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February 1, 2000

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E-Mail this column to a friend Arvind Lavakare

The time seems ripe for India to pile on the pressure on the military dictator

The much-publicised interview of Pervez Musharraf recently obtained by a senior journalist of The Hindu brought home two truths. The first concerns the fact of the interview itself.

That "scoop" proved, yet again, that when it comes to a national adversary, our English press interprets an interview only as a platform for the interviewee to express his views, however inimical to the country's point of view. Unlike the BBC or the press in the West, our journalists have no desire or spunk to cross-examine or contradict their subject personality.

Thus, Musharraf in that Hindu interview was allowed to get away with the lie that Kargil was undertaken by the Mujaheeds, not by the Pak army, and then was permitted the cheek of saying that India should trust him, take him at face value. It reminded one of that interview of Pakistan's foreign minister by Star TV's political editor after Pakistan's nuclear tests following Pokhran II. The foreign minister was then let off with his lie that India had been the aggressor in all the wars fought with Pakistan till then. And these media folks of ours want us to consider them as professionals, leave alone as patriots.

It is truly as amazing as agonising that these media men and women of ours seem to derive some perverse pleasure in permitting foreigners to run down our country without even the pretence of putting up a defence. The extensive reproduction of hostile Pakistani newspaper writings in our English press in recent months is proof. It will, of course, be justified as the privilege enjoyed by a free press, never mind the calumny that is slowly sown in the minds of a large impressionable and otherwise uninformed readership. Fie on such freedom.

Now to the second truth of that hyped Hindu interview. Musharraf's words therein make it plain that India's refusal to talk to him until a proper environment is created has left him hurt, almost humiliated. His country's expulsion from the Commonwealth, not without the covert abetment of India, probably created in his ego a sense of isolation, almost insult. And the refusal of admission to Pakistan in the recent Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation can only add to that feeling of insulation, almost ignominy.

Though Beijing's so-called "unconditional support" subsequently may well have induced a feel-good feeling in the man and his regime, the dressing down which, according to The New York Times, was given to him by senior US officials in his own den as well as the loss of his soldiers in the brief skirmish in the Chhamb sector the other dawn could only have brought such desperation as caused him to dismiss his country's chief justice along with fifteen other judges.

The time seems ripe then for India to pile on the pressure on the military dictator so as to make him even more miserable than he seems to be and provoke him into such steps as could put the seal on Pakistan of being what it already is: a fundamentalist, failed state always susceptible to military rule, unviable and unreliable. It is only after this reality is clear to the world that one can expect the misguided, miserable masses of Pakistan to be aroused into realising that achieving political and economic justice through genuine democracy is infinitely more important than perennially being daggers drawn against India over the Kashmir issue. This objective may seem utopian for both Indians and Pakistanis, but more things are wrought by sheer will power than men dream of. And Muslims, we know, do have a high degree of will power, almost fanatic in its nature. Once that determination is set awake, miracles cannot be far behind.

Towards that end, India must take some positive actions with vigour, shedding its traditional reactive reproach followed till now.

The first such step should be on Kashmir. At Muscat, recently, our foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, stated that "Pakistan's claim over Kashmir has no locus standi" and that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Musharraf, whose Hindu interview showed how obsessed he was with Kashmir, must surely have read Jaswant Singh's latest announcement on the subject, and promptly dismissed it as old hat. Old hat it indeed is, and will continue to be so as long as India does not mount a loud and sustained diplomatic offensive elucidating its stand.

It has been an enduring mystery really as to why India has hardly ever done that through government sources. Largely, it has been only a few whose writings have brought home the point that the famous (notorious?) UN Security Council Resolution of April 21, 1948 conceiving of an impartial plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir required the fulfillment of certain pre-conditions. The first of these conditions was that 'The government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purposes of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State.' This condition was reiterated in the UN Security Council Resolution of August 13, 1948 that called specifically for 'Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the State.'

The whole of Pakistan and the rest of the world must now be loudly told, again and again, that the above pre-condition not only concedes that that 'tribesmen and Pakistan nationals ...had entered the State (of J&K) for the purpose of fighting' -- thereby making them out as aggressors -- but also requires their withdrawal from J&K. What is more, the UN Security Council also required Pakistan to prevent any intrusion into the State of 'such elements.'

Now if, in all the 52 years since those two UN Security Council Resolutions, Pakistan has not secured withdrawal of its forces and nationals from the earlier uninvaded state of J&K, and not prevented their terrorist intrusion into that part of the state held by India, what locus standi does Pakistan have today of demanding a plebiscite as per that Resolution?

Further, the whole of Pakistan and the rest of the world must be told by India, again and again, that the mighty Ganges and the Mississippi have flowed under the bridge many times over after India had agreed in 1948 to a plebiscite in Kashmir. At that time of history, newly Independent India had, only a few months earlier, accepted J&K's legal accession to the Dominion of India as permitted under the British Parliament's Indian Independence Act, 1947, but had, under the same Act, allowed the people of the state of J&K the right to determine their own, separate Constitution.

That constitutional process could not be stopped legally, whatever the na´ve Nehru and his naiver bureaucrats may have imagined. And if the Constitution of J&K -- formulated democratically and, to repeat, as permitted by a British law of 1947 -- irrevocably decided in November 1956 that the whole of J&K (as it was before being invaded from the Pakistan side) shall forever be an integral part of the Union of India, what locus standi does Pakistan as well as the rest of the world have to demand a plebiscite in Kashmir now?

The time has come, once and for all, for India to tell the whole world, again and again, that while the United Nations chose to stay still and somnolent over the Pak troops's stationed in parts of Kashmir it invaded in October 1947, India and the Kashmiri people could not be expected to sleep over their future destiny, but had to charter it as per the right allowed by a British law.

The above, in a nutshell, is the real story of Kashmir. Speaking to the Indian American community at Boston in September 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said there was need to make people the world over understand the story. Sadly, he and his government have kept mum about it instead of telling it to the world from the rooftop. It must be ranked as the most abject failure of Vajpayee and all other preceding prime ministers who succeeded the na´ve Nehru.

Apart from Kashmir, there are some other issues through which India ought to embarrass Pakistan and simultaneously demonstrate that it has had enough of its neighbour that constantly plays a tortuous cat and mouse game.

There is that Lahore bus service and the Samjhauta Express train. Let's put a stop straightaway to both of them. Let the people of Pakistan know that their rulers's attitude towards us cannot be tolerated anymore, and let our Muslim brethren in our land know who is responsible for preventing their periodic union with their near and dear ones across the border.

Our high commission's strength in Islamabad should be reduced to a skeleton. We do not want more of our staff there to be tortured and humiliated like one P Moses was recently. Simultaneously, issue of an Indian visa to Pak citizens must be made very difficult to obtain by recourse to whatever measures needed.

The recent halt on the import of cotton from Pakistan has hurt its farmers and traders. Let us also stop the import of sugar and everything else under whatever pretext is valid under international trade laws and practice. If needed, all Indians should be exhorted openly to voluntarily put an end to all import-export trade with Pakistan.

Let us also end all reciprocal sports tours with that country. Let us decide to play against them only in officially recognised international competitions such as the Olympics, the Asian Games and the World Cups where non-participation could result in penal action against us from the international federation concerned. Ergo, no Sharjah and no Toronto and no Los Angeles, thank you.

Just as during the Kargil conflict, we should put the clamp on Pakistan Television once again. No culture-vulture exchange for that matter. Let their artistes know our angst and anger at the way their successive governments have harassed us no end all these 50 years.

Then there are those terrorists apprehended in Kashmir, Punjab and elsewhere by our security forces at considerable danger to their own dear life. Those bloody brutes should be sent to 'encounters,' not to jails and courts. That itself will be a major deterrent to future hijacks of our aircraft.

The last item on the "To Do" list is that long overdue three billion rupees that Pakistan owes us for more than half a century. That sum is shown in the Government of India's annual receipts budget document as "Amount due from Pakistan on account of pre-Partition debt." Put down as an item under the "Statement of Liabilities of the Central Government", that sum and its nomenclature is being shown in our Budget papers ever since the independent Government of India presented its first budget to the nation in 1949.

Let's pursue the return of those three billion rupees openly, ceaselessly, on a matter of principle; remember, that money belongs to the people of India, not to Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru. In fact, that overdue amount is one cause that warrants a Public Interest Litigation suit calling upon the government to do everything under the sun to recover that money.

Is Vajpayee's government "hard" enough to follow the above course of action? Do the Opposition politicians and the thinking public of our country have the national pride and self-respect to goad the government into that course? And never mind if all of it makes Musharraf bite the bullet; he's welcome to spit it out to a patronising interviewing journalist of ours.

Arvind Lavakare

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