Last week, when American Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited Pakistan and met President Musharraf, he was given an 'absolute assurance' that there is no infiltration across the Line of Control. Musharraf even added, "If there are any militant camps in Azad Kashmir they will be gone tomorrow."
The Pakistan president's words sound strikingly similar to the ones pronounced by his illustrious predecessor, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in November 1947 when Lord Mountbatten, the governor general of newly independent India, called on him in Lahore. Soon the discussion turned to Kashmir and Jinnah was asked to suggest how to stop the fighting. Jinnah replied that the raiders and the Indian troops who had just landed in Srinagar should withdraw simultaneously.
Till this moment, Jinnah had denied knowing anything about the raiders. To quote Mountbatten, when Jinnah was asked how the tribesmen could be called off, he answered that "all he had to do was to give them an order to come out and to warn them that if they did not comply, he would send large forces along their lines of communication. In fact, if I [Mountbatten] was prepared to fly to Srinagar with him [Jinnah], he would guarantee that the business would be settled within 24 hours."
In a note to Nehru, in typically British understatement, the Governor General of India wrote that he 'expressed mild astonishment at the degree of control that he [Jinnah] appeared to exercise over the raiders'.
Today, history seems to repeat itself.
After the Indian prime minister offered a 'hand of friendship' and a 'last chance' to Pakistan during a public speech in Srinagar, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, his Pakistani counterpart, immediately took the 'chance' by phoning him and new hopes of peace emerged in the subcontinent.
But soon Vajpayee had to clarify the Indian proposals. Replying to a debate on India-Pakistan relations in the Lok Sabha, he said he did not accept 'denuclearization' à la Musharraf. He added that while Pakistan's nuclear programme was India-centric, New Delhi had to take into account the environment in India's neighbourhood (read China).
After having repeatedly been warned by his Cabinet colleagues to proceed with caution when dealing with Pakistan, the prime minister promised to "tread very carefully". But he added that "just because we might fail, that is not a reason not to try". He then made it clear that the first condition is that 'cross-border terrorism' should stop for good.
It always surprises me that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is termed, even by the prime minister, as 'cross-border terrorism'. From the time the Instrument of Accession was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, India's position has been very clear: the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir has legally and unconditionally acceded to India.
The first consequence is that all the parts of the maharaja's territory are part of the Indian territory. This has been the position consequently and repeatedly defended by Indian representatives in UN fora. Therefore, why is this term 'cross-border terrorism' used, when the infiltrators come from 'Azad' Kashmir, an integral part of India according to the Indian stand? The LoC is not the international border, at least not as yet.
Recently, Lalit Mansingh, the Indian ambassador to Washington, told a conference on Indo-US relations at the University of California in Los Angeles that more than 100 training camps have been spotted in 'Azad' Kashmir across the LoC. According to Mansingh, some 3,000 terrorists are being trained in these camps while an additional 1,500 are waiting along the LoC to cross over and bring terror to the valley. The fact that these terrorists have had the active support of the Pakistani armed forces since 1947 is not doubted today by anybody (Jinnah and Musharraf having even admitted to full control over them).
My point may seem trivial and many in the Government of India will continue to speak of 'cross-border terrorism' instead of 'Pakistan-sponsored terrorism', but it may not be so inconsequential if serious negotiations are to take place one day on the future status of 'Azad' Kashmir and the Northern Areas (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir).
Is it not a basic precaution, while negotiating a settlement (especially of a vexed issue such as Kashmir), to hold your cards close to your chest and not give away the trump cards before the beginning of the talks? This is all the more surprising when India is so particular about maps. Hundreds of stories, some quite humorous, are circulating about the way in which the customs staff use their famous rubber stamp "The external boundaries of India as depicted are neither correct nor authentic" to mark Indian maps on magazines or publications which forget the smallest piece of the State of Jammu and Kashmir inherited from Hari Singh.
One of the main tasks of the planning and research division of the ministry of external affairs is to 'examine the depiction of India's international boundaries in foreign publications'. Though often excessive, there is a great legitimacy behind the vigilant stamp of these officers. India had to pay a heavy price for being negligent with China on this matter. Nehru, who had brought up the subject with Zhou Enlai when he first visited India in June 1954, was not alert and firm enough; India is still suffering the consequences of this weakness.
The matter attracted a long exchange of letters which continued for five years, till the time India discovered that a road had been built on its territory. The Chinese answer to the Government of India's mild complaints was always the same: 'In the maps currently published in China, the boundary line between China and its neighbouring countries, including India, is drawn on the basis of maps published in China before the liberation. This was made clear to His Excellency Prime Minister Nehru by Prime Minister Chou En-Lai, when the former visited China in October 1954. Premier Chou En-Lai explained then to His Excellency Prime Minister that the reason why the boundary in Chinese maps is drawn according to old maps is that the Chinese Government has not yet undertaken a survey of China's boundary nor consulted with the countries concerned, and that it will not make changes in the boundary on its own.'
When in 1960, five rounds of talks were held on the border issue, it was already too late. India faced a fait accompli. Aksai Chin was occupied. Since then India has been careful not to allow any cartographic aggression.
My question is, why are the external affairs ministry officials not paying the same attention to spoken words?
I do not know who first coined this term 'cross-border terrorism', but it does not correspond to the legal reality. Until the day India decides to give away her rights on 'Azad' Kashmir and the Northern Areas, it would be wiser to speak about 'Pakistan-sponsored terrorism'.
I have to mention a personal incident which shows that despite the correct legal stand taken by the government, no efforts are made to implement and popularize it. Having written a book on Kashmir (in French), I wanted to print a facsimile of the original Instrument of Accession, the legal basis for the Indian position.
For months, I approached different ministries, offices and individuals to get hold of a good photocopy of the precious document. After months of effort, I am ready to abandon my hunt; nobody seems able (or wants) to help me. Is it not pitiful that not only does the government not promote properly its own case, but also does not provide any support for those wanting to do so?
If it is really the 'last chance', should India not put everything on her side? Today, many analysts feel that if there were an entry in the Guiness Book of Records for the nation that has been fooled the largest number of times by another, without doubt India will be unbeatable.
Thanks to Nehruvian diplomacy, which believes that because India is a greater and more tolerant nation than Pakistan, India should 'give first and more', the Kashmir issue has remained unsolved for the past 55 years. The final bouquet went to the 'Iron Lady of India', the 'only man in the Cabinet' who threw away all her cards in Simla in July 1972 for an unwritten secret agreement with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
This agreement was quite close to what Washington, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency and other 'friends of India', would like New Delhi to sign today. The recent change in the CIA maps points to this. A national newspaper reported recently: 'The new map of Jammu and Kashmir recently released by the CIA significantly describes the region east of the Line of Control as the "Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir" while it designates the territories to its west as "Pakistan-controlled areas of Kashmir". In the past, the US treated the whole state as disputed.'
This time, India should learn from the past. It reminds me of the description the 13th Dalai Lama gave on the way the Chinese negotiate. He was speaking to his British friend Sir Charles Bell in 1920: "The Chinese way is to do something rather mild at first; then to wait a bit, and if it passes without objection, to say or do something stronger. But if we take objection to the first statement or action, they urge that it has been a misunderstanding, and cease, for a time at any rate, from troubling us further."
For the past 55 years, the Pakistani politicians and diplomats have acted in a cruder manner: they ask for one thing, get it, then ask for one more, and so on. This is the story of the unhappy ending of the freedom struggle and the mutilation of the subcontinent.
If the time has come to solve the Kashmir issue and develop true friendship on the subcontinent, India should not lose the chance. Therefore, words and their deeper meaning should be looked at carefully, because a wrong choice of words can have incalculable consequences.
One can only welcome the 'clarification' of the prime minister and his determination to 'tread carefully'. But let us not forget that there is no hurry for India today, while there is for Musharraf. A press communiqué recently read: 'Much to expected lines, the talks between Pakistan Government and the Opposition over the legality of Pervez Musharraf's presidency and his controversial constitutional amendments have failed to resolve the deadlock on the main issue, whether the President should continue to retain the post of Chief of the Army. A 11-member special committee concluded talks here on Friday without reaching any agreement on the issue.'
The Pakistani quota of 'good luck' is getting exhausted fast. It is time for India to be vigilant, steadfast, and patient, because indeed the end of the tunnel is perhaps not so far.