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Vajpayee's cease-fire is Confusion Inc

Vajpayee's cease-fire is Confusion Inc

Author: Arvind Lavkare
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: March 6, 2001

It was probably the first time since she entered politics that Sonia Gandhi uttered words of wisdom. That was on February 20 this year when, addressing her Congress MPs, she said, "Utter confusion prevails in the government in dealing with the Jammu and Kashmir affairs."

Apart from the "confusion" truth, what must be appreciated is Ms Gandhi's use above of the correct appellation: 'J&K,' rather than the common but horribly wrong usage of merely 'Kashmir.' ('Jammu,' be it noted by the whole world, is a city, a district and an integral part of the name given to a state in the Constitution of India, while 'Kashmir' is neither a city nor a district nor an official state of the Union of India.)

Ms Gandhi's accusation of confusion in the NDA government was confirmed a couple of days after it was levied. When Prime Minister Vajpayee extended the cease-fire in J&K by three months after a meeting with all political parties, the Opposition leaders reminded him that a peace initiative could succeed only if there were concrete steps to accompany the cease-fire. However, Vajpayee did not make his mind known, compelling some of the Opposition leaders to remark that Vajpayee did not know his own mind.

For that matter, Vajpayee didn't seem to know that the entire media world was, right from November 27 last year, painting the world red with the word 'cease-fire' while he himself meant NICO --- 'non-initiation of combat operation.' That NICO bombshell came in the The Indian Express interview of February 15 this year with A K Suri, J&K's director general of police. Suri said there that "The PM has not used the word 'cease-fire,' it is the media which manufactured it. The PM has said 'non-initiation of combat operations'."

If that is not confusion, what is? It is clear that even as Vajpayee merrily goes on speaking in chaste, Sanskritised Hindi which the bulk of our media does not understand and therefore misinterprets it, the PM's press adviser lets the issue drift nonchalantly while Vajpayee himself either doesn't read the media's interpretation or doesn't himself understand the precise meaning of the English word cease-fire. If all that is not callousness-cum-carelessness plus confusion, what is?

Even NICO, it seems, has two interpretations for Vajpayee & Co. On the day the cease-fire was extended by another three months, a correspondent of The Hindu learnt that the government had issued a directive to the security forces to conduct selective operations against groups of foreign terrorists but hold up offensive operations against local terrorists. That is confusion, more confusion. (Incidentally, our media should rid itself of their own confusion in labelling terrorists as militants).

"We are ready for a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan provided its CEO distances himself from threats of violence against India by Pak-based terrorists" says Vajpayee -- as interpreted by the English media. What 'comprehensive' dialogue are you talking about Mr Prime Minister? Are you not aware that Pervez Musharraf keeps harping on Kashmir being the core issue? And what is there to talk about Kashmir, Mr Prime Minister? Have you forgotten that Pakistan has to return to India that part of J&K which it illegally invaded, plundered and occupied in October 1947? And what 'threats to violence' do you refer to Mr Prime Minister? Are you not aware that the reality in J&K is not of 'threats' but of actual violence, deadly and daily violence? Clearly, Vajpayee & Co are confused about their so-called peace initiative.

Clearly, Vajpayee himself is the most confused -- either because age is finally telling on him or because the pressures of the world's most difficult job are taking their toll or because the man simply doesn't read the newspapers for whatever reason.

Now the PM of India is not expected to read the abundance of trash that goes into most of our newspapers. But he simply has to digest and respect the views expressed in print by our former foreign secretaries. The very recent thoughts of two of the most experienced in that category have obviously escaped our PM's attention.

Writing in The Hindu on February 20 this year, Muchkund Dubey has asserted that--

'If the idea behind sending the Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan is predicated on the belief that they would be able to persuade the extremist outfits there to join the cease-fire, then it is a grave miscalculation. For the Hurriyat is basically a pro-Pakistan outfit, supported by and working in close liaison with Pakistan.' (The same view was conveyed 11 months ago in this column  'The only way to make Pakistan stop cross-border terrorism and accept what India regards as a realistic solution to the Kashmir problem is to bring about a change in its perception that India is losing fast in Kashmir and that Pakistan can carry on its proxy war with impunity.'  Even more categorical is J N Dixit, who recently returned from Pakistan as a member of one of those too-frequent Track II delegations. In his signed article in The Indian Express of February 21, Dixit revealed that Pakistan intellectuals had no written documents in exchange for the Indian team's presentation of three papers covering i. the political and strategic context in which Indo-Pak confidence building measures evolved since 1989  ii. technical proposals necessary to be adopted by both countries to reduce the prospects of nuclear confrontation and;  iii reconciliation between Pakistan's nuclear doctrine of retaining the option of first strike and India's doctrine of no-first-use of its nuclear weapons.

So, if not in writing, what was the Pak intellectuals's response to the above India proposition on a 'comprehensive' dialogue excluding J&K? Well, they simply rephrased the view of Riaz Hussain, additional secretary in Pakistan's foreign office. And Hussain's view is that the Kashmir dispute is the dead dog in the well that must first be taken out and disposed off if there is to be fresh water in the well of mutual peace between India and Pakistan.

The message ought to be loud and clear to any sane Indian: Pakistan is so obsessed with the J&K issue that a 'comprehensive' dialogue has no meaning for it --- not until India agrees to concede more territory beyond the LOC, as pointed out by Musharraf the other day to visiting Congressmen from the USA. How much 'more' is, presumably, what he would like to talk about with Vajpayee. (To give you an idea of Musharraf's dil mange more, remember that Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto had, in 1963, asked for the entire Kashmir Valley, condescending to let us retain Kathua on the Himachal Pradesh border.)

Dixit also asserts, like Dubey, the Pak belief that India is getting exhausted in Kashmir and, therefore, if political and terrorist pressure is continued, India will not be able to hold on to Kashmir for long.

In fact, so distraught was Dixit immediately on his return from Pakistan that he told The Asian Age newspaper that he did not know what the Government of India's policy on Kashmir was, but "Yes, if you have decided to give it away, then you can reach a solution through the peace process."

Is that the solution desired by Indian peaceniks? That lot doesn't answer because it is so utterly confused about either i. the reality of Pakistan's mindset or about ii. the invincibility of India's claim on the whole of J&K or, most crucially, about iii. the consequences of being a traitor.

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