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جمعہ، 21 جنوری، 2011

India and Pakistan on the brink?

 The latest Op-Ed in the " Washington Post" by David Ignatius with the same title sans the question mark is based on value judgment, without delving deeper into the facts. The " informed " author laments the " politically coming apart" of India`s neighbour Pakistan and comments that Indian leaders insist with a tone of resignation that there`s nothing they can do about it. He states that starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, top Indian officials know that their booming democracy is endagered by the growing chaos across the border. They say that they`re willing to revive back-channel negotiations with Islamabad to resolve the long festering problem of Kashmir. They favor confidence-building measures to reduce the risk of war between these two nuclear-armed nations.

By Sultan M Hali

Mr. Ignatius, let us set the record straight! Which country does not have political disagreements? India is rocked by the 2G corruption scandal as well as the rampant corruption in its Armed Forces, which have brought people out in the street, baying for the blood of Dr. Manmohan Singh. India has finally admitted that Hindutva extremists were responsible for the Samjhota Express inferno, the Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif, Makah Masjid and scores of other heinous acts of terror which took a huge toll of lives. Pakistan has neither commented nor criticized India for it since it is India’s internal matter, which its people should resolve. As for the negotiations, and Kashmir being a festering sore; the issue is a creation of India, when its forces illegally occupied Kashmir in October 1947 without a formal declaration of accession by its Hindu ruler or a plebiscite by its Muslim residents as dictated by the rules of partition for princely states. When Pakistan tried to liberate Kashmir, India petitioned the UN, seeking a ceasefire. It agreed to abide by the UN Resolutions which ask India to let the Kashmiris use their right of self determination and opt for India or Pakistan. Despite six decades having passed, India has not abided by the Kashmir Resolutions but instead launched a reign of terror in the Valley of Kashmir, which has taken a toll of more than 100,000 innocent Kashmiri lives. The only solution of the “festering sore of Kashmir” is that India allows the Kashmiris to express their will through a UN sponsored plebiscite.

David Ignatius insists that the Pakistani military doesn’t want any reduction in tensions. How can he jump to such a conclusion, when it was Pakistan that set the tone of Confidence Building Measures (CBM) in the past decade and not only called for a unilateral ceasefire along the Line of Control in Kashmir but also introduced measures like trade and visitation rights between Azad Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir. Indian hawks are so bent on bloodletting that using the excuse of Mumbai attacks, they snapped the peace dialogue and insist that unless Pakistan hands over the alleged perpetrators of the heinous Mumbai attacks, peace talks will not resume. Pakistan, which has no treaty of extradition with India but has a free and fair judiciary, instead asks for evidence so that it can try the alleged culprits at home but India dilly dallies. When the Pakistani and Indian Prime Ministers met at the Egyptian resort of Sharm-al-Sheikh in July last year at sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement meet, they resolved to continue the dialogue. No sooner had Manmohan Singh landed at New Delhi, he was pounced upon by Indian hawks, who forced him to rescind the agreement to resume the peace talks.

Ignatius says that he spent three days at New Delhi, talking with Indian leaders as part of a dialogue sponsored by the Aspen Strategy Group and the Confederation of Indian Industry. He comments: “Discussing the India-Pakistan dispute with these officials reminded me of the fable of Tantalus, whose punishment by the gods was that food and drink were always just out of reach. A rapprochement between India and Pakistan is that elusive: You can imagine what the reduction of tensions would look like but you can’t grasp it.” Unfortunately, the vision of David Ignatius has been coloured by his Indian hosts and he fails to perceive the truth. He says that India and Pakistan are involved in the world’s most dangerous zero-sum game. He himself acknowledges that this is a problem that might seem ripe for U.S. mediation. Washington has close ties with both countries, after all, and it could act as an honest broker on issues such as Kashmir, which is disputed territory but illegally occupied by India. Indians say that American intervention could just make matters worse—poisoning public opinion against any deal that emerged. He believes that U.S. diplomats are walking on eggshells: The Kashmir problem is so sensitive that American officials sometimes refer to it as “the K word,” as if the very subject were unmentionable. Washington has gently encouraged dialogue between the two countries, but two meetings last year between their foreign ministers collapsed amid mutual recriminations. Ignatius should take cognizance of the fact that if the U.S. were sincere in restoring peace in the region, it would have taken the bull by the horns and ensured that India abides by the UN Resolutions and let the Kashmiris decide their own fate and resolve the Kashmir issue.

So clouded is the opinion of Mr. Ignatius, that he claims that the Indians watch Pakistan’s political instability with grim resignation. The root problem, they argue, is that the Pakistani military is unwilling to sever its links with Islamic terrorists. Until the Pakistanis break this insurgency, they will be at its mercy. Dialogue with India won’t make any difference, they insist. For the information of David Ignatius, it is India, which is maintaining links with the terrorists in the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt and through its fourteen Consulates and Trade Missions in Afghanistan forming an arc around Pakistan, RAW operatives are engaged in an internecine war, in which they recruit, train, arm and launch extremists in Balochistan and FATA to destabilize Pakistan. David Ignatius should get an unbiased view by visiting Islamabad.
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