August 14, 2001


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Arvind Lavakare

Stop courting chimeras

Our PM is either an incorrigible optimist or disdainful of history or overconfident about his ability.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha the other day on the debate on the Agra summit, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said an end to violence in Jammu and Kashmir was the prerequisite to good neighbourly relations, but made it clear that simultaneous efforts to get India-Pakistan ties back on the rails would not stop. 'Diplomacy is the art of making the impossible possible,' he asserted. And added, with rhetoric flourish, 'Hum kar ke dikhayenge (We will prove it by doing it)./'

Good luck to the PM as he chases his Pakistani will-o'-the-wisp. But history certainly is dead against his pious, poetic promise.

Right from Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1946 to Pervez Musharraf in Agra 2001 -- not a single leader of Pakistan has wished us peace and prosperity. Refugees from there, the Inder Gujrals and the Kuldip Nayars, have constantly advocated people to people contact as the harbinger of peace between the two neighbours. But show us one influential journalist or social activist of Pakistan who has argued India's legally invincible case on J&K.

Even their famous columnist Ayaz Amir -- over whom our media folks fawn for reasons unfathomable -- has written (in our press at that!) that J&K is disputed territory, but has hardly ever debunked his country's wars on us. Leading activist Asma Jehangir -- another on whom the Gujrals swoon over -- affronts us on our own soil. And even Pakistan's non governmental organisations abuse us at UN fora. In fact, hardly a Pakistani exists who extols India's socio-economic achievements under democratic constraints, her infatuation with a brand of secularism that pampers her vast Muslim population. Even with regard to Sachin Tendulkar, how many from Pakistan's cricket world have hailed him as the best bat in the subcontinent, leave alone in the world?

This Pakistan populace's silence on India's various virtues is not indifference. It is hate. And it has remarkable consistency that's grudgingly admirable from a nationalist point of view. Be they army men or activists, politicians or pressmen, cricketers or commoners, the Pakistanis have consistently hated us, hated the Indian nation, the civilisation, the whole Indian ethos. They see us as a hegemonistic country that has all along been obstructing their emergence as a strong and prosperous country.

That allergy and that aversion have been aggravated since Pakistan lost its eastern half in the 1971 war that created Bangladesh. B Raman is one who served the Government of India for 30 years, has observed Pakistan for a long time and one who, in the course of service, met every political leader in Pakistan except Nawaz Sharif. At a seminar at Chennai in January, he said, 'Every government servant in Pakistan, serving or retired, every army officer, every intelligence officer -- all feel that their country's defeat in 1971 has to be avenged and India has to be made to pay a much bigger price. All of them are committed to tearing apart Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India. They think it is their national and patriotic duty to do so.'

Does Vajpayee think he has some magic wand to sweep away all this hatred and make Pak play Laila Majnu with us?

In utter contrast to Pakistan's unambiguous, unaltered position towards us, India has no emotional involvement of the nation as a whole in its Pak policy -- if there is a policy at all. Our position has, rather, been erratic, bereft of consistency. One day, we want Pakistan to be declared a state sponsor of terrorism; another day, we want to extend a hand of friendship, Taj Mahal and all. One day, we just don't want to play cricket with Pakistan; a week later, we say we might. One day, we denounce them in the strongest possible language; the next day, we romanticise them as people who have the same physical features as us, who eat the same food as we do, who hear the same music we do, and like the same movies we like. Sometimes we rant and romanticise about them in the same breath, as our PM did the other day in Parliament.

We are so flip-flop, so unsure and so lacking in a policy of commitment that the editor-in chief of a prominent weekly thinks nothing of publicly agreeing with Musharraf that J&K is, in fact, a disputed territory, thereby displaying a pathetic, contemptible ignorance about J&K's rightful accession to India that went unchallenged even in the United Nations.

See how soft as a sponge we are. The Dalai Lama, a refugee amidst us, has the audacity to talk at a conference about permitting self-rule in J&K, totally oblivious of how it is because of India's humanitarian courtesy that he is on our soil. Yet, our PM keeps totally mum. If Vajpayee were a blue-blooded Indian prime minister, he would have certainly given him a mouthful before dismissing him. That would truly have sent a landmark message to the nation as well as to the world.

Another example of our softness: the PM has kept totally mum even on the Lashkar-e-Tayiba's Talebanisation drive in the Kashmir valley.

Just see how compartmentalised our J&K policy is. Before Kargil 1999, it was all Lahore bus yatra; after Kargil, it was all 'no talks till cross-border terrorism stops.' Then it was all unilateral 'cease-fire;' later, it was all talks by K C Pant. Then it was suddenly time for a summit with the reddest carpet available. Now have come the tough measures to curb terrorism in J&K? Pant's talks have been forgotten totally.

What had Pant discovered in his talks with various organisations, political parties and sections of people in J&K? As quoted in The Times of India of June 1, 2001, Pant had said 'I have heard diverse views over the last four days. But there has been an overwhelming desire of the people to speed up development and generate more job opportunities for the unemployed youth.'

Two-and-a-half months after that finding of the deputy chairman of our planning commission, no less, our PM would seem to have done nothing to initiate anything that would kindle the hope of a life for the people of J&K suffering from all the ills of dynastic misgovernance in their state. And so much can indeed be done as suggested in this column and augmented by more ideas in this column.

Regrettably, the PM just does not seem to think of a multi-pronged solution to the J&K situation. Worse, it does not seem to strike him that active help towards a solution must necessarily be sought from the leaders of all other political parties (including the Opposition) and the media in a constructive, structured manner, and their involvement worked out in implementing the solutions arrived at.

Getting the whole nation emotionally committed to a J&K-cum-Pakistan policy is really the need of the hour. A vital part of the course of action is to widely disseminate the unassailable legal position on J&K's status as an undisputed, integral part of India. Not to move on this dual path would really be dumb and courting disaster in the future.

Yes, the PM must really stop courting chimeras, here and now.

Arvind Lavakare

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