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Recipe for disaster

Recipe for disaster

Author: I D Swamin
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: November 17, 2001

Introduction: The West will be investing in a future tragedy if it turns a blind eye to Pakistan's wrong-doing.

Pakistan should stop harping on that out-worn theme 'the will of the people' for the purpose of pursuing political terrorism, for capturing Indian territory. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former US President Bill Clinton have ruled against plebiscite in Kashmir. Yet, Pakistan continues to harp on this camouflaged and out-worn catch-phrase for waging a proxy war against India.

No grievances - ideological, political or religious - can justify the killings of innocent persons. In any case, terrorists are not the best people to cry for 'the will of the people' or to espouse the cause of human rights. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has made it amply clear to General Musharraf that "Kashmir is at the core of Indian nationalism". If Pakistan's intention is to wrest Kashmir from India, it is pursuing a problem that has no solution. In that case, the problem will ever remain with Pakistan and Kashmir with India.

The two nations have remained at a stand-off for long. The reason is that the national politics of Pakistan is completely focused on a 'hate-India' theme. If Pakistan can stop terrorist violence across the border, most of the troops of the two nations can go back to their barracks. Friendly relations can be fostered, opening trade doors, facilitating cultural exchanges. Both nations then have a lot to gain. Whoever could imagine that better Russian-American ties would be a reality today?

The problem with Pakistan is that it links everything to events of the past, on which the present has no control. That not only makes their present miserable but also its future uncertain. We in India are ready to go in for 'hot pursuit of peace', ready even for proactive action - crossing the LoC for destroying the fortress of hatred located in Pakistan - provided that Pakistan is prepared to shun the path of terrorism and walk the high road to peace with India.

The Indian refusal to see Kashmir as 'central' to normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan arises not from any blinkered approach to bilateral relations but from genuine reasons explained in clear terms by the prime minister. The world community should not forget the fact that Indian Muslims are the second largest group in the world and they are not an alienated group in India. They enjoy democratic freedom much more than their co-religionists in many other countries.

Pakistan, after failing in direct conflicts with India, resorted to proxy wars using mercenaries. Inciting and arming local dissidents to wage campaign of terror was the method employed by Pakistan in Kashmir. Their most heinous terror methods include booby-trapped transistor sets to trigger simultaneous explosions in 19 targets, including economic symbols in Bombay in March 1993 and a symbol of democracy in Srinagar on October 1, 2001. The Seshnag and Doda episodes serve to reinforce the point that the militants are totally devoid of scruples and basic concern for human values.

For effectively countering terrorism, good and effective democratic governance is necessary. As is obvious, democracy is a thing not well-known to most Islamic countries. The international community, particularly the more powerful nations, should not succumb to the temptation of using religions or sectarianism for purposes of their foreign policy interests. Nor is it helpful to have differentiated standards for democracy and human rights for different countries.

Helping anybody to achieve anything through terror methods is most dreadful, even if the desired goal is desirable and justifiable. Making concessions to terrorists is dangerous. That will encourage them to resort to such methods in future for solving problems. Also, political legitimacy should never be bestowed on those who seek to achieve it through acts of terrorism.

The US once supported and armed the mujahideen who later turned on the US. Encouraging and arming Pakistan to its teeth is dangerous. Memory tends to fade as time passes; and the saying goes that those who do not learn from history are often condemned to repeat it.

The global support now extended to the US is for fighting terrorism everywhere - from New York to New Delhi, from Washington to Srinagar and everywhere else. The definition of terrorism should neither be defined according to expediency nor on consideration of who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.

It will be illogical to regard violence against the citizen of one country as terrorism and the same against the citizen of another country as 'freedom struggle'. If cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan is not included within the ambit of this anti-terror war, that will be a blatant act of rewarding a terrorist-sponsoring nation for consistent bad behaviour.

India's right to protect its people, property and territory cannot be undermined in any circumstances. This right is exercisable without selective application by all nations, big and small. When this right is threatened by terrorists, the State has the right to strike before getting battered. If the cause for striking Afghanistan is Taliban's involvement in destroying the symbols of economic and military power in the US, similar causes exist for India too.

But India is a country that exercises maximum restraint. India could also have punished Pakistan for all their affronts. But Indians believe in peace and its leaders aren't trained in war games. They have therefore chosen to exercise maximum restraint even when desperately provoked. But it is wrong to presume that India's patience is unlimited. The prime minister has already said that there is a limit to our patience. "Beware the fury of a patient man," said Dryden. Pakistan would do well to listen.

World powers will not want us to quietly suffer at the hands of terrorists supported by a nation wanting to capture territory in the name of religion. How long should we exercise restraint for the sake of not complicating problems between the two nuclear weapons States? The US has paid a very heavy price for not taking pre-emptive proactive action in the past. India too has paid a very heavy price for not taking pre-emptive action in the past.

When the State conducts operations against terrorists, it is inevitable that some innocents too will die but that is not deliberate and cannot be described as State terrorism. But terrorists target innocents indiscriminately. Today the world community does not consider action against the Taliban as State-sponsored or world-sponsored genocide.

When Muslim fundamentalists strike the US, they try to tell the world that they are fighting imperialism, capitalism and an oppressor. When they strike against India, then they say it is jehad and for upholding the will of the people. No sane person can describe these as justifying reasons to unleash terrorism against the US and India. In any case, terrorists need no particular cause. Their causes are almost always perceived ones.

Time has come for the world community to ostracise nations sponsoring cross- border terrorism. We have no quarrel about the US setting a criminal to catch a criminal for bringing 'justice to criminals' or 'criminals to justice'. We also know that it is not prudent to tell the criminal that punishment to him will follow immediately after accomplishing the task of catching the other criminal.

Necessity may be the mother of invention. Pakistan may be a necessary evil in this war against terror. But care should be taken not to create a bigger evil capable of committing far greater crimes than those committed by the evil-to-be-destroyed. The world community will be investing in a future tragedy if it turns a Nelson's eye to all the goings-on in Pakistan.

(The writer is Union Minister of State for Home Affairs)

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