Dialogue July- September, 2005, Volume 7  No. 1

Is Peace Inevitable?

Vikram Sood

For the present, at least, a cease-fire on the J&K front is holding. This, after 58 years of a tense co-existence between India and Pakistan or the two nuclear neighbours, as the world now refers to the region. It forgets that India and China are also nuclear neighbours, as are China and Russia. But for peace to break out between India and Pakistan both countries have many more bridges to cross and many more hurdles to remove. Pakistan says it will talk peace with us provided Kashmir is sorted out first; India says we will sort out all bilateral issues and in that process, Kashmir will get resolved. Pakistanis talk of a time frame and want the parameters of the ultimate solution to be more or less spelt out before they go any further. Indians say let us keep talking and a solution will emerge. So we go around in circles.

58 years of acute mistrust will not go away in a few rounds of high profile talks and summit meetings. For years Pakistan made terrorism an instrument of foreign policy and even resorted to limited warfare (it remained limited because the Indians chose it to be). Pakistani frustration at not having been successful in this, usually leads to arguments that India is stonewalling on the subject and will continue to do so unless they resort to strong-arm methods or involve outside powers (meaning the US) in this.

It is common knowledge that in Pakistan’s negotiations with India, Gen Musharraf, usually along with his Corps Commanders, will take any decision concerning the peace process. In India it will be taken by a conglomerate of politicians, quite a few from disparate parties, and assisted by bureaucrats and the military senior echelons. Of late, Musharraf has tried to take some steps forward and ‘thought out of the box’ as it were. One argument is that since Musharraf could be the man who could deliver, it is in our interest to strengthen his position. There is merit in this line of approach but Musharraf’s actions have been ambivalent. He has talked of making borders irrelevant. When he said that the UN resolutions had become irrelevant many of his Pakistani critics including the liberal Pakistanis accused him of a sellout. At the same time there is no real winding down of the terrorist infrastructure across the border. Thus he is willing to discuss possible solutions at the end of the road but is not ready or willing to remove the roadblocks. Musharraf spoke of a change of heart while in New Delhi but he also commented to the Indian media before that –“unless we resolve the dispute it [military option] could erupt again under a future frame,” - sounds ominous. General Musharraf had said in Karachi in April 1999 that the best policy was to keep India bleeding in Kashmir till it falls into Pakistan’s lap. Around the same time his troops along with some Lashkar terrorists were scaling the heights of Kargil while Prime Ministers Nawaz and Vajpayee were talking peace. Let us never ever forget that.

Musharraf’s inability to reform the madrassas remains a problem in a country with a jehadi fervour. The problem may become increasingly difficult with the passage of time. Having had to wind down on the Western front the problem is where to deploy these thousands of trained jobless jehadis as the Kashmir option is closed temporarily.

One option could be Bangladesh where the HUJI have strong links with the Pakistani HUJI and Al Qaeda sympathisers. Some could then be sent to India where thousands of Pakistanis go missing anyway. All this could seriously aggravate problems for India and yet absolve Pakistan of the charge of sponsoring terrorism in the neighbourhood. Those among us, who dream of open borders, would do well to consider the enormity of what they are suggesting.

Years of jehad on both the fronts and military adventurism, both domestically and in the neighbourhood, have left Pakistan with a strong mullah-military nexus and a vast pool of jehadi culture. It had left the economy bankrupt, only to be bailed out by the West, post 9/11. It is usually assumed that jehadis are the product of the madrassa culture. This is partly true for quite a few but not all provide the foot soldiers of jehad. Mainstream schools where the middle class sends their children have been fed with years of hatred and venom since the days of Gen Zia. It is also these schools that have produced LeT variety of the jehadi. The problem therefore is not just the madrassa graduates but of mainstream schools in Pakistan. If we assume that 3 million children are added to Pakistan’s population every year, in 20 years, we will have 60 million graduates from these schools and madrassa imbibed with jehadi culture and hatred against the rest of the world, especially the Hindu and holding positions of influence in the establishment and armed forces. This will be the core issue impinging on sound bilateral relations. There are no quick short-term solutions to the problem. We are in for the long haul.

There are many in India who believe that Pakistan has changed and that there is a genuine desire for peace and that India should now sit down and solve all problems with Pakistan. The truth is that the change in Pakistan has been towards more and not less, Islamisation. Pakistan is not a moderate Islamic state. It is ruled by the mullah-military alliance neither of who understand secularism or democracy. Musharraf asserts repeatedly and emphatically that Pakistan is not a secular state but an Islamic state.

India must get an accurate fix on Pak intentions – are they for real or only a pretence to buy time — before signing on the dotted line. This may take years of hard-boiled negotiations. Given the trust deficit and past experience, given the jehadi fervour, given the doctrine of hatred, there is no short cut to patient negotiations stretching over several years. Any peace deal that does not take these realities into account will be premature, dangerous and doomed to fail. Recent government disclosures in India’s parliament would indicate that the Kashmir specific jehadi infrastructure is very much alive. There are also reports that political elements in the state are being encouraged or threatened to switch sides to Pakistan to start a new anti-India political struggle inside Kashmir in which even currently pro-India elements will participate. If the grand design is to root out India from the Valley, then options for India as far as the peace process and the attendant open borders and free movement of people become very limited.

Yet for Musharraf, it is important to have a favourable decision soon before the jehadists run out of patience with his softly softly approach. Hence, the charm offensive other tactics having failed. The Indian polity is perceived in Islamabad, rightly or wrongly, as weak and at war with itself so it is better to accentuate the differences rather than launch a frontal attack. 2007 is the year of reckoning for him; whether or not he will be President for Life or receive any other accolades that may await him. He has to deliver quickly. Any Indian arrangement with the Pak military would also vindicate the Pak army and strengthen the mullah. People like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif can then say goodbye to their political fortunes in Pakistan.

Pakistan has played on the sentiments of the pro-peace lobby in India and the ambitions of the Punjabi business lobby, rather astutely. The plan is to create a strong lobby to solve the problem because of the lucrative trade possibilities this is expected to bring to the Indian “baniya”. The permission by the Indian government to allow truck traffic along the LoC on the suggestion of Gen. Musharraf was hastily granted. This would result in restoring the traditional trade route of the Valley to Pakistan. The economic linkages of the Valley with India and its dependence on the rest of India for markets will weaken.

For Pakistan, Kashmir is a strategic issue also for the water (45% imported from ‘India-held Kashmir’) and an emotional issue created through years of sponsored hatred. The Pakistanis also know that unless provoked, the Indians are not going to unilaterally disturb the presently settled demarcations and even under grave provocation, as in the time of Kargil in 1999, did not violate the LOC. Nor would they violate the Indus Waters Treaty. It is the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) that are important for Pakistan through which the strategic Karakoram Highway passes into China.

According to Sushant Sareen (Dilemmas in the Peace Proccess) “Unless we have come to the conclusion that the peace process has run its course, and that we can withdraw from it because of the non-adherence by Pakistan to the assurances it gave India, we are condemned to dealing with Musharraf. If we don’t want to deal with him then logically it means that the peace process must be kept in the cold storage until we get a replacement for Musharraf or we get conditions favorable to us. This is the first dilemma of a peace process that is being conducted not at an institutional level but more at the level of personalities.

“The second dilemma facing India is whether to continue with the peace process despite the rising scale of violence in Kashmir and indeed rest of India. The answer to both these dilemmas lies ultimately in the structure of relationship India would like to have with Pakistan. Even more important, it depends on the answer to the question of how far does India want to go in making up with Pakistan, especially in light of the trust deficit between the two countries.” (Citation ends) The Indian position on Kashmir has gradually eroded. From the long held Indian position that Kashmir is a settled issue, we have allowed some unelected Hurriyet leaders to visit Pakistan where they have been lauded as “the true representatives of Kashmiris.” When we now talk of the issue being bilateral, Musharraf talks of international guarantors; when we speak of the elected representatives in the State, he acknowledges only the Hurriyet. When we say let us not rush and it will take years to solve, Musharraf says the issue can be resolved by 2007. Musharraf is looking for a quick short-term solution for a long-term strategy.

There are a few things that we need look into carefully before we can seriously assume that peace is attainable. Firstly, is the maximum that we can offer also the minimum that the Pakistanis can accept? If there is not then what are we talking to them about? Secondly, assuming that there is a solution that can be worked out are the Pakistanis willing to accept it? More specifically is the Pakistani Army and the ISI, which have made the existence of Pakistan and themselves dependent on the Kashmir problem, willing to accept a solution that threatens to limit their influence? Is Musharraf himself serious and can he deliver when he talks of dismantling the jehadi structures and coins phrases like Enlightened Moderation? Can or will the Pakistani Army ever take on the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan as the Algerian Army did in Algeria? Thirdly, Pakistan having slipped into a jehadi mould is the Pakistani establishment ready and able to accept peace with India or would it prefer this no war no peace arrangement for the foreseeable future? Has the Pakistani army specifically decided that the peace dividend is larger than the war dividend and therefore the jehadis must be reigned in? The trick would be to try and have your cake and eat it too. The important determinant for India has to be whether or not peace with Pakistan will endure if the mindset has not changed.

Let us for a moment imagine that immediate and momentous peace breaks out between India and Pakistan. Grand gestures follow and visa and other restrictions are thrown out. Pakistanis begin to arrive in busloads, train loads, plane loads shopping for bridal wear, to meet long-lost relations, for medical treatment or for a weekend of binge drinking in Mumbai. Inevitably, the understaffed and over worked immigration staff begins to slip up on controls. The police in the non-Hindi belt would remain unable to differentiate between an Urdu speaking Pakistani and a Hindi speaking northerner. Hotels dispense with registering Pakistani foreigners assuming they are North Indian Punjabis. Then the all-important document in Indian usage – the ration card issued by embattled and somewhat generous local authorities gets issued to Pakistanis masquerading as Indians and an intelligence community functions clueless about what is happening. It is a well-known axiom that the best time to penetrate the other side with your agents is when the relations between the two countries are the best. So they begin to spread out — the sleepers and agents provocateurs — for the fulfillment of the dream of an Islamic Caliphate. Alarmist? Maybe. Possible? Certainly. Several scenarios can be built up. With hundreds of unaccounted agents in place, a Godhra or an Ayodhya or an attack on the Parliament would be that much easier.

India is a larger Muslim country than Pakistan. Our Muslims have done us proud and have been true to their religion and country but the Pakistani track record of exploiting and distorting religion is a given. Our Muslim theological schools are older and less polluted by the corrupting influences of oil money and twisted logic and a clergy more learned than the radicalised obscurantists in Pakistan. But we are not immune and it is easy to influence the youth. And it must not be forgotten that the so-called head of the Al Qaeda in the UK was Abu Issa al Hindi born Dhiren Bharot and that the presumptive mastermind of the London bombings is London-born Haroun Rashid Aswat whose parents came from post-partition India. The radicalised youth, at the instigation of Pakistani activists, would then exploit the situation to the hilt.

Musharraf and the Sheikh Rashids of his Cabinet, as champions of Muslims, would then sermonise, as he has done to the UK, that there are deep fault lines in India. Pakistani Islamists would point out to the sense of deprivation in Muslim India and soon one would see a global campaign against Hindu India to elicit a condemnation from the OIC. The gullible Indian press would then buy the ISI spin that Indian political parties were encouraging divisions ahead of elections.

This then is a short glimpse of what kind of a scene that could emerge from a hastily concluded peace deal.

We must remember that Kashmir is symptomatic of a malaise Pakistan is spreading and is not the root cause for tensions. Pakistan remains a highly militarised country where the raison d’etre of the rulers is continued hostility towards ‘Hindu’ India. The jehadis dream of a Caliphate in South Asia and SE Asia. For them Kashmir is the key to God and glory; for the Army it is the key to power and pelf. The Pakistan Army and the ISI have not forgotten how close they were to ruling Afghanistan after Ahmed Shah Massood had been assassinated. And from Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e- Shariff they were looking at central and western Asia as their new pastures. The same Army has not forgotten the many wars fought with India and the many wars lost, despite being told they belonged to a superior religion and a superior race. It has not forgotten the humiliation or the frustration, but has not learnt any lessons because each time it was bailed out. It has exported terror but not earned condemnation, it has proliferated but not been penalised, its troops have had to be bailed out by the US, not once but twice, in Kargil and then again in Kunduz in Afghanistan. Pakistani strategists have always showed a flair for adventurism – Afghanistan and Kargil, in the military sense. Pakistani strategic adventurism led them to provide North Korea nuclear technology and help make Iran a near nuclear state. Pakistan is playing the long game while pretending to be playing the short game with India. As I have said earlier, in my article, “Naïve And Sentimental Lovers” –Hindustan Times June 12, 2005, unless we are suffering from political fatigue or collective ennui, we should not be in any tearing hurry simply because we want to look good.

The pursuit of jehad has been seen in Pakistani ruling circles as a successful instrument of state policy and unlikely to be abandoned. The defeat of infidel Soviet Union in Afghanistan by jehadists and the prospect of US being humbled in Iraq are too recent to be forgotten. Once the Americans are out of Iraq and their focus shifts elsewhere, as it must inevitably, Pakistani adventurism will begin in Afghanistan and Central Asia. The US pullout from Uzbekistan will embolden the Uzbek insurgents lead by Tahir Yuladshev, who is currently on Pakistani soil. Fergana valley will inevitably become restive with spill over affects in Tajikistan.

The implications for Afghanistan are particularly distressing. The central authority in Afghanistan is virtually non-existent and it is entirely dependent on the ISAF. The Taliban have resurfaced and are a force in the south and presently are being kept in check only by the ISAF. Commander Masood is dead, the Shura-e-Nazar and the Hazaras have been disarmed and the other anti-Pakistani elements marginalised. On the other hand, virtually all the pro-Pak elements – Hikmatyar, Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sayyaf, and others have resurfaced and some are operating, with ISI assistance, from sanctuaries in Pakistan (as none other Fazlur Rehman has alleged). As Afghanistan crumbles, as it will, training of Kashmiris will again begin with the fig leaf that it is not being sponsored by Pakistan and there is no such activity on Pak soil.

Have we strengthened our security and intelligence apparatus to safeguard our interests against the coming onslaught on our freedoms? Given the Great Indian Penchant for buying everything at cut rates, one doubts if this has happened.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

              Astha Bharati