Monday, Apr 07, 2003
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By Kuldip Nayar
I can appreciate the rationale behind the Government's stand that it will have no dialogue with Pakistan until it stops cross-border terrorism. This low-level war, initiated by the ISI under Zia-ul-Haq and perfected under Pervez. Musharraf, is indeed creating problems in India, further straining the already weak secular polity.
It is also understandable that a dialogue has no meaning, much less the future, if the terrorists continue to get training, arms and shelter from the Pakistan Government and indulge in killings in Kashmir. Even otherwise, the din of shrill guns mars the sound of cooing. Pakistan cannot ride to hounds and expect India not to react in an adverse manner.
New Delhi is quite right in telling Washington and London to mind their own business when they suggest a dialogue between India and Pakistan.
Their own approach is unilateral. The war imposed on Iraq confirms it. Neither America nor the U.K. has any credentials to advise any country to have talks with the opponent power when they have themselves violated every tenet of conciliatory diplomacy.
President Bush has himself failed to honour the promise he had given Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that Gen. Musharraf would abandon cross-border terrorism. Washington has not been able to stop even the Jaishes and Taibas coming up and using the soil of Pakistan from conducting forays into India. Islamabad is providing them with all the wherewithal, training and equipment. The State Department has itself admitted that the infiltration in 2002 had in no way decreased from the number in the year earlier.
Where the Vajpayee Government has failed is in evolving an alternative policy. "No talks" can be a posture, not a policy. But New Delhi has taken the posture for a policy. While doing so, it has stopped contact between the Indians and Pakistanis at every level, people-to-people, academician-to-academician, lawyer-to-lawyer, student-to-student, player-to-player and the like. How unrealistic is the approach which has been devised on the assumption that by cutting off all relations with Pakistan India will force it to give up cross-border terrorism?
There is so much ignorance and misinformation about India that every rumour or fib is believed, making the gap wider. People across the border are not aware of the killing of the innocent. All terrorism is being projected to them as a freedom struggle. Only a few days ago has a human rights organisation asked Amnesty International to hold an inquiry into the recent killing of Kashmiri Pandits.
How will the Pakistanis know India if they cannot visit it? In fact, a favourable public opinion in Pakistan can sand India in good stead. But this can't be built by a "no-contact" approach. India's greatest asset is its open society. Let more and more Pakistanis see it and realise what they lack in their own country. Visitors can be properly screened but not banned altogether.
Foreign Minister Sinha himself admits that the military is all powerful in Pakistan. This is no disclosure; it was ruling even when Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif occupied the chair of prime ministership. But what do people do when the biggest democracy in the neighbourhood refuses to have any truck with them? Even the known human rights activists are not given a visa. I do not know what kind of message New Delhi is trying to give and to whom. The Government's policy should be to reach people by going over the head of the military in Pakistan.
The problem with the Vajpayee Government is that only the Home Ministry under the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, counts. The Prime Minister specifically mentioned people-to-people contact in one of his musings.
But the first thing the Home Ministry did was to ensure that all applications for a visa would go through it. Mr. Advani has a political agenda which is too well known. It is a pity that the entire National Democratic Alliance Government, embracing 24 partners, has come around to support him for electoral purposes.
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