escape route that leads to the peace prize from Stockholm. Incidentally, do you know, Mr Prime Minister, that Nobel is also one of the world's oldest manufacturers of chemical explosives?

Even as you were bowing to the Kandahar hijackers, our media picked up the concept of the Stockholm syndrome -- by which the hostages become benign towards their captors. Has that same syndrome got to you in your "chemistry" with mush-Musharraf? In any case, Mr Prime Minister, you seem to be suffering from two types of Stockholm syndrome -- each one a far cry from Pokhran '98.

When you were the leader of the Opposition in Parliament, the country was almost unanimous in its view that your impeccable image would make you one of the best PMs we have had. But integrity is a weakness when reflected even in the devil. Because you have that integrity, you see it in others as well. That is why you trusted Musharraf's promised salutes to your statesmanship, when you invited him for a summit without submitting him to a thorough CT scan on what his "core issue" really was.

It was that same na´ve but dangerous trust that made you, in January this year, lay the foundation stone of a software technology park in Lucknow, without conducting an investigation about its promoters. And when Cybersace Infosys landed UTI and your government in a morass, you were compelled to sheepishly distance yourself publicly from the jailed Johari brothers. A good, nay great, leader does not govern on the basis of 100 per cent trust, but on 50 per cent distrust --- don't you know that elementary concept, Mr Prime Minister?

Another quality earlier attributed to you was that you were an orator, a communicator par excellence. But what exactly have you communicated after Pokhran '98? Precious little. Instead, you chose to hide yourself behind the PMO most of the time and, in the Lok Sabha the other day, in a prepared statement. And, at Agra recently, you seemed to have gone into total seclusion.

Example: Neena Vyas of The Hindu ferreted the info from officials in Delhi that you kept Musharraf waiting for 30 minutes when he came to make his farewell call. Why didn't you pluck up the courage to tell us this yourself when, in fact, that abrasive, arrogant man deserved this kind of behaviour? Was it because Ms Vyas's story itself was only a product of your spin-doctors? Or aren't you even aware of the need to retrieve the all-round respect we, the people, are fast losing in you?

No nation, Mr Prime Minister, can tolerate an insult of any kind from anyone. Just look at Israel's 50 year-old combative spirit against its Arab neighbours. In your case, the stage has come when we now believe that, were you Ariel Sharon, you would have bear-hugged Yasser Arafat and let him get away with murder. That's not an image we want for our country and for our prime minister, Mr Vajpayee.

On September 28, 1998, in your address to the Indian American community in New York, you said, "There is a need to make people the world over understand the real Kashmir story." Agra was the place and time to tell that story, even as commando Cain kept blabbering about the "core issue." But you just didn't!! Why? Were you overawed by the man's physical fitness and brazen style? Or did you plain forget your New York comment or the story or both?

It was pathetic, really, that you and your delegation (and, of course, our "learned" media and their innumerable "experts") never once mentioned a central character in that story: the J&K Constitution, 1957, which is the only (repeat, only) document that says, "The state of Jammu and Kashmir is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India." In fact, our chief justice's scholarly book on J&K's Constitution would have been the most apt gift from the Indian nation to Pervez Musharraf. But you lack that spitfire spirit, don't you, Mr Prime Minister?

We, the people of India, are aware that you hold the toughest job in the world. And that it is getting more complicated every hour in the prevailing national scenario where every citizen seems to know only his rights, but not his obligations to the country -- even our breakfasting editors fall in that category. We know, besides, that with two Ranawat knees on your own 76 years, you have become slow of movement and speech and, perhaps, of thought as well. Though the sycophants around you may not have told you so, our predominantly youthful populace is yearning for a leader who is sprightly, who does not consider it his business to attend puerile functions, who talks without blinking and without batting an eye lid -- even to the USA -- who occasionally raps a knuckle or two, who always persuasive and inspirational. Those are the qualities that, we believe, make a prime minister, Mr Prime Minister.

Stated differently, we, the people of India, especially its dynamic educated youth, don't want a pusillanimous poet as prime minister. We certainly respect our elders and have fond affection for them. But we can't allow them to debilitate our pride and make us cowards in the march to our goal of a vibrant place in the global sun. We want a leader with a capital L; or, as Bal Thackeray would choose to put it, we want to be led by a Chhatrapati Shivaji who, were he alive, wouldn't have cared a fig about India getting a seat at the Security Council as long as his motherland got the respect due to it from all concerned.

Considering everything, therefore, why don't you just take sanyas, Mr Prime Minister?

Yours, etc

A fundamentalist Indian.

You might also like to read:
Full coverage: The Agra Summit

Arvind Lavakare

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