Thursday, Jul 11, 2002
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A SPIRIT of triumphalism animates New Delhi following its purported success in the gamble pursued by massively deploying its armed forces along the international border and the Line of Control against Pakistan after the terrorist attack on Parliament last December. The ostensible purpose of this deployment was to halt cross-border terrorism and attacks on high symbolic-value-targets by Pakistan designed to cast the Kashmir issue in high relief and underline the inability of the Indian Government to prevent these assaults. Creation of the crisis by India was intended to coerce the international community to restrain Pakistan.
That India's strategy worked is claimed by highlighting the steady procession of high officials from the United States and Europe who have come to persuade India to show restraint and gone to Pakistan to pressure it to stop cross-border terrorism. In a way India's problem with cross-border terrorism has been transferred to the U.S., which is now treating Pakistan within the generic framework of its global war against terrorism. U.S. pressure forced Pervez Musharraf to publicly renounce his support to cross-border terrorism and promise to curb jehadi activity in Pakistan by regulating the madrassas. He may or may not be able to fulfil these promises, but his admission that Pakistan was indulging in these activities has done its image irreparable damage. Further satisfaction is being derived by New Delhi from the belief that Pakistan's nuclear bluff has been called. The logic here is somewhat convoluted, but the argument proceeds that Pakistan frequently threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory and prevent India from committing aggression; undeterred by this rhetoric, India continued with its troop deployment and forced Pakistan to declare that it would stop cross-border terrorism and dismantle its jehadi network. In truth, Pakistan was given no cause for contemplating its nuclear option since India avoided attacking. The question, therefore, of calling Pakistan's nuclear bluff did not arise in the first place.
So, what is the downside of this border confrontation? Its major consequence has been the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue; it is plainly identified by the international community now as the crux of the India-Pakistan adversarial relationship. Taken in conjunction with Kargil, the conflict potential of the Kashmir issue has become firmly embedded in the perceptions of the international community as a threat to global peace and security. The precise cause for concern with the present border confrontation is that it could trigger a planned or inadvertent clash between the two countries, which could acquire nuclear overtones. Inspired debate in India regarding the feasibility of limited wars has exacerbated international fears. India has indubitably succeeded in persuading the international community to restrain Pakistan. But this has also succeeded in convincing it of the need to intervene to resolve the underlying Kashmir dispute.
In the past, India has doggedly resisted outside intervention and raised `bilateralism' to a high pedestal in India-Pakistan relations. But the Shimla Agreement commits both countries to "settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them". This clumsy phraseology provides space for external mediation or "facilitation", which is a more agreeable euphemism. India's inhibitions regarding mediation or "facilitation" are well known, but it is now in a logical bind; it does not wish to enter a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan until cross-border terrorism ceases, but is unwilling to accept third-party mediation or "facilitation" to negotiate outstanding bilateral issues. India's logical bind will only increase as time passes, so will the alarm in the international community.
This massive deployment of troops along the border, incidentally, is not without costs. The additional expenditure involved has been estimated at between Rs. 3000 crores and Rs. 5000 crores, quite apart from the loss of lives due to mine-laying and other accidents, and the intermittent artillery duels along the Line of Control. To these must be added the financial implications of the travel advisories issued by the U.S. and its allies to pressure India to withdraw its troops from the border and commence negotiations with Pakistan. Their effect on the travel, hotel and related industries is evident from reduced tourist arrivals; these losses will increase as the tourist season progresses. There is, nevertheless, immense satisfaction in New Delhi that the costs to Pakistan will also be high. The difference is that the U.S. and international financial institutions will bale out Pakistan. India may not be similarly favoured.
Incidents of terrorism are continuing in Kashmir. Not all of it is cross-border. A discrete percentage has obvious indigenous origins and support. How much of the terrorism problem in Kashmir is cross-border and how much is indigenous is, of course, arguable. But, the problem cannot be addressed by focussing only on its cross-border content. The indigenous reasons for the Kashmir problem must be addressed by India, apart from externalising the issue and indicting Pakistan. The test of success in the present coercive diplomacy is not the discomfiture of Pakistan, but the resolution of the Kashmir problem with some degree of certitude.
Viewed in this perspective India's ability to maintain security during the upcoming elections and conduct them in a credibly free and fair manner is of moment; this includes not intimidating the local population to improve the polling percentage. Clearly this is a difficult task given the degree of insecurity and alienation existing in the Valley. Suggestions are being made that Jammu and Kashmir should be placed under President's rule for conducting the elections in a credible manner. But it is not clear how this can be done. It would be more realistic for the Election Commission to enforce the existing laws strictly and create conditions for free and fair polling. It would also add to the credibility of this process if outside observers national and international were encouraged to be present.
In essence, the cessation of cross-border terrorism due to massive troop deployment does not address the fuller dimensions of the problem of terrorism in Kashmir. This problem must be addressed politically, whilst using military means to neutralise the terrorists. The question of enlarging the quantum of autonomy in Kashmir has been under debate for decades, but the State's Autonomy Report, duly passed by its Legislature, was rejected out of hand by New Delhi. Can it still form the basis for a negotiated settlement between New Delhi and Srinagar? New Delhi's willingness to seriously discuss the Autonomy Report could improve the atmospherics for these elections.
(The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi.)
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