Pull back the troops, resume talks

[Even after a flurry of hi-profile diplomatic activity, there is no sign of India demobilising its troops, de-escalating tension, restoring full diplomatic relations and resuming talks with Pakistan. Rather India’s saffron rulers have hopelessly pinned their hopes on the US. Below we publish two successive editorials on this theme from ML Update, CPI(ML)’s weekly bulletin of news and views, that appeared in Nos. 3 and 4 of Vol.5 on 16th and 23rd January.]

It’s None of Your Business, Mr. Powell

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF’S internationally televised address has been widely welcomed as a landmark speech coming from the head of a trouble-torn Islamic state like Pakistan. Within Pakistan, it has been compared to the modernist vision of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while internationally, parallels have been drawn to Kamal Ataturk of Turkey and Abdul Nasser of Egypt. In the face of increasing pressure from fundamentalist quarters, Musharraf boldly articulated the vision of a modern, vibrant Pakistan, low on religion and high on nationalism.

Musharraf’s address was of course not confined to the theme of regulating Pakistan’s mosques and modernising its madarsas. He was categorical in his condemnation of the October 1 attack on Srinagar Assembly as well as the December 13 assault on the Indian Parliament. He followed up his earlier strictures against militant outfits like LeT and JeM by banning these and certain other organisations and declaring that the soil of Pakistan would not be allowed to be used to wage terrorist activities against any other country.

On Kashmir, he predictably reciprocated Vajpayee’s Kashmir-resides-in-our-heart rhetoric with Kashmir-runs-in-our-blood. While reiterating Pakistan’s long-standing commitment of extending moral, diplomatic and political support to the cause of Kashmir, he opposed terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, even if it were perpetrated in the name of Kashmir. The demand for extraditing Pakistani citizens accused of crimes in India to the Indian government was rejected, but Musharraf was open about citizens of other countries.

Musharraf had two categorical offers for Vajpayee. As President of Pakistan, he repeated his offer for resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue, while as the commander of Pakistan’s armed forces he warned any country against attempts to intrude into Pakistan’s territory. And he also took this opportunity to appeal to the international community, especially the US, to mount pressure on India for putting an end to state terrorism in Kashmir and securing a political solution to the Kashmir question in accordance with the aspirations of Kashmiri people and the resolution of the UN Security Council.

The saffron establishment in India has welcomed the part of Musharaf’s speech which deals with the modernisation of Pakistan. This is hypocrisy of the ugliest and most reprehensible kind – the same crooked fundamentalist minds, the same ‘modern’ harbingers of medieval barbarity, who want to teach ‘Vedic Astrology’ in Indian universities patronisingly welcome Pakistan’s self-critical attempts to combat fundamentalism.

They are critical of the rest of Mushharraf’s address which they say fell far short of Indian expectations. Who are they trying to befool? Hours before Mushharraf’s address, General Padmanabhan went to the media issuing a thoroughly unwarranted and condemnable nuclear threat to Pakistan. How could anyone expect Musharraf to ignore it and reward India with more sops?

As for Mushharraf’s plea to the international community, human rights organisations, and to the US, we surely cannot endorse his call for American intervention. But let us not forget, even on this score it is New Delhi which is showing the way. Advani was right there in Washington while Mushharraf was delivering his address. What was he doing there except seeking Bush’s blessings who is reported to have found in Advani ‘a direct and blunt guy’, the kind he likes most? The only difference between India and Pakistan is that while India seeks American intervention in the name of combating terrorism (Advani wants to open a Centre for Counter-terrorism in New Delhi with the help of CIA and Mossad), Pakistan does that in the name of a political solution to the Kashmir question.

We must not forget that before Advani left for Washington, the NDA government had formally rejected Powell’s offer for sending an envoy, but now Powell himself is coming to ‘mediate’ between India and Pakistan. Clearly, all that the tough-talking, ‘direct and blunt’, Home Minister of India achieved in his mission to America was to upgrade the level of American mediation in the subcontinent!

Every peace-loving democratic citizen of India must now mount pressure on the Indian government to respond positively and adequately to Musharraf’s address. We must call for immediate demobilisation of troops on both sides of the border. No dialogue can take place in the shadow of yet another war between the two neighbours. And we must make it clear that India and Pakistan are capable of not just avoiding war, but also resolving all outstanding issues through a constructive bilateral dialogue without any third-party intervention. The message must immediately be delivered loud and clear to Mr. Powell when he sets his feet on the subcontinental soil: It’s none of your business, Mr. Powell!