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Stay Atal on Akhand Bharat

Stay Atal on Akhand Bharat

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 30, 2003

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee deserves hearty congratulations for his foreign policy coup in convincing Bhutan to crack down on anti-India militants operating on its soil, while simultaneously ensuring that Nepal and Myanmar prove equally inhospitable to the fleeing rebels. The swiftness with which the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) unleashed the December 15 action took the complacent leaderships of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) so completely by surprise that in less than a fortnight of operations, their cadres are severely demoralised and on the run.

Yet, even as he bats valiantly for Akhand Bharat on one border, there comes disturbing news of diplomatic footsie with Pakistan, and Mr Vajpayee would do well to err on the side of caution on the western front. New Delhi is abuzz with inspired leaks of secret talks to settle the Indo-Pakistani border by wholly incorporating Machel, Keran and Gurez into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, so as to give General Pervez Musharraf something concrete out of the deal.

A purported plan envisages self-rule in the Kashmir Valley; autonomous hill councils for Poonch, Rajouri and Doda districts; Union Territory status for Ladakh; the Hindu-dominated Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur districts and overall sovereignty of Jammu & Kashmir to remain with India; while PoK would have an autonomous government with sovereignty vested with Islamabad. The Line of Control will reportedly be demilitarised once the border is thus redrawn, and India will also reduce troops deployment on the Siachen glacier.

Such talk cannot but cause alarm and dismay in India. Most citizens are unable to comprehend the urgency to surrender occupied Kashmir to Pakistan, which is what such 'border adjustments' amount to, no matter how the pill is coated. Nor is New Delhi entitled, in the wake of a unanimous Resolution of Parliament in 1995, to barter away PoK in return for an uncertain peace with a neighbour addicted to cross-border terrorism. If reports of the purported talks are true, it is imperative that all political parties that supported the Parliamentary Resolution unambiguously declare whether or not they remain committed to it. This specifically includes the BJP, which originally authored the resolution.

The so-called border adjustment plan is a typically half-baked American solution, and deserves to be dismissed with contempt by a self-respecting Government. I am sure our eminent peaceniks will now rush to urge the Centre to accept Pakistan's offer of 'friendship' and end the 'war of a thousand cuts'. No doubt some of them will argue their case with conviction.

A bit of hard-headed realism, however, would show that our problems of cross-border terrorism with Pakistan are by no means confined to J&K. Hence, settling that border on terms that cannot but be perceived as humiliating to a resurgent India will resolve nothing. Indeed, we cannot even treat Pakistan-sponsored terrorism as a bilateral issue in the contemporary context, since Pakistan is a key nation in the axis of Islamic fundamentalism engulfing and troubling the world.

The ISI and Pakistani generals and clerics are bound in an intricate network of contacts with internationally-sought terrorists ranging from Osama bin Laden to Masood Azhar and a host of others, and the Pakistani state has little direct control over them. India will get respite from their activities only through sustained international action against these outfits, rather than bilateral deals with a shaky General Musharraf.

Coming back to cross-border terrorism, our problems with Pakistan include the ISI-funded militants and madarsas along the entire India-Nepal and Bangladesh- West Bengal border. Then there is ISI-funded Bangladeshi support to anti-India militant groups in the Northeast, which has been officially admitted by captured ULFA leaders in Bhutan, (The Pioneer, December 26). Indeed, the ULFA was due to receive Programmed Time Devises (PTDs) and explosives from Pakistan and Bangladesh at the time of the crackdown, and its chairman, Aurobindo Rajkhowa, may well be ensconced in Bangladesh.

The ISI is equally active among the illegal immigrants literally pouring into India daily from Bangladesh, and these unwanted denizens are by no means confined to the border States. Assam, of course, is on the verge of a demographic catastrophe, and the Congress Chief Minister's solicitude towards the families of ULFA militants being hounded by Bhutan makes it clear that the nation cannot expect even ordinary nationalism from that party.

Its almighty President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, has not seen fit to issue a single statement on the Bhutan crackdown. Nor has she thought it necessary to direct Mr Tarun Gogoi to ensure the safety to Bhutanese nationals in Assam, in the wake of direct threats issued by the ULFA's Paresh Barua and Aurobindo Rajkhowa.

In brief, the ISI has been found to be active in each and every Indian State from Kashmir to Kanyakumari-Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, etc. In the circumstances, a premature decision to settle the border on terms adverse to India would be tantamount to Chamberlain's capitulation before Hitler. Above all, in terms of realpolitik, it would be most inappropriate for New Delhi to succumb to General Musharraf at a time when his very survival is in doubt.

Mr Vajpayee would do well to recall his own statement after General Musharraf's grand handshake at the Kathmandu SAARC Summit of January 2002: "I am glad that President Musharraf extended a hand of friendship to me ... Now President Musharraf must follow its gesture by not permitting any activity in Pakistan or any territory under its control which enables terrorists to perpetuate mindless violence in India. I say this because of our past experience. I went to Lahore with a hand of friendship. We were rewarded with aggression in Kargil and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft. I invited President Musharraf to Agra. We were rewarded with a terrorist attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and, last month, on the Parliament of India."

The Prime Minister also spoke of fulfilling the mutual expectations of the people of both countries to "chart out the course towards satisfying the unfulfilled promises of our common South Asian destiny." Personally, I have little belief or faith in such a common destiny, but if it exists, I am confident it can take care of itself.

Meanwhile, the ULFA is reportedly shifting its camps to Myanmar's Kachin province. But the Foreign Ministry has done its homework well, and the ruling junta has assured action to flush out all insurgents. The Nepal monarch has been equally unambiguous in his support to New Delhi and, all in all, the present action must be considered one of the finest successes of the Prime Minister's Office and Indian diplomacy.

Given the fact that there is no justice in the ULFA's violence, and that it has long been a front for ISI activities in the North-east, no mercy must be shown to the arrested cadres. Paresh Baruah's belated plea for peace talks with the Centre may be dismissed with contempt, and cases of treason and sedition filed against captured militants. And the Congress, which reportedly came to power in 2001 with help from this outfit, must clarify its position on the ULFA's continued demand for an independent Assam. The nation is no longer in a mood to suffer duplicity.

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