July 17, 2001


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Arvind Lavakare

A Letter to Pervez Musharraf

Dear General,

At the outset, let it be made clear that the prefix "Dear" above has been used only because it is "the core issue" in any letter written in the civilised world. Please don't mistake it for anything else. This fundamentalist Indian (not an Indian fundamentalist) can, you see, never forget the treachery of Kargil and the thousand cuts of jehad.

Then there's your three-in-one status. You may well have liked to be addressed by your presidential status. But considering that you're known to move around in your little country much less in mufti and much more in army uniform bearing all those badges and medals, you, the realist, probably detest being in the sheep's clothing. Hence, this letter's preference for the 'general' tag.

The protocol done with, let's come down to "the core issue" -- your summit with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, our prime minister with two repaired knees and one Hindu heart of tolerance unlimited.

Many days before D-Day, you had proclaimed you intended to "create" history (or words to that effect) during the summit visit. Was it history then that after four rounds of talks, Agra could not produce even a lukewarm joint statement?

Or was it history that you became the first visiting dignitary of any country to tell his hosts before departing that his people don't trust the host government? Or was it history to deny that you held even a single Indian as a prisoner of war when your own human rights commission said more than 30 were languishing in your jails? Or was it history to hold an arrogant and abrasive media conference on our soil without so much as our courtesy? Civilised India is not equipped to answer those questions.

Getting ownership of real estate through terrorism and blackmail, without having the legal papers for ownership -- that would have been history, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, General, that is rarely allowed in the civilised world. And in any case, Pakistan is already in possession of a massive chunk of India's real estate for 54 years without an iota of documentation. So you shouldn't be too unhappy. After all, you win some, you lose some, and there's always the next time, as Agra appears to have promised.

In any case, you have indeed made history through Agra. Without much effort, for instance, you made monkeys out of our media. For weeks before you came and till you left, they lapped you up and your country's "experts" as well as commoners in the vegetable market and elsewhere, splashing "the core issue" in our mainline television channels and newspapers. Why, some of the latter became so mesmerised that their edit and op-ed pages were often flooded with articles penned by passionately patriotic journos from your country; some of those were supplemented by efforts from our own "objective" pen pushers who, for reasons unknown, were so keen on projecting the Pak viewpoint. That is why some smart ones in Mumbai conceived of such names as "The Times of Pakistan" and "The Pakistan Express" over their morning cup of tea in the last few weeks. And, of course, you saw how our media covered your visit itself -- from you sartorial style to your begum's culinary choices. All of it was truly historic, wasn't it?

In fact, General, we know you as one who had made history more than once even before you got our PM's invitation.

The first was in October 1999 when you staged a coup to dethrone Nawaz Sharif; it must surely have been the first time in world history that someone sitting in an aeroplane in the skies had, through remote control, seized power over a whole country.

By repeatedly proclaiming your "any time any place" intention, it was the first time ever, says Benazir Bhutto, that Islamabad was begging for a meeting with India. Begging for succor from the IMF and the World Bank had started becoming Pakistan's trait, but begging for a meet with New Delhi? That was unique; it was history.

You also made history when just two days before flying off to New Delhi, you disowned the Simla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1999. Whatever the reason you gave Gulf Times for it, the deed of disowning internationally signed accords must surely rank as an event in the history of the civilised world. Even the latest Bush of the USA has declined the temptation of a unilateral end to the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty with Russia. And though you quickly blamed it on a misquote or a misinterpretation by the Gulf newspaper, your historic act held sway for two days, even as the truth of your feelings lie imprisoned in your heart.

On our soil itself, you made more history. You became the first Pakistani to receive a 21-gun salute from the Indian nation-- that's how stupid the civilised Indian is, General. And you were the first Pakistani ever to be the guest in our hallowed Rashtrapati Bhavan, reminding one of the tale of Red Riding Hood.

You also created history by being the first Pakistani head of state ever to pay homage at Rajghat. We're thankful for that gesture, but why did that solemn occasion provoke the hint of a smile on your face and a broad smile on your begum's face right in front of the samadhi? The newspaper camera had never before caught any VIP smiling while standing before a cenotaph, and that too of Mahatma Gandhi.

Then there was your tea, sympathy and sandwiches (beef most certainly) with those Hurriyat loudmouths. That was no "non-issue" as our na´ve government and Pakistani columnists wanted us to believe. Instead, it was a calculated insult of the hosts as historic as it would have been if Vajpayee had insisted on supping with the Cuban Communists when he was President Clinton's guest last year. But we Indians, General, are stupidly civilised as you may have fully realised by now.

There's more of your brush with history. According to Ajmer's maulvis, the welcome that was planned for you at the city's shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti would have outdone the one accorded to Emperor Akbar about 400 years ago. Your visit to Ajmer was to be the most expensive in Indian history -- costing the government in excess of Rs 100,000 per minute. That's how stupid we cultured Indians are, General. Do you then regret, General, that you aborted that bit of history? It pained us civilised Indians all right to note that there was not even an apology to Ajmer from your side. Presumably, professional commandos like you are trained to deliver only shocks, not sops.

You really are a queer one on history, General. You want to settle "the core issue" in accordance with "the wishes of the people". But when you hijacked the position of Pak's CEO and recently seized the presidential throne -- were both those acts done after securing "the wishes of the people?"

In an interview to an Indian newspaper, you showed disdain for going into the composite Simla '72 and Lahore '99 documents, saying that, if forced to do so, you will then go as far back into history as the UN resolution of August '48. Please do just that, General. You'll find that the promise of plebiscite came with two prior conditions: withdrawal of Pak troops as well as its tribesmen from J&K and reverting the administration of J&K to the state government of the day. That resolution also established that it was Pakistan that was the aggressor in J&K. All your predecessors ignored that truth; all of them ignored those conditions that constituted "the core issue" of the 15 UN pronouncements on the "K" word from January 17, 1948 to May 18, 1964. Did you then want to create history by pressurising India to bury that "core issue"?

One last thing about history. What this fundamentalist Indian (not an Indian fundamentalist) said more than once earlier has now been said, for the first time ever, by an Indian with political authority. Jaswant Singh the other day pulled up one of our journalists and told him that the correct nomenclature of the subject about which he had asked a question is "Jammu and Kashmir". Your obsession with the "K" word made that historic disclosure inevitable, for which, many thanks.

In fact, General, you'll be surprised to know that while Jammu is a city as well as a district in J&K state, there is no town, no city, no district that bears the "K" nomenclature. If it has taken 54 years for even our Delhi-based journalists to be educated on "the core issue", one reason is because our media people are inclined to be skin deep. Another reason is that the Government of India has never ever bothered to lay before the nation an official publication on the truths about J&K -- right from its legally unchallenged accession to India on October 26, 1947 and the great autonomy it already enjoys to its historic haemorrhage by the Islamic army.

That negligence of our government was "the core issue" behind the hoopla and the hallelujah so senselessly woven into your visit here, General. As Bill Clinton might have said, it's the culture, stupid.

Here's hoping, therefore, that
1. If and when you or your successor next come visiting our Taj, he (or she) and the accompanying aggressive bunch of Pak media will be fully conversant with the true history of J&K and
2. Our own present lot of Track I, Track II and Track III peaceniks will also have understood that J&K is not property that the Indian nation can simply give away in return for imaginary peace and relief from fanatical jehadi hordes. That reciprocal realisation is the real "core issue" in our future mutual relationship, General.

Meanwhile, best of luck as you continue passing your beret around to the IMF and the World Bank.

Yours etc.

A Fundamentalist Indian

Arvind Lavakare

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