Ties and the US 'Road Map'
Suddenly there is a flurry of activities on the Indo-Pak diplomatic front. From the brink of a near- total disruption of diplomatic relations a year ago, the two countries now seem to be fast returning to a presumably full-scale restoration of ties. Both India and Pakistan have named their new envoys. Pakistan has just released a batch of Indian prisoners. A group of Pakistani parliamentarians paid a weeklong goodwill visit to India. Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has even reportedly suggested that the two neighbours could begin by expanding the scope and volume of bilateral trade.
The swiftness with which things have started moving is indeed quite breathtaking. While the liberal Indian opinion is euphoric about the ‘magical impact’ of Vajpayee’s ‘hand-of-friendship’ offer, it will be height of naivete to miss the fact that the current moves between India and Pakistan are taking place in the shadow of what Washington calls its road map to peace and stability in South Asia. Soon after the Saddam Hussein regime had been toppled in Baghdad, Colin Powell had let it be known that after Iraq washington would now devote greater attention to resolving the Kashmir dispute. The US military administrator for Iraq, Jay Garner even went on to indicate that the American road map for Kashmir would be implemented by December 2004.
In his own vague way Vajpayee too has located his latest peace initiative in the emerging international context after the Iraq war. What Vajpayee did not spell out was that this emerging context was one of growing American intervention and entrenchment in different parts of Asia including our very own subcontinent. And that his government was going out of its way to facilitate this American objective in Asia. Far from being a direct bilateral engagement with Pakistan, the current Indian ‘peace initiative’ is only an exercise in deepening and institutionalising America’s involvement in Indo-Pak affairs.
While Richard Armitage was on his way to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, India’s National security Adviser Brajesh Mishra was in Washington propounding his thesis of forging a US-Israel-India axis. But however much India may like to gloat about her presumed superior status vis-à-vis Pakistan in the US scheme of geo-politics, the fact is both India and Pakistan are treated by Washington as two loyal clients competing for greater American favour. While Mishra was in the US, the chief of Pakistan’s ISI, Lt.-General Ehsan-ul-Haq, was already there talking to the CIA director, FBI chief and US Vice-President Dick Cheney. And in June the US is set to play host to both President Musharraf of Pakistan, who will be a special guest of Bush at his Camp David retreat, and the Indian Deputy PM L.K. Advani.
Vajpayee has said his current initiative is his third and last attempt at peacemaking with Pakistan. What other option has he then got if the current initiative fails? After the attack of December 13, 2001 on Indian Parliament, India had launched the so-called diplomatic offensive against Pakistan which included virtually snapping India’s diplomatic ties with Pakistan and unprecedented military mobilisation along the entire length of the Indo-Pak border. Major international missions were undertaken with a view to indicting Pakistan for the attack. But all these attempts came a cropper and after ten months the troops had to be asked to return gradually to their peacetime positions. This shortsighted jingoistic campaign cost the exchequer a hefty Rs 8,000 crore and nearly 400 soldiers died and more than a thousand suffered major injuries in this exercise. The Vajpayee government must never again be permitted to stage such a military fiasco.
The other danger that stares India and Pakistan in the face is an inevitable internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute. We must not forget the UN Security Council Resolution 1172 adopted in the wake of Pokhran II. Pokhran provided a readymade opportunity to the UN Security Council to discuss the task of policing what the US describes as one of the world’s most dangerous regions – Kashmir, divided and sandwiched as it is between two nuclear-weapon wielding war-mongering neighbours. The necessary infrastructure for a US-led imperialist intervention in the subcontinent is thus already in place.
Instead of petitioning for greater American attention and intervention, India and Pakistan must resolve all outstanding disputes through bilateral negotiations without any external interference. And that can only happen if the domestic public opinion in the two counries can generate adequate pressure for peace.