June 18, 2001


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Rajeev Srinivasan

Because it's their nature, their custom: why the Indo-Pak summit is doomed

The projected arrival of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf in India has led to the predictable flurry of hosannas in the Indian media. There are touching stories about the dictator's aged nanny waiting to see him; there is speculation about whether he will visit his ancestors' mansion. An observing Martian would be forgiven for thinking some benign emigrant dignitary were visiting: like, say, Alberto Fujimori (formerly) of Peru visiting the land of his ancestors, Japan.

The impartial Martian would be flabbergasted to realise that this man, instead, is a cold-blooded killer, the architect of Kargil, he who has the blood of hundreds of Indian soldiers on his hands. He is steeped in the Deobandi-Wah'abi mythology of the cunning 'Hindu bania' and his mentors include Hamid Gul, theoretician of the ISI and godfather of the Taleban, which consists of Pakistan-trained men, including Pakistani soldiers in disguise.

This is no benign visitor: unlike in Fujimori's case, where Japan is decidedly not at war with Peru, Musharraf's Pakistan is indulging in undeclared war with India; that is what a low-intensity conflict is. Pakistan has no self-image other than as 'not-India'; its holy warriors frequently declare their desire to take over not only Kashmir, but all of India.

Pakistan currently occupies some 35 per cent of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and its ally China a further 20 per cent. Pakistani armymen and its surrogate terrorists brutally murder people in Kashmir every day. This is not a nice tete-a-tete between neighbours: we have barbarians at our gates.

India's irresponsible journalists (see my earlier column J'accuse) are impressed because Musharraf puts on a good show of bonhomie for them. Evil men are often very good at PR: I am reminded of the Pat Robertson empire of nasty fundamentalists, whose public face has been the personable, blow-dried Ralph Reed who seduced the US media with his good looks and charm.

I have described in detail in an earlier column, Himalayan Blunder, Reprise why India cannot afford to give away Jammu and Kashmir to the Pakistanis. Pakistan is also unwilling, for reasons of its own, to compromise and give up its claim to the same real estate.

In fact, the Pakistanis are quite willing to fight to the last Kashmiri. For what they want is the land. Their amour propre is at stake. A few million dead Kashmiris, Muslim or not, do not make much of a difference to them: see Pakistani mayhem in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, and the cannon-fodder from those parts thrown willy-nilly against Indian firepower in Kargil.

So is there any point in talking? As a confirmed Cassandra about these unending palavers, I believe nothing concrete will come out of it. I predicted that the Lahore bus journey would come to nothing, as would the ceasefire. I would have been delighted to be proved wrong. However, as I think Churchill said, "It is better to jaw-jaw rather than war-war." I have said ever since Musharraf came to power that India should speak to him. (See my columns Kashmir mayhem and isolating Musharraf, and The General in his Labyrinth.)

But let us absolutely expect no miracles. For the dictator has his compulsions: whatever would he and his army do if they ceased to have the excuse of Kashmir to gobble up a large portion of his country's GDP? The unemployment among soldiers could reach crisis levels if war were to end. Besides, someone would probably assassinate him anyway: he has the salutary examples of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Shamir to consider.

Thus, let us palaver and parley by all means; but I beg you, the Urdu-poetry-reciting politicians and the isn't-he-just-cuddly journalists with stars in your eyes, kindly realise this is all good old diplomatic theatre. Nothing is going to happen, it is all for the consumption of domestic audiences and of the IMF (in Pakistan's case) and the US (in India's case). Maybe Vajpayee and Musharraf are also hoping to catch the eye of the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Scandinavia.

Why am I certain of the futility of all this hype? Let me give you two analogies. The first, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond (W W Norton, 1996), goes as follows, describing an encounter between two Polynesian cultures:

'On the Chatham Islands, 500 miles east of New Zealand, centuries of independence came to a brutal end for the Moriori people in December 1835. On November 19 of that year, a ship carrying 500 Maori armed with guns, clubs and axes arrived, followed on December 5 by a shipload of 400 more Maori. Groups of Maori began to walk through Moriori settlements, announcing that the Moriori were now their slaves, and killing those who objected. An organised resistance by the Moriori could still then have defeated the Maori, who were outnumbered two to one. However, the Moriori had a tradition of resolving disputes peacefully. They decided in a council meeting not to fight back but to offer peace, friendship and a division of resources.

'Before the Moriori could deliver that offer, the Maori attacked en masse. Over the course of the next few days, they killed hundreds of Moriori, cooked and ate many of the bodies, and enslaved all the others, killing most of them too over the next few years as it suited their whim. A Moriori survivor recalled, "[The Maori] commenced to kill us like sheep... [We] were terrified, fled to the bush, concealed ourselves in holes underground, and in any place to escape our enemies. It was of no avail; we were discovered and killed -- men, women and children indiscriminately." A Maori conqueror explained, "We took possession... in accordance with our customs and we caught all of the people. Not one escaped. Some ran away from us, these we killed, and others we killed -- but what of that? It was in accordance with our custom.'

The second is a fable from the Panchatantra. There is a flood, and many creatures on the forest floor are in danger of drowning. A scorpion, fearing a watery fate, asks a passing frog to carry him on his back across the water to safety. But the frog is sceptical, as he knows the scorpion has a well-deserved reputation for stinging. The scorpion assures him that he will not, as his life will be in danger if he does.

The twosome set off across the stream, the scorpion on the frog's back. Halfway through, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog, paralyzed, begins to sink. With his last breath, he asks the scorpion: "Why did you sting me? Now we will both die." Says the scorpion, "I cannot help myself, it is my nature to sting."

Likewise, it is the Pakistani's nature to want to fight India. It is in accordance with his custom, as in the Guns story, to attack and kill a foe who is willing to compromise in pursuit of peace.

I don't know what nature and custom to ascribe to Pakistanis: is it an Islamic nature of unending and reckless religious warfare? Is it the nature of the converted to be so fanatical? Is it the custom of the dominant Punjabis there to be so unmindful of the consequences to both parties -- that the rest of the world is leaving the subcontinent behind to wallow in its blood feuds? I remember reading in Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet (The Day of the Scorpion) about the metaphor of the scorpion that stings itself to death. Is this the nature of the Pakistani, to be self-destructive?

I wish I knew.

India's pious hopes and good intentions will come to naught, just as the Moriori offer of peace and friendship came to naught with the Maoris: there are two fundamentally different world views. India wants to get on with the task of building its economy; Pakistan wants to conquer the world, and especially India, for Islam. I don't think there is too much common ground here.

The one hope I have -- although I realise this too is doomed to failure -- is that the Pakistanis as well as the 'secular', 'progressive' journalists of India, will actually read the UN Resolution of August 13, 1948, which, they all swear, calls for a plebiscite in Kashmir. So it does, but there are three pre-conditions:

1. As the presence of Pakistani troops in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.
2. The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.
3. Pending a final solution, the territory evacuated by the Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the commission.

The Pakistanis never fulfilled any one of these conditions; therefore they have neither legal case nor locus standi to call for a plebiscite under this resolution. It so happens, also, that despite any appearances to the contrary, the Indian State and the Indian people by and large ('secular' 'progressives' excepted, but they matter less and less with each passing day) will not let go of Kashmir. There is no battle-fatigue; if anything, the public is getting more passionate about the defence of Kashmir.

I think the Pakistanis would be well-advised to realise that wresting Kashmir from India is not going to get any easier, as India's economy continues to grow. It is one of the fastest-growing economies at more than 6 per cent GDP growth, and it is already the fourth-largest economy in the world at purchasing power parity.

It would be much better for Pakistan to trade with India than to fight a losing proposition: but I do believe that India would be foolish to go in for the proposed Iran-India gas pipeline through Pakistan -- this could easily turn into a hostage situation. Much better to run an underwater pipeline, although that, too, will be subject to attack by a Sino-Pakistani axis operating out of the new port of Gwadar.

Let us just say I don't trust the Pakistanis at all: they have made a career out of irrationality. It would be rational for them to establish trade links with India (after all, you tend to not go to war with a major trading partner), but they will not. For instance, they refuse to grant India most favoured nation status, which means they are violating their obligations under the WTO.

It is clear that Pakistan -- or, to be precise, their ruling military establishment -- wants, or needs, war. We can oblige: India can continue to bear the cost of war better than a much smaller, economically stagnant Pakistan which is liable to collapse under its own internal contradictions and runaway religious terrorism.


Reader Kannan was upset that I spoke ill of his alma mater, JNU. I was amused to read that yet another JNU product, a PhD, no less, is leading the Maoists in Nepal: Baburam Bhattarai is yet another illustrious alumnus of the JN Marxist University, already famous for such illuminati as the CPI-M ideologue Sitaram Yechuri. When I last observed Yechuri, he was arguing passionately for increasing government control over education: as though the public sector hasn't screwed it up enough in the last 50 years! I am unclear as to how different the JNU is from all those 'Universities of Jihad' in Pakistan: they all create holy warriors for their respective creeds.

And yes, the Nepal probe has put the blame for the massacre on the dead Prince Dipendra, who is of course not here to defend himself. How convenient! And how very convenient this whole episode has been for the Maoists, who immediately orchestrated riots against India, just as they did in the Hrithik Roshan drama/hoax a few months ago! Is it possible that poor King Birendra told visiting Chinese strongman Zhu Rongji (of course, China has nothing whatsoever to do with the Maoists, as certified by every Marxist and fellow traveller in sight) that he would be forced to deploy his army against the Maoists, thereby signing his own death warrant?

Reader Murali chided me for not knowing the whole story about Barbara Crossette's past lives. I had once pointed out that her only published book (before her India stint) was on the country inns of New England! This is in fact true. However, he adds out that she was a foreign correspondent in Thailand before being posted to India. Philip Oldenburg of Columbia University wrote to me that she was a Fulbright professor in Chandigarh as well. This is all well and good, but I stand by my criticism of Crossette as an execrable reporter, entirely biased and lacking in journalistic objectivity. She is, mind you, a correspondent, who is supposed to report facts and not to provide her opinion, unlike an op-ed writer or columnist.

Pakistanis often speak of a Hindu-Jewish conspiracy to undermine Islam: the latest is a rant by a fanatic named Muhammed Navid in the Pakistani newspaper Jang of June 15. Well, why would anybody be amazed if Jews and Hindus make common cause? It is they who have borne the brunt of Muslim and Christian brutality for millennia. Pakistan's acolytes, the Taleban, have made an explicit connection by forcing Hindus in Afghanistan to wear the same yellow that Nazis made Jews wear to make them easy targets.

And what exactly does India lose by aligning with Israel? The gratitude of Arabs, whose cause India has championed for 50 years? Yes, their 'gratitude' and 50 cents will buy us a cup of coffee.

Under the leadership of Gary Ackerman, a Jewish person, the US Congress acknowledged their solidarity with the oppressed Hindus of Afghanistan by wearing armbands with the words, 'I am a Hindu'. This was a nice symbolic gesture: wonder why the Indian Parliament was not even moved to do something as emphatic as this.

Was I the only person who noticed the deafening silence at the Taleban's act by India's 'secular', 'progressive' 'human rights' mafia? Where is Anand Patwardhan's angry film about the atrocities committed on women and non-Muslims in Afghanistan? Why are Shabana Azmi, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch Asia, SAHMAT, and Teesta Setalvad so discreetly silent?

This is of course a rhetorical question. We all know the answer.

What validity does a Vajpayee-Musharraf deal hold?
This is not Nirvana
Supping with a rogue general
Tackle Mr Hyde, not Mush Musharraf
Internal security slips, but the red carpet is out
That treacherous road to peace

Rajeev Srinivasan

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