Home > News > Columnists > G Parthasarathy
Confusion or deliberate dissonance?
June 06, 2003
When knowledgeable Americans are asked to define the contents of the Bush administration's foreign policy, the usual reply one gets is: 'Whose foreign policy do you want me to define? Is it the foreign policy of Colin Powell's State Department or that of Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon'?
Diplomatic observers across the world would perhaps voice similar sentiments if they were asked to define the contents of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's recent initiative to make his 'third and last' effort to resolve differences with Pakistan. There was no reference to ending cross border terrorism when Vajpayee spoke at a public rally in Srinagar.
The same evening, BJP President Venkaiah Naidu, asserted that a dialogue with Pakistan could commence only if cross border terrorism ended. Subsequent statements by senior government functionaries on this subject have often been mutually contradictory.
Some government dignitaries have indicated that dialogue could commence, but not be meaningful unless cross border terrorism was ended. Others have suggested that there was no point in any dialogue unless Pakistan ended cross border terrorism and dismantled its entire infrastructure of terrorism.
Vajpayee hit the headlines in both India and Pakistan when he told the German newspaper Der Speigel that he would quit office if his Pakistan initiative for peace failed. He added he was prepared to make 'serious compromises' in any negotiations with General Pervez Musharraf on the Kashmir issue. This was rather odd because Musharraf has made it clear that the person who refers to him as 'my boss,' Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali will conduct talks with India.
Within 48 hours of these momentous announcements by Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani asserted on May 29: 'We have defeated Pakistan in four wars in the past and are also confident of defeating Pakistan in the proxy war waged by it. We have won these wars on our own and we will win the proxy war thrust on us without anyone's help.' Asserting that 'there is no question of recognising the LoC as the international border,' Advani reiterated that the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir including Pakistan occupied Kashmir and areas ceded by Pakistan to China are an integral part of India.
Advani paid handsome tribute to our intelligence agencies on May 29, asserting that they had busted 175 Inter Services Intelligence cells in the country. He also spoke of the successes achieved in weeding out Pakistani jihadis in Operation Sarp Vinash in the Surankote area of the Jammu sector. Reports from Surankote indicated that over 300 well-trained Pakistani jihadis have been operating since 1999 from a vast hilly area of over a hundred square kilometers within our territory, 35 kilometres from the LoC.
There are also reports suggesting that a similar situation prevails in the Doda sector and elsewhere in both the Jammu region and the Kashmir valley. What we are now being informed in bits and pieces is that significant areas of our territory have been under the control of Pakistani jihadis for nearly four years. High government functionaries have used strong terms like 'pre-emptive strikes,' 'hot pursuit' and 'coercive diplomacy' as characterising our determination to get tough with Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
Yet, for four years Pakistani intruders have actually held large tracts of territory on our side of the Line of Control, with the government unable or unwilling to throw them out. People would naturally like to know why these intrusions were not cleared for nearly four years and whether this was just another case of 'intelligence failure.'
Vajpayee's readiness for 'serious compromises' on Jammu and Kashmir comes at a time when there is a vigorous debate in Pakistan on whether or not they should accept a Kashmir settlement based on the 'Chenab Solution.'
According to Pakistan's former foreign secretary Niaz Naik, he had proposed this 'solution' to R K Misra [the senior Indian journalist who was brokering a settlement on Kashmir with Naik] in an effort at 'back channel diplomacy' before the Kargil conflict.
The 'Chenab Solution' involves shifting of the Line of Control to the Chenab river. Pakistan would get control of the entire Kashmir valley including Srinagar and the Kargil sector, while India would retain portions of the Jammu region in such a 'solution.' While we have denied that any such 'solution' was discussed or accepted, Naik appears to have told a large number of Pakistanis and foreigners that neither Misra nor other high government figures rejected his proposal when he mooted it in 1999. He has claimed that Indian interlocutors, in fact, showed interest in his proposal when he visited Delhi.
While gullible Indian visitors to Pakistan may come back deeply impressed by the sincerity of [Pakistan Foreign Minister] Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and bogus assertions of Pakistan's Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz that Pakistan had a higher rate of growth than India in 2002-2003, that Pakistan has actually registered a 'double digit' rate of growth of per capita income and received more FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] than India in this period, the real test of Pakistan's intentions will have to be judged by its actions on the ground.
Kamran Khan, a Pakistani journalist with close connections with the military establishment, recently reported: 'Two people who have spoken to Musharraf in recent weeks said he indicated that he had no intention of abandoning what Pakistanis call the freedom struggle in Kashmir. This suggests that any shift in infiltration is likely to be more tactical than strategic.' Kamran Khan adds that a senior Pakistani security official told him that in their assessment 'India's resolve to bear the military and economic costs of the Kashmir conflict is diminishing.'
Thus, while there is undoubtedly some thinking in Pakistan about the need to review current policies of 'bleeding' India, it would be dangerous to presume that this reflects the thinking of the all powerful military establishment.
There is an almost universal feeling in Pakistan that while Vajpayee favours 'serious compromises' on the Kashmir issue, Advani reflects the hardliners views in the ruling establishment. Pakistanis believe they can use these 'differences' to their advantage. What the Pakistanis may not understand is that in a democratic establishment differing nuances provide political space and flexibility in the conduct of policy.
But despite this, New Delhi will have to take a number of measures to correct the widespread impression in the military establishment in Pakistan, that the prime minister's initiative flows from a lack of political will in India to bear the military, economic and international costs of Pakistan's jihad in Jammu and Kashmir. Military leaders in Pakistan do not respect those they believe are weak.
There is just too much attention on the prime minister's Pakistan initiative in our media and diplomacy. This invariably gives the Pakistani military establishment the feeling that we are buckling under their pressures. There is thus a need to focus much greater attention on issues like regional economic integration, our response to the post-Iraq war developments, our relations with neighbours other than Pakistan and our interaction with major power centres like the US, Russia and European Union.
We reduce our stature in the world by appearing to suffer from a Pakistan fixation and indeed a Pakistan obsession. The normalisation process that has just commenced is going to be long drawn out and full of ups and downs. We should proceed in a measured manner with this process, but get Pakistan out of our headlines.