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Monday, Jun 10, 2002

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Travails of Gen Musharraf

G. Parthasarathy

THE United Nations University hosted a conference on South Asia on May 27-28 in Tokyo. Not surprisingly, the focus of attention was almost exclusively on the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. Delegates from South Asian countries, including Afghanistan, and South Asian specialists from around the world participated in the conference. While the former Prime Minister, Mr I. K. Gujral, who was unable to attend, sent a tough message condemning cross- border terrorism, the Pakistani delegates present, including a former Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary, remained true to form, criticising India for its actions in Junagad, Hyderabad and Kashmir and labelling us as a country unable to live at peace with its neighbours.

Unfortunately for the Pakistanis, their speeches were made at a time when their President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, was delivering a belligerent and uncompromising address to his people and to the world, claiming "we are not allowing any infiltration across the LOC". The Japanese were not amused. Their Foreign Minister, Mr Yoriko Kawaguchi, asserted: "Japan strongly expects Pakistan will take all steps to stop and prevent terrorist activities including the infiltration across the Line of Control". Speaking of India "in the light of its position as a major player in the region", he appealed to New Delhi to "exhaust all diplomatic efforts and work towards de-escalation". The Japanese joined the world community in criticising Pakistan's ill-advised and ill-timed missile tests and reacted with horror when Ambassador Munir Akram spoke in the UN ever so casually about Pakistan's readiness the cross the nuclear threshold.

Within the conference, the testing by Pakistan of the missiles "Ghauri", "Ghaznavi" and "Abdali" evoked amusement and derision. Everybody was aware that the Ghauri was none other than the North Korean `Nodong" missile. The Ghaznavi and the Abdali were merely replicas or variants of the Chinese M 11 missile. A Japanese delegate remarked that given the origin of these missiles it would have been more appropriate had they been "christened Kim il Sung, Deng Xiao Ping and Jiang Zemin".

Mr Amin Saikal, a scholar from Afghanistan, remarked that Ghauri, Ghazni and Abdali hailed from Ghor, Ghazni and Kandahar in Afghanistan. He sarcastically asked if after ravaging Afghanistan with its Taliban protégés, Pakistan was now intending to lay territorial claims to parts of Afghanistan. I reminded the former Pakistan Foreign Secretary that Ghori, Ghazni and Abdali had first sacked Pakistani cities including Multan and Lahore before indulging in pillage in Somnath and elsewhere in India, and asked him why Pakistanis were choosing to extol those who had ravaged the homes of their forefathers. There was no credible reply.

While the Pakistanis love Japanese financial doles, the voice they listen to and cannot ignore is that of the US. In an unprecedented rebuke, the US President, Mr George Bush, said on May 27 that he wanted Gen Musharraf "to show results, in terms of stopping people from crossing the Line of Control, stopping terrorism". Gen Musharraf's buddy Gen Colin Powell proclaimed on June 2: "We are pressing President Musharraf to cease all infiltration activities on the part of terrorist organizations across the Line of Control".

The European Union, the Russian Federation and the G 8 have expressed similar sentiments. Pakistanis have an almost naive tendency to believe that China is one country that will forgive them for all their errors of omission and commission and support them blindly against India. China's response on May 30 could not have particularly warmed Pakistani hearts. While condemning terrorism, the Chinese Foreign Office Spokesman said that Kashmir is an issue left over by history and needs to be resolved through peaceful means.

Apart from exaggerated expectations of Chinese diplomatic and military support, the Pakistanis also have illusions about their indispensability to the so-called Islamic Ummah. Kashmir is constantly projected as an Islamic issue and equated with Palestine.

The Arabs are now realising that this is a self-serving Pakistani ploy. In the past, the Pakistani-infiltrated OIC Secretariat routinely condemned India on any issue the Pakistani staff wanted. However, on June 2, the OIC Secretary-General for the first time condemned terrorism in all its forms and called on the international community to act decisively to prevent the escalation of the situation between India and Pakistan. Not a single Islamic country has come out openly in support of Pakistan or criticised India. Most Islamic countries have either chosen to remain silent, or called for restraint and de-escalation-formulations that New Delhi can comfortably live with. Significantly, Sudan has condemned the terrorist attack on the army camp in Kaluchak. New Delhi can, thus, be pleased with the results of its post-December 13 diplomatic offensive in the Islamic world.

New Delhi should realise that it is dealing with an internationally isolated and domestically discredited ruler in Pakistan. Gen Musharraf's rhetoric of May 27, Mr Munir Akram's threat of a nuclear war, Gen Musharraf's subsequent retraction of this threat and the missile tests were all attempts at psychological warfare by a military ruler. While these moves have boomeranged internationally, they have nevertheless engineered some domestic support for the cornered General. These acts have also led to a measure of panic internationally, resulting in Americans taking the lead in evacuating their citizens. It is, therefore, imperative that India explains its strategy frankly and transparently to the international community.

Despite all their bluff and bluster, Pakistan's military rulers know that while a nuclear exchange could cause grievous damage to India, it would lead to Pakistan's annihilation. Pakistan's generals are not suicidal. The Pakistanis are also aware of the eagle's eye that the Western world maintains on their nuclear arsenal and delivery platforms.

There can be no question of New Delhi pulling its armed forces back from the borders, till there are firm indications that Pakistan's use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy has irrevocably ended.

While eschewing rhetoric, we should make it clear to the Americans and others that the General should be kept on a tight leash whenever economic assistance is extended to Pakistan.

In other words, aid to Pakistan should be linked to its performance in irrevocably ending support for cross-border terrorism.

The Vajpayee Government should also make every effort to ensure that the elections scheduled in October in Jammu and Kashmir are conducted in a transparent and fair manner, free from the intimidation of terrorist violence. This is the most daunting challenge that New Delhi faces today.

(The author is former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)

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