No tears need be shed over the latest and, hopefully, the last of our great turnarounds: this time over Kashmir. It was both inescapable and inevitable. The knots of our warrior school of thought were intertwined: Afghanistan and Kashmir being salient features of the same strategy. When we untied the one, we were bound sooner or later to untie the other. Only we did not realise it at the time and even while doing a turnaround on Afghanistan insisted there was no question of a change, much less a sellout, on Kashmir. Defiant towards India we told it to "lay off" – a statement whose irony has multiplied with the passage of time. Caught between an Indian anvil and an American pair of forceps applied relentlessly, we have finally bid a farewell to arms in Kashmir. It is to the past we have taken a giant leap: back to 1989.
This is a battle that's not quite over, though things are looking hopeful at the moment. The jihadis are crying "treason" and having shootouts with each other. The level of mindless violence might even be down, despite the desires of the professional killers.India's policy of intimidation on which it embarked in December has been thus amply vindicated. Through the threat of war it has achieved that which it would have been hard put to gain through actual war.
It was a thoroughly justified policy, since the Pak-backed thugs attacked the country's Parliament. That single move, especially coming a couple months after the only barely less egregious attack on the Red Fort in Srinagar, showed the jihadis had totally taken leave of their collective senses. If you cannot reason with your enemy, if you cannot negotiate, then you have to slap him.It is behaving like a victor too. In response to the commitment wrung from Pakistan to end support for 'militancy' in Kashmir, it has offered a few crumbs: the recall of a few warships from its western waters; a lifting of the ban on Pakistani flights over its territory; and beefing up its mission in Islamabad. The world is being expected to take these moves-or de-escalatory steps in the latest American jargon – as huge concessions made by a generous (and forgiving) India as a reward to Pakistan for good behaviour.
Give the Pak record for duplicitousness, they're being pretty generous. The jihadis were "being brought to heel" in January, and they were back to work more busily than ever by March.To cover its confusion in this trying hour Pakistan is reduced to laying out another smokescreen (several having been laid since September). Louder than before it is beating the drum of a meaningful dialogue on Kashmir and asking the international community to throw its weight behind this idea.
And the international community doesn't see that it's worth the investment to pull Pak's fat from the fire. They screwed it up, they should clean up the mess.Seen in the light of what has been squeezed out of Pakistan these are plaintive noises. If there has been no meaningful dialogue on Kashmir these last 53 years is there going to be one now when India rejoices in a triumph which has been so long in the making? Not for nothing is Vajpayee looking 10 years younger than his age.
There can be "meaningful dialog" as long as the Paks don't do the anti-Clausewitz routine, where diplomacy becomes war by other means.Pakistan's guardians have one standard answer to these multiple retreats: that Pakistan had no choice. This is true enough and no doubts should be entertained on this score. A hand caught between an anvil and a hammer has no choice. This was our predicament in September and although we tried putting a brave face on it this was also our predicament in December when, to our gathering amazement, the attack on the Indian Parliament brought us, the original recruits in America's 'war on terror' into the cross-hairs of the same war. Hoisted on our petard: this is not what we had bargained for.
Alliance doesn't bring immunity from stupidity.But Pakistan's guardians still do not say that the policies forged in the crucible of 'jihad' and now abandoned under pressure were in themselves flawed. On the contrary, by insisting on the no-choice argument they imply that there was nothing wrong with those policies. Only the external environment changed in such a way as to make them untenable. This is shirking responsibility.
It would be suicidal for Perv to admit that the policy wasPakistan or rather its guardians had no business seeking "strategic depth" in Afghanistan.
stupidflawed at this stage. There are too many dead bodies, and all of them too fresh. Bet to pretend that a sea change, if such it is, is either temporary or in response to factors over which Pakistan has no control.
It was arrogant and stupid. It was a brag they didn't have the resources to back up.They had every right to support the freedom struggle in Kashmir but no business to forge that struggle in Pakistan's image or sustain a policy which amounted to fighting to the last Kashmiri. These were our original sins to which we only lend a false dignity when we harp on the no-choice argument.
Pakland had every right to push for a meaningful plebiscite in Kashmir and Jammu, but not to interfere in the area. Their own section of J&K isn't exactly a bastion of freedom. Bringing in mercenaries, starting with Paks, then including all sorts of people who couldn't find Kashmir on a map until recruited and paid, made them look like the Bad Guys -- because they actually were.If a policy was good, it should not have been abandoned no matter what the pressure. If it was flawed from the start, and not worth preserving in the face of risk, our guardians (for it is they who call the shots) should have ditched it a long time ago without waiting for September and its grim fallout to catch up with them.
It's tough to walk away from those sunk costs, isn't it? That's a lot to write off -- a total loss with no insurance. It's gotta hurt. It's also gotta be done.In the event, Pakistan's name has been dragged through the mud. It has received little thanks for the unstinted cooperation extended to the U.S. for its war on Afghanistan and the continuing campaign, much of it within Pakistan, against the scattered and fleeing remnants of the Al Qaida brigade. Instead it is portrayed as an irresponsible state harbouring and supporting terrorism while Vajpayee is praised (by our American friends) for his leadership in this crisis. It can't get any worse than this.
That's a pretty accurate assessment of the situation...But breast-beating is to no avail. We must look ahead. What recent events have done is to show us our worth and standing. Humain apni aukat dikha dee gaye hai (we have been shown our standing). Which is no bad thing provided we draw the appropriate conclusions, the foremost being that we must cut our coat according to our cloth.
And now we're getting down to specifics...What good our huge defence spending when we were the first to blink? Why is defence spending set to increase this year when if the recent standoff with India provides proof of anything, it is of our peaceful intentions? Was war truly on our doorstep or did we lose our nerve? There has to be an honest answer to this question.
War was really and truly at your doorstep. Pak's allies were prepared to stand back and watch her be annihilated if the powers that be refused to come to their senses. Perv and the jihadis between them had reduced the choices to either stopping or going forward, and going forward was an option only in the sense that self-destruction is an option.Let me not be misunderstood. I am making no plea for going to war, only pointing to the contradiction between a policy of peace, which since September we have assiduously pursued and for which our leadership deserves praise, and a hike in defence expenditure. The two point in opposite directions.
Two factors contribute to this. First, it is a characteristic of tin-hat dictators to put their money into the military. It's easier to define than domestic programs, and all those guns and rockets look really neat in parades. Second, in Pakistan the military actually does represent a force for internal stability, producing a pool of relatively well-educated, literate men who are employed in civil positions as well, a sort of uniformed civil service.And, pray, what of our nuclear deterrent? In our moment of greatest danger it was less an asset than a huge liability. In happier times our guardians subscribed to the notion that this deterrent gave us strategic cover to pursue other objectives: namely, our Afghan and Kashmir policies. First in September and then in December, our nuclear deterrent, far from giving us a sense of security, scared the daylights out of us because we were led to believe that in case of war it would be the first target to be struck. This is argument enough for banning the use of the word strategic in Pakistan. It has caused enough mischief over the years.
Are you starting to see Pakistan as the poor neighbor, with the car up on blocks out front, admiring his shiny, expensive gun? That's what you look like to the rest of the world.While we are at the task of ideological restructuring, a thought might be spared for the nuclear and missile monuments which deface many of our cities. Aesthetic eyesores which only underscore the national penchant for boastfulness, it is time they were pulled down and sold for scrap.
Agreed. They make the nation a laughingstock.Let us be rid of the bluster and the false notions which have plagued our national life for so long. There is no need to sugarcoat our several U-turns. The people of Pakistan see them for what they are. It is the warrior school of thought which has to look afresh at its priorities.
Throwing large amounts of limited national resources into maintaining a war-making structure doesn't help the national health and welfare. Devoting time to arguing with the neighbors isn't going to fix your sagging porch. And they're not going to give you theirs and they're not going to let you take it away from them.This should be a time for healing, for pulling the curtains on the flip-flops of the last nine months. No matter if Pakistan's cup of humiliation is full. This was the result of illusions nurtured in the past. If we turn our backs on the past we can make something better of the future.
He's still seeing that "cup of humiliation" where he could be seeing a burst of lucidity and good sense...But only if we return first to the principle of legitimate government. The military has to realise that it has no monopoly on wisdom or patriotism. From Ayub Khan onwards every time it has decided to walk alone, the country has had to pay a heavy price. Let us not repeat the past. The choice is not between the summit or the abyss: nothing dramatic like that. If General Musharraf chooses, he is still in a position to balance personal ambition with the larger good. But only if he gives up on the dimly-understood ideas of constitutional reform his inner coterie of advisers seems obsessed with.
The constitutional reform will come. He can push it now, or the Paks can wait ten, twenty years, and then implement it. If they wait, the world will further pass them by. If they wait long enough, they'll become a quaint backwater of ignorance and disease. People will come from Mali and Zimbabwe and Burma to see how po' folks used to live.Pakistan has gone through enough experiments. Over the last nine months it has suffered enough in spirit. It needs a period of calm and healing to regain that buoyancy of spirit which seems missing from the national mood. Forward then to the elections and out with half-baked theories of presidential empowerment. Given a measure of good leadership (Gen. Musharraf still being in a position to provide that) Pakistan has strength and resilience enough to emerge from the shadows into the light.
And none too soon.