Road maps to Indo-Pak peace and friendship are the hottest flavour of the season.
We've been told about the existence of at least two such road maps -- one made by Delhi and the other by Islamabad. And nobody but nobody knows whether the twain shall ever meet -- excepting perhaps our poet PM named Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the new Empire of the US which probably has its own road map for a South Asia compatible with its Pax Americana concept of the world.
Since the telephone call between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan on April 28, the foreign office in Delhi has been saying that a 'road map' existed on the next steps to be taken with Pakistan. And in a television interview, our foreign minister said, 'Every step is clear in our mind. There is no confusion and we will proceed according to the plan.'
'No confusion'? Then why did Defence Minister George Fernandes say subsequently that a road map was 'being drawn up'?
'No confusion'? Then see the answer by our PM to a journalist's question as to whether an end to cross-border terrorism was a pre-condition for talks. The answer was, 'It is not a condition; it is necessary. We are not calling it calling a pre-condition. But without that (end to cross-border terrorism) how can a conducive atmosphere be created?' (PTI report in The Hindu of May 14, 2003.) So 'necessary' is not 'pre-condition' and 'no confusion' is not 'crystal clear'. You need poetic licence to prove that but right now it's QED all right.
If it's any consolation, such 'no confusion' prevails in Pakistan also. In his report datelined Islamabad, May 12, B Muralidharan Reddy of The Hindu wrote that the Pakistan information minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, claimed that Pakistan is ready with a road map for talks with India for the resolution of all differences, including the core issue of Kashmir. But Reddy also mentioned in the same report that "The truth of the matter is that Pakistan's foreign office has little idea about the so-called 'road map for talks'".
In fact, confusion seems the highest common denominator in this current round of Indo-Pak peace business.
There is that recent visit of a Pakistani parliamentary delegation to our land. The Vajpayee government granted a visa to it but didn't grant it an interaction. Even the Lok Sabha speaker scorned it. But Mulayam Singh, a former defence minister, Somnath Chatterjee, the Communist elder, played the good host to the delegation, photo ops, smiles and all that. So, one heard, did three former PMs of ours. So what's really cooking? Confusion.
Some members of that Pakistani delegation addressed the business community in Mumbai and spoke of the importance of bilateral trade with India as a harbinger of harmony between the two. But, strangely, they refused to answer the question of a member of the audience as to why Pak was not granting India the Most Favoured Nation facility mandated under the WTO agreement while India had given that status to Pakistan some six years ago.
There is also confusion amongst us laymen as to why India can't go or won't go to WTO's grievance redressal mechanism to secure what is its rightfully, instead of waiting for Pakistan to oblige us.
Talking to reporters in Kolkata, three members of the Pak parliamentary delegation -- Ishaq Khan Khakwani, M P Bhandara and Shakila Khanam -- claimed that terrorist activities in India had never been sponsored by a Pakistani government agency and that the ISI is only a part of the Pakistan army and is not involved in any secret attacks on India. (The Times of India, Mumbai, May 15).
It is confusing, firstly, how Indian editors have known to show no compunction, whatsoever, in lambasting their own government when in Pakistan, while the latter's parliamentarians visiting India do not accept their own president's contention of giving moral, political and diplomatic support to jihadis in J&K.
It is further confusing that Pak's parliamentarians got away by blatantly glossing over (i) the well-publicised US opinion that Pakistan has not done enough to stop terrorism in J&K and (ii) the latest study by a geopolitical analytical firm, Stratfor, revealing evidence gathered by the US military about ISI's involvement with Islamabad's militant groups and cross-border infiltrations. (Reported in an AFP despatch on the front page of Free Press Journal of May 18, 2003).
It is confusing, further, that Bhandara referred above can speak one tongue when in India but wield a totally different script when writing in his country's newspaper. Thus, in his article in Dawn reproduced by The Asian Age of May 15, 2003, Bhandara states (i) 'The time has come to face the issue of our supporting or acquiescing in the so-called jihad in Kashmir squarely and honestly' (ii) 'If we are to make India a negotiating partner in resolving the Kashmir problem, the cross-LoC movements of jihadis must be reduced to zero' (iii) 'Our secret closet is the ISI, which is the invisible maker of policy and it thrives on open-ended state funding.'
'Solutions' offered to resolve the 'core issue of Kashmir' are also confused if not totally bizarre. Thus, Bhandara's above-referred article advocates that Jammu and Ladakh regions should continue to form part of India just as Baltistan, Gilgit and Azad Kashmir should remain with Pakistan. The Kashmir valley should ultimately be independent and, in the interregnum, Article 370 of the Indian Constitution should be confined to the Kashmir Valley!
The Bhandara chap and all other present Pakistani advocates of independence for the Valley must surely know of their country's stand in the long-winded UN debates of the late forties when Pakistan supported the UN resolution calling for a plebiscite that offered the people of Jammu & Kashmir the choice between accession either to India or to Pakistan, but opposed the world body's earlier resolution offering independence as the third option.
And nothing has changed since then; when President Musharraf says, 'Kashmir is in Pakistan's blood', he just doesn't mean an independent Kashmir Valley. So how come that a Pakistani MP is overnight making a volte face on the issue? Confusing.
Some readers too are totally confused -- in tune with the season's flavour. They choose to remind us about the plebiscite offered in Lord Mountbatten's letter to the J&K Maharaja when accepting his state's accession to India, and about Nehru's assurance of a plebiscite to the people of J&K.
The first truth here is that both these offers violated Section 9 of the British government's Indian Independence Act, 1947, which conferred on the rulers of the 562 princely Indian states the exclusive sovereign right to decide on the accession either to India or to Pakistan -- without being obliged to consult their subjects.
Secondly, India did in fact accept the plebiscite formula of the UN, but Pakistan has, till date, refused to implement the first pre-requisite of that formula viz total withdrawal of all its men and forces that had entered J&K in October 1947 for the purpose of fighting. Pakistan has thus wanted to make the Kashmir omelette without breaking an egg.
One confused reader has raked up -- in CE 2003, mind you -- India's refusal to accept the Nizam of Hyderabad's proposition of acceding his Hindu majority state to Pakistan while consenting to accept the Hindu Maharaja's accession of his Muslim majority state to India.
The truth of the matter is that when Mountbatten, as the Crown Representative, addressed the Chamber of Princes on July 25, 1947, he told the princely rulers that their accession to either India or Pakistan had to keep in mind the geographical contiguity of their states and also warned them that their refusal to link with either of the two dominions entailed the grave risk of being cut from any source of supply. Thus, Hindu majority Hyderabad state just could not be acceptable as the malignant tumor in the Indian belly, while J&K territory was in perfect geographical contiguity with the rest of post-partition India while also being perfectly legal.
The revived euphoria among sections of the metropolitan elites of the two countries is part of the current confusion over this business of Indo-Pak peace and friendship. It is these elites who believe that just a couple of Test cricket series between the two countries will help produce that peace.
It is these elites who, like J&K's chief minister, offer the 'soft border' LoC as the panacea to the pain of the 56-year-old relationship. They forget that a 'soft' border will be a licence for smuggling counterfeit Indian currency, permanent illegal migrants and droves of terrorists. They forget the history of hate that Pakistan has harboured for India right from the time of Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan down to Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf. They forget that the leopard's spots can't change excepting by a miracle.
Valmiki was transformed from a dacoit into a saint by a miracle of severe penance brought about by Narad Muni. We will have to await a similar divine intervention across our borders for the much-desired Indo-Pak amity to come about.
Let there be no confusion on that road map being the 'necessary pre-condition' -- without the poetic licence to distinguish in Hindi between the two words in that phrase.