Dangers of U.S. intervention

Print edition : January 19, 2002
Interview with Prakash Karat.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has consistently taken the principled stand on the issue of terrorism. While condemning the recent terrorist attacks and noting that the terrorists who attacked Parliament House were Pakistani nationals, the CPI(M) has criticised the renewed efforts of the United States to extend its global hegemony on the pretext of fighting the "war against terrorism". The party has accused the Vajpayee government of using the attack on Parliament House as an excuse to push the country "into a holocaust of war".

-K. GAJENDRAN

The party has emphasised that the BJP-led government should focus on diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. It has accused the Vajpayee government of completely surrendering to "the imperialist designs of the U.S." and hurting the dignity of the country in the process.

The CPI(M) has said that President Pervez Musharraf's January 12 speech will have "a positive impact" on bilateral relations and that it reflects a serious effort on the part of the government in Islamabad to deal with the problem of religious extremism in that country.

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Prakash Karat, in an interview with John Cherian, said that President Musharraf had taken a categorical stand to ban groups indulging in terrorist violence and enforce state regulations on religious institutions. Excerpts:

The military and diplomatic pressure seems to have induced in President Musharraf a new resolve to tackle terrorism. Does this speak of the government's efficacy? Is a military offensive ever a realistic option?

After the December 13 attack on Parliament, there was a lot of talk about military retaliation against Pakistan. Sections of the BJP and the RSS called for a military offensive. At the outset, the Vajpayee government seemed to respond to such calls. This was irresponsible as it would have led to a full-scale war with Pakistan. Given the military balance of strength between the two countries, a war would result in a stalemate with serious casualties in terms of lives and economic resources. Moreover, an Indo-Pakistan conflict is fraught with the danger of a nuclear confrontation, which would have only succeeded in sidetracking the main issue of terrorist violence emanating from Pakistan.

From the beginning, the government should have followed the diplomatic course. The Left parties had suggested that the attack on Parliament and the evidence connected with it should be placed before the United Nations, taking recourse to Resolution 1373, which requires member-states to take measures against terrorist activities. However, the Vajpayee government has so far not approached the U.N., when there is a strong case in India's favour. Pakistan would have to respond to the U.N. taking up the issue.

Do you think that a dialogue with Pakistan will start in the near future? What do you think should be the terms of the dialogue?

With both the armies fully mobilised on the borders and the Vajpayee government still relying on military pressure, the danger of war is not fully over. There is no alternative to resuming the dialogue with Pakistan. Bilateral talks constitute the only way to avoid U.S. intervention. At what level to start the talks and with what to begin after the Agra Summit is for the government to decide.

There has been a great deal of diplomatic activity in recent weeks. How do you see the outcome of these exchanges?

The main emphasis in India's diplomatic effort seems to be directed at the United States and getting it to intervene. This is in line with the Vajpayee government's understanding that the U.S. has to play the role of an arbiter in Indo-Pakistan relations. The problem with such an approach is that it will inevitably lead to the U.S. playing a mediatory role on the Kashmir issue.

How crucial is the U.S. role?

The BJP-led government is now fully committed to India playing the role of a strategic ally of the U.S. This has been maturing even beforfore the December 13 attack. Taken together with the dramatically increased intervention of the U.S. in South Asia and, in particular Afganisthan after September 11, we are in for a period where both the Indian and Pakistani governments are going to become totally reliant on the U.S. The implications of this are disturbing. We should not be surprised if the CIA is asked to coordinate certain aspects of the relations between India and Pakistan, especially on security matters. The CIA has been playing such a role between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

What are the political implications for Pakistan?

The situation presents an opportunity for President Musharraf to take a firm stand against the extremist fundamentalist forces. At present they are in a weakened position after the developments in Afganisthan. Much will depend on how President Musharraf tackles this challenge.

What possible impact will President Musharraf's speech of January 12 have on the internal situation in Pakistan and India-Pakistan relations?

The speech, coming in the wake of the rising tensions between the two countries, will have a positive impact. The assertion that terrorism cannot be allowed in the name of religion and that Pakistan cannot be used for terrorist activities even on the Kashmir issue is significant.

Within Pakistan, President Musharraf has taken a categorical stand to curb religious extremism, ban groups indulging in terrorist violence and enforce state regulation of religious institutions. These steps, if implemented, will initiate major changes for the better, for eliminating the influence of the jehadi organisations.

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