June 7, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Defence Analyst K Subrahmanyam

'Talks will depend on the realism displayed by Musharraf'
India's leading defence analyst, K Subrahmanyam, is not ready to take any bets on the outcome of the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks. A former director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis and now convener of the National Security Advisory Board, Subrahmanyam was also head of the committee that reviewed the events leading to the Pakistani invasion of Kargil. He spoke to Ramesh Menon in New Delhi. Excerpts:

Frankly, isn't Kashmir the central issue of the talks? Can Atal Bihari Vajpayee and General Pervez Musharraf both talk without discussing the core issue of Kashmir?

Kashmir is the core issue, but that core is embedded in a bigger issue that is animosity between the two countries. Kashmir is not the reason for it; Kashmir is a symptom of the animosity. Therefore, the larger issue is the distrust between India and Pakistan.

It arises from the fact that Pakistan defines itself in terms that are a negation of India. Pakistan subscribes to the theory of the clash of civilizations. Long before Prof Samuel Huntington wrote about it, the clash of civilizations was originally invented by Jinnah and the Muslim league in India -- that they could not live with the Hindus... So long as Pakistan subscribes to that thesis, there is no likelihood of any peaceful coexistence between the two countries.

Therefore, the core issue of Kashmir cannot be reached unless you break the larger outer shell, which is the two-nation theory and the total mistrust between the two countries. Confidence building and creation of trust must come first before we can start discussing Kashmir. If you are persisting in your distrust there can be no solution to Kashmir.

Will confidence building work at this point?

It depends upon how the Pakistanis interpret their place in the world. The Pakistanis do not seem to understand that the Cold War is over. It was over ten years ago. The Americans are not going to support them. The Americans have no need for Pakistan. America supported Pakistan not because they liked Pakistan but because Pakistan was useful in the Cold War. Pakistan is of no use to them any longer.

The point is that Americans do not subscribe to Pakistan's thesis that Kashmir should be handed over to them. President Clinton made it quite clear to them when he was here. And when he went to Pakistan he gave them a stern lecture on their national television.

Today, Americans do not support a separate secessionist Islamic entity in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Yugoslavia and even Chechnya. Americans do not support secessionism any longer, as it will create a problem for them. The Russians obviously cannot support secessionism because of Chechnya. The Chinese cannot support it because they have the Tibetan problem.

The Pakistanis do not seem to be able to tackle the basic fact that in the world today, they have no support on the Kashmir issue. So, when Jaswant Singh talks of a conducive climate today, he is not referring to the conducive climate in the Kashmir valley. He is referring to a conducive climate internationally.

By inviting General Musharraf, India has changed its policy on Pakistan. India was earlier very stern about the fact that it would not talk to Pakistan unless it stopped cross-border terrorism. How has it changed now?

Whenever you have to take an initiative, you have to make a U-turn in international politics. This is what the Chinese and the Americans did even at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The Americans were ready to deal with them as it suited their interests. Similarly, Stalin and Hitler were prepared to make deals with each other. Therefore, to say, look, you are not consistent is something like middle-class morality, but that is not international politics.

There is a lack of trust right now between the two countries, especially after Kargil. Will it affect talks? Will having a third party in these circumstances help?

'The core issue of Kashmir cannot be reached unless you break the larger outer shell which is the two-nation theory'
A third party cannot help in this respect. Because first of all, India will not accept a third party. We are aware that the US does not tilt towards Pakistan now as much as it did during the Cold War. But you will have to give the United States another 15 years to play a mediatory role because for 50 years they have been with Pakistan. And all the other countries went along with the Americans at that time. Therefore, you will have to give them some time. At the present moment, for the next 10 or 15 years, there cannot be any third party mediation.

Will India take a tough stand at the talks? What do you think will happen?

There is no question of a tough stand or non-tough stand. Actually, it is quite a laughable proposition -- Pakistan does not permit free and fair elections in their country. Their army admits it rigged all the elections. When they wanted Benazir Bhutto as prime minister, they rigged it in her favour. When they wanted Nawaz Sharief, they rigged it in his favour. And finally, they have got rid of both and taken over. They can't go about talking about self-determination, democracy and referendum to other people. They do not have the credentials for that.

Kashmir is a very complex issue. If you start talking of self-determination for Kashmiris, you must understand that Kashmiris are only one of ten communities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. There are others like the Baltis, Multis, Mirpuris, Ladakhis, Dogras, Pundits, Gujjars and Bakharwals. To say it is a group of one people is nonsense. Jammu & Kashmir is not a homogeneous Tamil Nadu or Kerala. All this is very complex.

Americans will oppose any secessionism in the world because it upsets them in the Balkans and elsewhere. This is not going to be settled in one meeting. First, trust has to be created between the two countries. Then we can think of how to enable the two countries to interact with each other.

Then are 25 million Mohajirs in Pakistan. They are separated from their families in India. Won't they be shedding tears to be reunited with their people in India? If you are logical, you will see this. But the point is they are so obsessed...

How do you see the move to withdraw the cease-fire?

What the Government of India announced was a non-initiation of combat operations by the security forces. A cease-fire is something between two organised armed forces. You don't have a cease-fire when one side has an organised armed force and the other is one of numerous small groups which have no integrated command and control. Maybe it has an integrated command somewhere in Pakistan. This was not something both countries had decided. It was a unilateral act by India.

India could have sustained it if it had worked. After six months, they had to withdraw it as it did not work. So, you cannot say that abandoning the cease-fire was a setback. It did not depend upon the Indian government. It depended on the terrorists.

What do you think of the present National Security Council and the continuation of Brajesh Mishra as national security adviser?

The problem is that the National Security Council has not started functioning. It has not even had one meeting. That has to be set right.

Brajesh Mishra is one of the most effective secretaries of the prime minister. He had a significant role in the nuclear tests. Also, in India becoming nuclear and adjusting itself in the new nuclear paradigm of the world. He has given significant service to the nation.

However, having said that, the question is how do you organise the work of the NSC. If the PM wants him to be both national security adviser and principal secretary, it is okay. But he has to organise his office in such a way that he can do justice to both and ensure that the NSC functions. He needs enough staff, particularly at a deputy level, who will feed him all the information he needs. That has not been done. So the NSC has suffered.

The Cabinet Committee on National Security deals with day-to-day matters. But long-term aspects of security like assessments of situations, direct action, follow-up of action taken are to be done by the NSC. The long-term planning has been neglected.

It is so crucial. How can it be neglected?

'The Americans have no need for Pakistan now'
Yes, it is very crucial. But look at the way we have treated the Planning Commission. Most of the bureaucracy wants to deal with day-to-day things. They do not like long-term thinking, long-term perspectives. That is a basic problem.

Is there any logic behind the government delaying the appointment of the chief of defence staff? Is it being delayed because of bureaucratic games?

There is still not very lucid thinking on the subject. The need for a chief of defence staff arises again to plan for integrated operations in the future. It is also absolutely essential to deal with integrated planning and operations in the future. Most of the operations are going to be integrated operations in the future with the army, navy and air force working together. That kind of thinking and planning needs to be done. They have to get used to this culture of joint staff planning. We have not yet got it. And there is unfamiliarity with the modern defence and security concepts at fairly high levels.

Are there bureaucratic delays or myopia?

It is lack of understanding. It is not that somebody in the defence ministry is opposing or not wanting to clear it. It is just that they do not know what they want to do. There are people who oppose it because they have not thought that in the future wars are going to be a revolution in military affairs. It will be integrated on land and in the air. It has to be very well planned.

Why did India rush to support the nuclear missile defence system even before it was proven? It was just a futuristic idea. Did India stand to gain anything from it?

There is no endorsement of the missile defence. It was an endorsement of certain aspects of President Bush's speech. He said that the Cold War was over. Russia is not our adversary. We have to think beyond the Cold War. We are endorsing the thinking beyond the Cold War and that mutual destruction cannot be a security paradigm. We are only endorsing the fact that we want to move to defence dominance from offence dominance. We have not welcomed the nuclear missile defence system.

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is worrying with the increase in suicide attacks. How can it be dealt with?

Unfortunately, there are no shortcut solutions. The only way is to cut at the source of those who are doing these attacks -- namely the people being sent across [the border]. Improve our surveillance and detection and try to prevent the infiltrators. It must be made clear to the people in the valley who are sitting on the fence that Pakistan will never have its way.

Is the LoC going to be a key issue in the talks?

Not in the first round. But the logic of the LoC will have to prevail in future talks.

Which means there is going to be a series of discussions?

Certainly. A 53-year-old problem cannot be sorted out in one discussion.

Are you optimistic that something will come out of this?

I am not prepared to say whether I am optimistic or pessimistic. I am just going to watch. Finally, it does not depend on Vajpayee. Everything depends on the realism Musharraf displays.

General Musharraf is under tremendous pressure from religious fundamentalists in Pakistan who are not keen on these talks.

That is right. He now says that he will remove illegal arms. That is a big task. We will have to wait and see how much he can do.

'If North and South Korea could, why can't we talk on Kashmir?'
'The cease-fire was a big joke'

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