December 6, 2000


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G Parthasarthy

The Musharraf regime has found that Jehad has few takers in the world

With immediate effect the Pakistan armed forces deployed on the LOC in Jammu & Kashmir will observe maximum restraint in order to strengthen and stabilise the ceasefire,' said Pakistan's soft spoken and sophisticated Foreign Secretary Inam ul Haq, while responding to New Delhi's announcement of a unilateral cessation of offensive operations in Jammu & Kashmir.

The natural questions that arise are whether this signals a halt to Islamabad's support for cross-border terrorism and whether there has really been any change in the policies of the military-intelligence establishment that has largely shaped that country's agenda on issues like relations with India and Afghanistan. It is imperative that there should be no illusions in understanding and analysing these developments. Long-term national objectives of countries do not change overnight. We should not ever forget that over the last twenty years the Pakistan military establishment and the ISI have spared no effort to undermine the secular and pluralistic basis of our national life, whether it is in Punjab or Jammu & Kashmir.

Pakistan is today going through a series of crises in its national life. It can no longer expect Western countries and particularly the United States to bail it out of its endless economic woes, especially given its low level of savings and investment. Unemployment is rising steadily, as its rates of economic growth decline and population grows at around 2.7 per cent annually. Foreign investors are wary of entering Pakistan because of the growing ethnic and sectarian violence and an uncertain and unpredictable business environment.

Resentment against Punjabi military domination is being increasingly manifested in Sind, Baluchistan and even the North West Frontier Province. The army is being seen as being inefficient and incapable of delivering the goods. Finally, the unexpected display of unity by three mainstream political parties -- the Pakistan Muslim League, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Awami National Party, led by Asfandyar Wali Khan has substantially isolated the military regime within the country.

The Musharraf regime has also found that its enthusiasm for Jehad has few takers in the world. The world community now realises that the ISI has developed a mutually reinforcing nexus with Jehadi groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and other Wahabi fundamentalist organisations both within and outside Pakistan. This nexus has led to the Pakistani military establishment lending direct support to the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. Over 2,000 regulars from the Pakistan army are today fighting alongside Jehadis from Chechnya and Arabs linked to Osama bin Laden in military operations against Ahmed Shah Masoud and his allies in Afghanistan's Northern Alliance.

These developments have brought together countries ranging from Iran and China to the United States, Russia and the Central Asian Republics to fight the menace of Islamist extremism spearheaded by the Taleban and their ISI backers. Both the Taleban and Pakistan now not only face the prospect of further sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, but also of strong military measures against them from outside. It is amusing that in these circumstances, a person as sophisticated and knowledgeable as Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar should assert to an Indian newspaper that New Delhi should not meddle in the affairs of Afghanistan!

President Clinton had made it clear that respect for the sanctity of the Line of Control is a crucial element for peace and security in the subcontinent. After having subverted chances of promoting peace following the offer of a ceasefire by the Hizbul Mujahideen in July, Islamabad initially spared no effort to debunk and denigrate the offer of the suspension of offensive operations during Ramzan by Prime Minister Vajpayee.

But, apart from his country's economic and political vulnerabilities and growing international isolation, General Musharraf has to contend with the fact that people in Kashmir now strongly favour an end to the violence that has traumatised them over the past decade. It is this prevailing sentiment that has forced groups like the Hurriyat and sections of the Hizb to respond positively to New Delhi's initiative. General Musharraf and the Pak army establishment know that the continuing advocacy of Jehad in the prevailing environment will be highly counterproductive.

No government in Pakistan will acknowledge openly that it is calling a halt to the activities of the Jehadi groups that have been supported and sustained by the ISI over the last decade or more. Inam ul Haq's statement, however, appears to indicate that for the present, Pakistan will exercise a measure of restraint in its support for cross-border terrorism. New Delhi will however, have to determine the level of Pakistani support for such terrorism by the actual situation on the ground.

For over a year India's actions have served to marginalise, isolate and contain Pakistan both regionally and internationally. This effort will have to be pursued relentlessly till it is clearly established that the enthusiasm of the Pak military establishment for Jehad in Kashmir and elsewhere has ended. Decisions even on issues like bilateral cricketing contacts will have to be determined by the extent to which Pakistan ceases to support cross-border terrorism.

There is no joy for any right thinking Indian in seeing his cricketing idols perform in Pakistan, when Indian soldiers and innocent citizens are being killed by terrorists armed and trained by the colleagues of the chairman of Pakistan's cricket board.

Among the factors that have enabled India to take the moral high ground recently have been decisions to allow Hurriyat leaders to travel to Pakistan and to the OIC summit in Qatar. Not surprisingly, the Hurriyat have endorsed Pakistan's call for a tripartite dialogue involving their participation along with India and Pakistan. This is because of the claims of the Hurriyat leadership to be the sole representatives of the Kashmiri people.

While it is imperative that New Delhi keeps its channels of communication with the Hurriyat open, there can be no question of talking to the Hurriyat alone on issues pertaining to Kashmir. It is important to open regular channels of communication with all sections of public opinion in Kashmir representing people in Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. Political leaders like Chaman Lal Gupta, Mufti Mohammed Syed, Saifuddin Soz, Dr Karan Singh and Dr Farooq Abdullah should have no less a role in evolving new thinking on Kashmir as Abdul Ghani Butt or any of his associates.

Likewise, it is important to get leaders of the JKLF, persons like former POK 'prime minister' Abdul Qayyum Khan and leaders from the Northern Areas to visit Jammu and Kashmir. These contacts should necessarily be maintained at high political levels, through specially designated political leaders who enjoy the trust and confidence of all Kashmiris. It should be made clear that New Delhi would move ahead on issues of autonomy in J&K only when Kashmiri leaders persuade the government in Pakistan to grant identical autonomy to people in POK and the Northern Areas.

People in Kashmir naturally expect a peace dividend from the ceasefire. New Delhi should respond to the Kashmiri aspirations of travelling across the Line of Control by agreeing to reopen the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus route for Kashmiris wishing to visit friends and relatives across the Line of Control, provided Pakistan ends all support to cross-border terrorism.

We could even agree at a future date to Pakistani tourists visiting Kashmir in return for our tourists being allowed to visit Gilgit and Skardu. It could be argued that in the right environment, Kashmir could be the bridge linking rather than dividing India and Pakistan. It is now time to take bold initiatives to reap the dividends of recent developments, even as we deal strongly with all those who advocate and promote violence in Kashmir.

The pressure on Pakistan to adopt a path of peace and reason has to continue. Pakistan should be made to realise that the national strategic costs of supporting Jehad and promoting violence in Kashmir will far outweigh any benefits it can hope to derive from pursuing such a path.

G Parthasarthy served as India's high commissioner to Pakistan before his retirement from the Indian Foreign Service in May 2000.


Lahore & After: The Real Story

'Pakistan simply has too much blood invested to Kashmir to ever walk away'

'Kashmir is an issue that concerns the entire world'

Arvind Lavakare, Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Varsha Bhosle on the ceasefire.

'We are not separatists'

G Parthasarathy

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