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Musharraf may come to terms with India

Musharraf may come to terms with India

Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: February 19, 2004
URL: http://www.samachar.com/features/190204-features.html

The trouble with Pakistan has always been the arrogance of its elite, its dream of wanting the world to accept it as on par with India. The arrogance stemmed from its deeply-felt belief that Hindus could easily be subjugated, that they had been first under Muslim and later British rule and that they had only to be threatened for time to succumb. That belief was once given expression to by Ayub Kahn who said that one Pakistani soldier was equal to a dozen Indian sepoys.

He was not joking. He sincerely believed in that dictum. And it was that which led Pakistan to fight three wars with India only to lose all three. In every department of knowledge India was out-distancing Pakistan and it was when India took the lead in nuclear armament that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto proclaimed that Pakistan would compete with India in this field too even if it took a thousand years to achieve that object and Pakistanis were forced to eat grass tell then. Such was the hatred of India among the Pakistani elite.

The sole and unerring aim of the Pakistani elite was to acquire parity with India. If India became a nuclear power it was felt that Pakistan necessarily had to become one and possibly a bigger one at that. And nothing would be allowed to come in its way of acquiring status even if, as Bhutto said, Pakistanis had to eat grass. The Americans did not like that one bit. Indeed, during a visit to Lahore in August 1976, then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger offered Bhutto material and political support if Pakistan were to abandon its plan to acquire nuclear weaponry. Bhutto wouldn't listen, Kissinger had then to warn him that if he wouldn't listen "we can destabilise your government and make a horrible example of you". This is precisely what the US Government must have told Musharraf as well.

This time Musharraf had to give in. He plainly had no alternative. But despite what Kissinger said, there was a powerful section in the US State Department which hated India with as much passion as did Pakistan and in the end if was this faction that had the last word. This faction was willing to pamper Pakistan as much as possible, so long as Islamabad was willing to obey its dictates in other fields. Thus Washington wanted Pakistan's help to get back door entry into Beijing. Gen. Haq was only too willing to oblige. When Washington wanted Pakistan's help to get the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan that help too was made available for the mere asking. There was nothing that Pakistan was unwilling to do, as long as it had the freedom to pursue its nuclear dreams.

Hatred of India was all. It is not that the United States was ignorant of what Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan was up to. Every move of his was carefully watched. Between Pakistan and the US there was tacit blackmail. It suited one faction in the US State Department to see Pakistan checkmate India. It met two vital needs of the US: One was to keep India down; another was to use Pakistan to needle the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. So Abdul Qadeer was given a free hand. Apart from wishing to outdo India, Pakistan had another dream: to lead the Islamic world from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan in the east and to set up a contemporary Ottaman Empire.

To possess nuclear arms, thus, was a must. And financial support came from Saudi Arabia. This too was only too well known in Washington which chose to turn a blind eye. Pakistan was all too blatant about its ambitions. The Kahuta Research Laboratory over which Dr Khan presided and was not accountable to anyone was only one aspect of Pakistan's nuclear ambitions. Year after year Islamabad would hold international workshops on such subjects as "Vibrations in Rapidly Rotating Machinery" indicating that Pakistan was in the know of all that need to be known in the matter of manufacturing nuclear bombs.

Simultaneously Dr Khan and his cohorts would publish a number of papers on the subject and only the truly dumb would not have understood their meaning. And during all this time Dr Khan had the full support not only of the civilian rulers like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, he had even the more solid backing of the Pakistan Armed Forces and its leaders like Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg and Gen. Jehangir Karamat. Dr Khan was not accountable to anybody nor were his expenditures ever audited. He had a free hand. He had become a national icon, the man who was thumbing his nose at India. He was above law.

There were two other Islamic countries which harboured ambitions similar to that of Bhutto, namely Libya and Iran. These were freely provided with technical information on development of nuclear bombs. How much Dr Khan made in the process, finance-wise and how much the corrupt Pakistan Generals too made, is anybody's guess.

At one point in time when India had acquired technological know-how to make missiles, the Generals were agreeable to sell nuclear secrets to North Korea in exchange for Korean-made missiles. Indeed General Karamat himself visited North Korea in 1997 to strike a deal with Pyongyang. All this was known to Washington which, for its own reasons, decided to keep quiet. But the mastermind behind all these transactions was Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, as Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, Commander of Pakistan's Strategic Planning and Development Cell was to reveal to the Pakistan media.

But behind Dr Khan was the hand of the Pakistani Armed Forces Establishment. It was quite well known to the US that Dr Khan had visited North Korea 13 times in five years. Such visits can't be kept a secret for long. The truth had to come out some time. It has come out now. And the western world is furious. What seems certain is that the US Government deliberately leaked out the information of Pakistani plans to leak nuclear technology to Iran and Libya to the New York Times and Washington Post. When these two papers published long articles of Pakistani perfidy, the cat was finally out of the bag. Reports suggest that both Secretary of State Powell and his understudy threatened Musharraf that if he doesn't get rid of Dr Khan he may have to pay very dearly for his disobedience. So a plan was hatched in Islamabad. Sacking Dr Khan who had become a national icon would have invited fundamentalist wrath. So, Dr Khan had to be persuaded to admit to trafficking in sales of nuclear technology. He was then to be pardoned in an excessive show of mercy.

Musharraf went to the extent of saying that Dr Khan could retain his ill-gotten wealth. That would shut his mouth. For reports were going the rounds that if he was punished Dr Khan would spill the beans on all the Pakistani Generals who had been privy to his activities. That would have included Musharraf himself. As of the moment Musharraf has barely saved himself and his reputation. But overnight as it were Pakistan has been shorn of its nuclear capabilities. There are reports that US forces have all but taken over all of Pakistan's nuclear capabilities which now are under American custody.

That robs Musharraf of his one strong bargaining point with India on the Kashmir issue. He will now have to give in to India, whether he likes it or not. Scared that his country may suffer the same fate as Saddam Hussain's Iraq, Libya's Col. Gaddafi has already capitulated to the US. It is now Musharraf's turn to capitulate fully to Washington or face consequences such as Henry Kissinger threatened Bhutto with. That could be either dethronement or death. When the US gets mad it stops at nothing as Gen. Huq must have realised as he faced death in a plane accident. But what next? One must go back to October 1981 when The Economist (London) published an article by a former lieutenant of Bhutto, Mustafa Khar. In that four-page article Khar advised the then Pakistani regime against becoming a total satellite of the United States while suggesting a long-term deal with India.

As was noted in The Future of Pakistan (page 44): "Khar's article dismissed any reliance on the Muslim world as a utopian dream, attacked a pact with the USSR as unrealistic and argued that only India could guarantee the present frontiers of Pakistan. These views, as Khar himself noted, were remarkable for a Punjab politician. The point is, however, they did not fall from the sky. They represent the thinking of an important layer of policy-makers in the United States and also inside the Pakistani civil service. Khar presented his option as a way of preventing total dependence on the United States..."

Could Musharraf possibly be thinking along these lines? Consider the following: Once, Pakistan has now to give up all hope of building an Islamic Bomb for exclusive use of Islamic countries. Two, just as Libya has capitulated, so has Musharraf to capitulate as well, if he wants to survive. Three, only India can save Pakistan from further ignominy. But for that to happen Pakistan has to give up its dreams of taking over Kashmir.

On the contrary it has to make its peace with India. Given the choice between remaining a slave of the United States and making peace with India, even the fundamentalists of Pakistan would prefer the second alternative. For Pakistan the game is up. It allowed itself to be used by the United States all these years in the hope that it would be recognised as a nation on par with India. That dream now lies shattered.

Islamabad has come to realise that all these years it was taken for a ride, though it was through its own willingness. For Pakistan those rosy days are now over. It is acknowledged that it is India that is the major power in South Asia. The US has made its choice and willy nilly Pakistan has to accept it. Pakistan's dream of being accepted on par with India has turned into a nightmare. For it the honourable course is to accept Indian as Big Brother to save itself from further disenchantment.

What Kissinger threatened he will do to Bhutto, Powell has now done to Musharraf. And deservedly, too. That is why it is not unreasonable to expect that Musharraf will come to terms with India and that, too, on Indian terms. One can only hope that this time India will not allow itself to be fooled as it did in Simla. The days when Pakistan could manipulate the US to suit its plans are over. For its own good it must make peace with India. And who knows but that emerging in the not too distant future will be a Confederation of India and Pakistan?

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