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|January 15, 2002||
T V R Shenoy
Let there be war!
Individuals survive in the midst of a community; without one, they are nothing," General Musharraf quoted Iqbal in his much-publicised speech on January 13, "They are like the waves in the river which vanish once out of the water."
How true. The terrorist survives in the culture spawned over the past half-a-century in Pakistan, he is not sprung full-blown out of nothing. Remove him from this friendly environment, and the terrorist is a fish out of water.
I leave it to General Musharraf to describe just how the vast majority of Pakistanis have been educated. Speaking of the madarsas, he said they "promote negative thinking and propagate hatred and violence instead of inculcating tolerance, patience and fraternity". Marinate impressionable young men in these schools and you produce not just "semi-literate religious scholars" --- to quote General Musharraf once more --- but "semi-literate religious scholars" who hate India.
True to form, the leaders of the Jaish-e-Mohammad have already announced they have no intention of giving up the war on India. So much for the effect on Pakistani public opinion, what was its effect on India?
Precisely nothing! In the wake of Kargil, the hijacking of Flight 814, the Agra summit, and so on, it would be a very foolish Indian who expects to see a Pakistani dictator doff his uniform for dove's feathers. General Musharraf may say he wants peace, but his words are drowned by the crisp crackling of funeral pyres of Hindus murdered in Jammu and Kashmir.
Of course, India was never General Musharraf's intended audience. If the Urdu portions of his address were aimed at Pakistan, the English was targeted at the United States.
To an extent, General Musharraf succeeded in lessening the pressure to turn a new leaf. There is no longer any serious challenge to India's stand that terrorists are based in, and trained by, Pakistan. But Washington has its own priorities, meaning there will now be a step back into the ranks of hypocrisy. One finds five arguments why India "should exercise restraint":
1. The United States, with the help of Pakistan, is fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This effort would be affected if Pakistan moves its forces from the Afghan border. Destroying Al Qaeda shall benefit India too.
2. India should give Musharraf a little more time. After all it is difficult for him to make a U-turn on Kashmir.
3. If there is a conventional war, the superiority of Indian forces will definitely inflict a defeat on Pakistan. This will make it difficult for Musharraf to continue, and he shall be replaced by a group that is more sympathetic to terrorists.
4. There is the possibility that if defeat becomes inevitable, the Pakistan military establishment would resort to nuclear weapons. The losses on both sides would be incalculable.
5. War will lead to foreign investors shunning India; Pakistan, never an investor's delight, will be relatively unaffected.
These are not very convincing arguments to an Indian ear. To offer a rebuttal point by point:
1. Shouldn't Al Qaeda be finished off before taking on other terrorists --- what is the guarantee that the US will retain interest in battling terrorism once this happens? India fought a lone battle for two decades without any help from the West, which woke up only on September 11.
2. How much time did the West give Musharraf to sever his connections with the Taliban and Al Qaeda? Twenty-four hours. As I write, it is precisely a month since the attack on Parliament. Yet, Pakistan has not detained even a single person for having done anything in India. Even in his speech, Musharraf took care to promise that nobody would be turned over for trial in India.
3. The West may well fear that Musharraf's successor shall be someone worse. But this sounds weird to a nation over 70,000 of whose citizens have fallen to terrorism and which has been subjected to repeated bombast from military rulers in Pakistan. It took a Mullah Omar for the world to recognise how bad the situation was in Afghanistan; perhaps it will take a mullah in Islamabad before the blinkers come off completely in the State Department in Washington.
4. Threats of nuclear war shall not deter India. While India has pledged never to initiate a nuclear exchange, Pakistan must not be allowed to use its nuclear capability to hold peace hostage. Add to this, Mao's fatalistic theory: "There are more people in my country and at least some of them will survive. That may not be the case in your country."
I am afraid other nations still haven't grasped how tired India is of its neighbour's tactics. But some farmers interviewed on television summed up the mood: "One way or another, let there be an end to this constant tension. If it comes to war, then let it be so!" They came from Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab, and Rajasthan, but they spoke with one voice --- and they spoke for India.
5. Will the economy suffer if war breaks out? Yes, of course, but the ongoing uncertainty isn't exactly doing it any favours. A single press conference by the chief of staff of the Indian army sent the markets plunging in Mumbai and Karachi. And in any case, no investor is going to come in given a climate vitiated by a shapeless and unpredictable terrorism. War will definitely bring destruction but it will end the threat from the faceless enemy once and for all.
Other nations want India to accord some leeway to General Musharraf after his last speech. Let me ask them this: does the arsonist who sets his neighbour's roof on fire deserve a reprieve for promising a teaspoon of water at some future date?
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