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Are we dreamy-eyed suckers?

By Arvind Lavakare
May 13, 2003 04:29 IST
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The peace-with-Pakistan initiative suddenly floated by poet Prime Minister Vajpayee at Srinagar on April 18 has created so much excitement all round that Karl Inderfurth, an American, got his two articles on the subject published in The Hindu and The Indian Express within three days of each other. And never mind that what was described as 'Special to the Express' of May 9 advocated the identically worded 'longer-term pathway' to peace that appeared in his piece in The Hindu on May 6, albeit with a different prelude.

Whether the former assistant secretary of state for south Asian affairs (1997-2001) or his publicity agent or both took the Express for a 'special' ride is immaterial. Nor is it material to highlight how our English-language press plays the good host to the white-skinned. What is relevant is that the US of A is making capital of our 78-year-old peace-loving poet's so-called 'bold initiative' which Ramananda Sengupta of appropriately dubbed a 'gamble for peace'.

So solicitous is the US on this matter that President Bush, we read, escorted Brajesh Mishra to his Oval office the other day. And this presidential act thrilled us so much that we thought the mighty US was finally fawning on us. The truth may well have been so different as Bush offering candy to our PM's righthand man for enabling the inking of the land gas pipeline project through Pakistan. (A gas pipeline through the sea is, one understands, against America's oil interests.)

Be that as it may, Inderfurth's published prescription is so half-baked that one wonders whether the Clinton administration's young point man for India and Clinton himself ever grasped the whole truth about the post-independence political history of the state called not simply Kashmir, but Jammu and Kashmir.

Thus, except for his advocacy for ending Pakistan's support to cross-border infiltration, Inderfurth's five other measures for a 'solution' of the interminable Indo-Pak dispute are skewed enough to betray an ignorance of facts. His failure to even once mention Jammu, Ladakh and the mass ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits by fanatic Islamists is just one proof of that ignorance.

Let's come to the specifics.

His proposal for 'mutual affirmation for the respect of the Line of Control' is merely a repetition of what President Clinton pressed on Nawaz Sharief four years ago and is just too vague as part of a "final solution" of the core issue of J&K. Why, he complicates the issue further by advising the 'monitoring' of the LoC with 'international technical assistance, including the United States'. He thus forgets that the UN Military Observers Group stationed there for over 50 years hasn't accomplished a thing of note till now, not even during Kargil of 1999.

Second, Inderfurth wants a 'significant reduction in the Indian armed security presence in Kashmir' along with 'improved respect for human rights'. This is clearly toeing the Pakistani line along with the US's concern for human rights in all other countries save its own where the Patriot Act introduced almost immediately after 9/11 is making a mockery of America's grand old civil rights. And why should the strength of India's security forces in a particular state of its own be determined by Pakistan or America?

There's another fact about human rights in 'Kashmir'. Does Inderfurth at all know that Gilgit and Balwaristan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have known no fundamental rights whatsoever? Does he know that the so-called Azad Kashmir part of PoK has always been merely a dummy government of Islamabad? Or does he believe that the human rights issue is applicable only to the Indian-administered territory of J&K?

It's the same with his suggestion about 'substantial autonomy for the 13 million people of Kashmir' of which four million are lorded over by Pakistan. This is another toeing of a line -- this time of the Abdullah dynasty. Does Inderfurth not know that the Indian-administered state of J&K is governed by its own Constitution since November 1957? Does he not know that this J&K state is exempted from so many provisions of the basic Constitution of India that it has always been the most autonomous state in India?

Next, Inderfurth wants arrangements that would 'institutionalize cooperative relations among Indians, Pakistanis and Kashmiri representatives and institutions'. Oohlala! Inderfurth has, by a stroke of the pen, sanctioned the demands of the 'separatist' groups in J&K by the above categorization. He has obviously forgotten that such 'separatist' Kashmiris aren't located in the Jammu and Ladakh regions which, fully committed to India and India only, are much larger in area than the Kashmir valley which alone seems to be in his vision. What's more, the man forgets (or simply does not know) that when Maharaja Hari Singh legally signed the deed of his entire state's accession to the Dominion of India on October 26, 1947, all Kashmiris (whether in the valley or in Jammu or Ladakh or Azad Kashmir or Gilgit) legally became Indians.

Lastly, Inderfurth wants a long-term Indo-Pak pact of peace to be made after taking into account 'the wishes of the people of Kashmir'. The poor fellow obviously doesn't know (or deliberately ignores) the fact that when the democratically elected Constituent Assembly of J&K ratified the state's accession to India by an overwhelming vote on February 15, 1954, the wishes of the people of J&K had indeed been expressed once and for all. Moreover, the people of the Indian-administered J&K are governed by a constitution wherein elections to the state assembly based on adult universal franchise are required to be held every six years.

But it's no use blaming Inderfurth for writing what he did and the newspapers concerned for publishing what he wrote. After all, it was our swadeshi 'poet laureate' who set loose the dove of peace among the cats. Since that April 18 day in Srinagar, confused thinking has been so ubiquitous that while Vajpayee's government is swiftly moving ahead to restore our pre-December 13 equation with Pakistan, it also wants us, the people, to believe that, despite a Babel of contradictory statements from those in government and those close to it, cessation of cross-border terrorism continues to be a pre-condition for building a harmonious relationship with Islamabad.

So confusedly does our nation appear to be plunging ahead with hopes of concluding peace with Pakistan that no thought seems to have been given by anyone to the formation of an ultra-secret all-party think tank to formulate the nation's precise stand of give-and-take that will surely be essential to tackle the core issue between the two countries. Is, for instance, the LoC as the official border the only compromise acceptable to the nation? If so, should it not be accompanied by war reparations of, say, US$ 5 billion to India for creating a corpus from which to alleviate the various needs of thousands of families who lost their breadwinners in the open and proxy wars waged by Pakistan all these years?

Make no mistake. The Indo-Pak peace edifice will stand or crumble only on the agreement of the future fate of J&K. It will just not do to bask in the setting sun's self-delusion of grandiose destiny or to lilt with a poet's dream about the Nobel Peace Prize so clearly dangled by Inderfurth in his piece in The Hindu.

Or are we really such dreamy-eyed suckers as the Inderfurths of India and the world believe we are?

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Arvind Lavakare