Sense of betrayal

Published : Jan 30, 2004 00:00 IST

IN Pakistan, the Urdu press is regarded as the reservoir of passion and emotion and its English counterpart a reflection of reasoned analysis on matters concerning India-Pakistan relations. Strangely, in the case of the latest India-Pakistan peace adventure, the roles have been reversed. While the Urdu press is confined largely to matter-of-fact reporting and a relatively dispassionate assessment of what lies ahead of the joint press statement, some of the columnists in the English press have turned almost hysterical.

All those who smell a rat in the deal, to borrow a phrase from President Pervez Musharraf, are liberals and progressives. There is a sense of outrage and betrayal in their write-ups. They believe that Musharraf has signed on the dotted line under pressure from the United States and, wittingly or unwittingly, emerged as the principal campaigner for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the general elections to be held later this year in India. The liberals are worried about the fallout of the `deal' on the future of Pakistan.

Here is a sample of excerpts from four well-known columnists in the English media.

Ayaz Amir, former Foreign Service officer and columnist:

"History has been made," declared a visibly jubilant President-General Musharraf after the issuance of the joint Indo-Pak statement on the sidelines of the 12th SAARC summit. He was right. History has indeed been made, but not perhaps in the sense he seemed to imply.

For what Pakistan has agreed is to bid a last farewell to jihad in Kashmir: the final curtains drawn on the blood and iron of 15 years of history. Any doubts on this score should disappear with these words from the Joint Statement: "Prime Minister Vajpayee said that in order to take forward and sustain the dialogue process, violence, hostility and terrorism must be prevented.

President Musharraf reassured Prime Minister Vajpayee that he will not permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner."

No reference to brutality and repression in occupied Kashmir, only the damning acknowledgement, even if implied, that support for terrorism was coming from Pakistan.

For all the care taken of Pakistani concerns, this could have been a statement drafted in the office of Brajesh Mishra, Vajpayee's National Security Adviser.

For 15 years we defined the uprising in occupied Kashmir as an indigenous freedom struggle. Now a Pakistani ruler has put that struggle squarely in the locker of terrorism. We should forgive the Kashmiris if they feel a bit like the Taliban, whom we once supported and then threw to the wolves. If they utter the dread word "sellout", what do we say?

Historic compromises can be forgiven if you get something in return. What is Pakistan getting? Merely a resumption of a "composite dialogue". No wonder Pakistan's quasi-military government is frantically trying to spread the impression that the mere announcement of talks somehow heralds a breakthrough.

Gen. Musharraf says he was disappointed after Agra but is now a happy man. If memory serves, the mood in the Pakistani camp was triumphant after Agra, as if Pakistan by harping on Kashmir had somehow scored a victory over India. Chastened, we now seem grateful for small mercies.

Coming to the all-important question of whether a peaceful relationship with India is good for Pakistan, a thousand times, yes. Was jihad in Kashmir a sustainable and sensible policy? A thousand times, no. Then isn't Gen. Musharraf on the right course, doing the right thing? He is. The only thing is he could have embarked on this journey much sooner and with less loss of face for Pakistan."

Munnoo Bhai, intellectual and columnist:

How can an enmity, half a century old, suddenly change into friendship? How can abiding suspicion change into instant trust? Many a rainy season is needed.

A boy was selling apples on a roadside. "How much?" a man in a car asked. "Rs.30 a kilo," the boy answered. "How much do you want?" "All you have," said the buyer. "All I have?" the boy asked. "And what shall I do all day after I sell all that I have now?"

Let me share a personal experience. I was driving in a jeep towards a village in Cholistan when I saw an old man walking in the same direction. I asked the driver to stop and invited the pedestrian to share the ride. After a few moments' reluctance he said no. "Go ahead please. No point in my arriving there so early."

Dr. Mubashir Hasan, the former federal Minister and Pakistan-India Forum chairman, one of the greatest supporters of establishing and maintaining cordial and good-neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan, has advised Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and President General Pervez Musharraf to avoid haste in improving relations. A very cautious step at a time, he counsels.

Many might benefit from friendship between two countries but many benefit from hostility as well. Their interests are spread far and wide and have grown deep roots. The differences between India and Pakistan have not just destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and cost billions over the past half-century and changed the geography of the region, they have also planted thorny bushes of suspicion and mistrust on all roads to mutual relations. Once hatred becomes ingrained, rational argument becomes suspect and actual facts sound incredible. Those benefiting from the state of war need some time getting used to the blessings of peace.

Kunwar Idris, former Chief Secretary and columnist:

The India-Pakistan joint statement on the normalisation of relations has aroused undue hopes, which need to be tempered with a bracing scepticism. It has also aroused unnecessary fears in some minds, which need to be dispelled.

If President Musharraf's confidence that history has been made is a hyperbole, Qazi Husain Ahmad's suspicion of a conspiracy hatched to undermine the freedom struggle in Kashmir represents the other phobic extreme. The leaders of the two countries agreeing to start a composite dialogue, which they feel confident would "lead to a peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues including Jammu and Kashmir to the satisfaction of both sides" neither makes history nor smells of a conspiracy.

In Pakistan the opinion is unanimous on the resumption of talks with India without pre-conditions. Pakistan has also been long asking for third-party mediation on Kashmir, again without conditions or confining it to the ambit of the U.N. resolutions.

Farooq Saleem, economist and columnist:

Kargil took care of all that sharing of vision, peace, stability, progress and prosperity. Then there was a five-year-long, painful lull. On 7 January 2004 came the Vajpayee-Musharraf 153-word `Joint Statement', in which the two promised `to carry the process of normalisation forward....' The `Joint Statement', itself, was only an inch short of a miracle. On the Pakistani side, the three miracle-makers were Tariq Aziz, Chief of Staff Hamid Javed and Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokkar.

Plenty has changed between Kargil and SAARC in Islamabad. The `children of jihad' declared a `jihad' against the Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. America is aggressive about peace in the subcontinent like never before. We are dependent on American relief like never before. Colonel Gadaffi abandoned all his WMD programmes. Teheran accepted all IAEA demands. Saddam was retrieved from a hole.

To be certain, India's economy is one of the best performers on the face of the planet. Our economy is flat at best. Poverty in India is declining. Poverty in Pakistan is growing. Time is decisively on India's side. Corporate America is also on India's side. India's military-strategic superiority is growing faster than ever. Pakistan's strategic choices are narrowing by the hour. Vajpayee is strongly placed. India's prestige outside India is towering. India is forming partnerships both with China and Iran. Can Pakistan risk isolation?

At the SAARC gathering, President-General Musharraf was asked, `Now that you are turning your back on 56 years of misgivings, can it be said that friendship with India is part of your strategic doctrine?' The General first paused, and then said: `Of course!'

Is our enemy internal or external? For the past half a century we have been indoctrinating our children and teaching our soldiers that India is our only enemy. Is our President-General serious about reversing fifty years of indoctrination?

Is our General priming to win a permanent plaque in the history of peace? Or, impress the Norwegian Nobel Committee (nominations must be postmarked no later than February 1 each year) and share the Nobel Peace Prize (rules permit a division of the prize among a maximum of three laureates)? Only time will tell.

Is our General going to sit alongside President Roosevelt, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for drawing up the 1905 Peace Treaty between Russia and Japan, or Anwar Sadat, who negotiated peace between Egypt and Israel, or Mikhail Gorbachev who helped bring the Cold War to an end? Neither a plaque in history nor the Nobel Peace Prize is going to be easy.

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