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Tuesday, 20 October 1998

The Agenda Behind the 'Hidden Agenda' Cry



(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)



An effective method of concealment is to create a diversion, so
that attention gets deflected. Thanks to the din created by the
many who are talking of the "hidden agenda" of the BJP few are
paying attention to the quiet campaign that has accelerated
sharply since the election results put the saffron formation ahead
of the others. The objective of this is to get the BJP to either shelve
its commitment to the nuclear option, or throw it out via the
enticing of a dozen or more of the present supporters of the
Vajpayee government in Parliament.

That the government was not defeated owes less to the BJP’s
capabilities of floor management than to the realisation within
the anti-nuclear camp that any of its favoured candidates such
as Manmohan Singh is unlikely to be the first choice of the
opposition parties in the event of a snap defeat. Neither Sharad
Pawar nor Rajesh Pilot will be acceptable to this lobby, as both
have nationalist credentials and may be tempted to reverse the
neglect of strategic defence that has been a characteristic of the
Indian political leadership for long. While neither Indira Gandhi
nor Rajiv went as far as Morarji Desai (who evidently felt that his 
favourite liquid refreshment was sufficient to deal with security
threats), both ensured that no further nuclear tests took place,
thus effectively emasculating this country’s deterrent capability.

In 1990, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed helped Pakistan get a
foothold in Kashmir, by his refusal to take preventive action
against many who had been won over by the ISI. Subsequently, 
during the Narasimha Rao period, an organised effort took place 
to starve strategic programmes of adequate funding, and ensure
that Prithvi was capped, Agni rolled back, and the nuclear 
deterrent defunct. Two senior civil servants, with the enthusiastic 
backing of a Cabinet minister, masterminded this effort. However,
India escaped most of the negative consequences of such a
policy, thanks to the mistakes of others. Due to Pakistan's
induction of large numbers of Afghans, Pakistanis and others in
the Valley during 1993, local support for the insurgency waned.
And after the 1995 Brown amendment - that rewarded Pakistan
with key US equipment for continuing its drug and terror war
and its China-aided nuclear bomb programme - bureaucratic
support for this Gang of Three vanished, and even Narasimha
Rao was forced to begin reversing the earlier policy of neglect.
Small allocations once more began to be made to critical
programmes.

Thanks to the realisation that the political class in India has
been spineless when it comes to taking tough decisions, both
China and Pakistan have continued their clandestine war on
India. Beijing has transferred technology to Islamabad, aware
that Washington and New Delhi will do nothing other than
make protests for the record. Pakistan, after its defeats in Punjab
and Kashmir, has extended the covert war to the whole of India.
In a less complacent setup, this would have led to immediate
retaliation in the form of a policy of hot pursuit of terrorists
across the Line of Control in Kashmir. In India, all it has led to
are warmer and warmer references to Pakistan by political
bigwigs. Small wonder that Islamabad believes that the security
risk of its aggressive policy is zero.

In case New Delhi does not have the stomach for a policy of
hot pursuit, the least that needs to be done to convey a message
that it is no longer paralysed in the face of the covert war is to
speed up the Agni programme and the induction of Prithvi. This
needs to be followed by open development of the nuclear
deterrent. Should Washington not make available sufficient
data, there will be no option but to go in for a limited number
of tests to refine the deterrent. As for the threat of sanctions,
should this lead to financial pain, then windows will need to be
found for generating funds through the sale of Indian technology
to countries that will not pose strategic threats to India in future.
Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Oman and Bahrain are some
of these states. Even in the event of sanctions, New Delhi needs
to retain a responsible posture towards proliferation of
technology. It cannot adopt the Beijing-Pyongyang approach of 
letting the market decide where technology should be allowed
to flow to.

Apart from fullscale induction of Prithvi, rapid development
of Agni and the improvement of the reliability of the nuclear
deterrent, there is need to change our attitude towards events
across the border. After ten years of absorbing Islamabad’s
intensified terror war, New Delhi needs to adopt a policy of
giving moral and political support to disadvantaged sections in
Pakistan. This is because only after that country becomes a full
democracy, where all regions and communities are treated
equally, will there be a mindset in Islamabad for genuine peace
with India. Thus, associations that support the rights of Shias,
minorities, women, Sindhis, Pashtuns and Baluchis need to be
set up here, that can give non-personnel assistance to the
suffering people of Pakistan. They should be encouraged to
adopt a charter that demands, for example, that not more than
25 per cent of the jobs at all levels in the Pakistan army, judiciary
and administration should be monopolised by the people of a
particular province.

When a general here was courageous enough to suggest that
the pain threshold for Pakistan’s interference should be raised,
the babus in the ministry of defence (some of whom can expect
to be rewarded with overseas jobs for their work in demolishing
morale and preparedness in the armed forces) asked the officer
for an explanation, rather than reward his candour. This is just
a continuation of what has been taking place for decades:
soldiers suffering because of neglect of their needs, including for
example an adequate supply of advanced rifles to face the
terrorists.

Sadly, the Congress party has gone so far away from its
nationalist traditions that Sitaram Kesri recently tried to shift the
responsibility for the Coimbatore bomb blasts away from the ISI.
Today both Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh are one in
demanding that the nuclear deterrent should be abandoned.

Small wonder that voters are making a beeline to the BJP. No
surprise that powerful lobbies are working overtime to destabilise
it, before the Vajpayee government follows through on the
promise inherent in its manifesto. Those who support China’s
security interests in India can be expected to oppose the deterrent,
but not a party that stood for nationalism till recently. Hopefully,
rather than adopt the hidden agenda of those who seek to
continue India’s weak response to Sino-Pakistan provocation,
nationalist elements in the Congress party will support a special
session of Parliament on National Security, so that measures to
safeguard this country can get debated and approved, just as the
CTBT policy was. Prime Minister Vajpayee, we are waiting to see
you convene a Parliament session that will evolve a consensus
on national security and approve practical steps to deter those
waging a covert war on India.

That there exists a powerful lobby encouraging the external
backers of subversion is no secret. The way to expose the allies
of this lobby in India would be to call their bluff and propose and
implement policies that will guarantee security rather than a
continuation of the slow bleeding that has been inflicted on this
country as a consequence of the timidity of its political leadership.
India needs not only secularism, but also security.

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