Sunday 20 June 1999

Dishonest Broker: U.S. Role in Indo-Pakistani Relations

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

With admirable candour, former test captains in Pakistan have
reminisced about the methods used to ensure a win. Tampering
with the seam of the ball, getting a friendly umpire, and bribing
rival players are among the sportsmanlike gestures favoured by
our friendly neighbour. Looking at the Benazir Bhutto regime’s
performance—which includes rocketing its own mosque to once
again paint India as an anti-Islamic state—it is clear that the
Pakistan premier is an admirer of her cricket team's methods.
In its eagerness to ensure a "fair" result (one in which it gets
99 per cent of what it seeks), the Bhutto regime has been trying
to insinuate as a "neutral" umpire the very country that has
backed Pakistan against India since 1950, and which has rewarded
Islamabad’s terrorist war against India by re-establishing a
strategic relationship with it. After the George Bush interregnum,
when facts about South Asia were faced and not fudged, President
Clinton has returned to the traditional Pentagon policy of
buttressing Pakistan against India. In a remarkable interpretation
of "even-handedness", Islamabad is being given a billion dollars
worth of sophisticated weapons, while India has not been
offered even a handgun.

Training Terrorists
In a further refinement of the meaning of candour, the Clinton
administration has in effect denied not only that China has given
M-11 missiles to Pakistan, but that the Bhutto regime is using
Lahore, Muzaffarabad and Peshawar to train thousands of
terrorists for operations within India. During the past year, the
scope of ISI operations has expanded beyond fundamentalist
fanatics in Kashmir to left extremists in Bihar and other centres.

Judging by the shrill commands emanating from the Clinton
administration, India needs to be punished for preserving a
secular democracy in a neighbourhood infested with U5-
supported dictatorships. This country needs to be punished for
attempting to prevent its balkanisation through the setting up of
a fundamentalist state on its northern borders. Most importantly,
retribution must be swift should India attempt to protect itself
against the danger of China arming Pakistan with nuclear
weapons and delivery systems. In the process the million dollar
question—Will the US put at risk New York and San Francisco
to protect Mumbai and Calcutta?—has gone unanswered.

Within a few years the US administration may witness on its
own soil the consequences of flirting with fundamentalism. 
Louis Farrakhan has, in a much milder forr, begun articulating
the position that only a "separate homeland" can solve the
problems of African Americans. Thus the "Pakistan syndrome"
has finally hit the US, just as it will France, Germany and Britain
during the next decade. Strangely, the very American diplomats
who are so enthusiastic about "homeland" arguments when
applied to Kashmir have thus far refrained from congratulating
Farrakhan on his wisdom.

India, however, has a different agenda. Which is to resist the
attempt by the two US surrogates, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, to
inject fundamentalism into the region. While Riyadh is funding
extremist groups, Islamabad is training them. Both are
participating in attempting to destabilise moderate regimes in
central Asia by replacing them with fundamentalists. How
international security can be enhanced by such actions on the
part of these two "moderate democracies" is not clear. However,
the point to be noted is that the US supply of weapons to both
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan means that Washington cannot escape
responsibility for the actions of these countries.

Where Pakistan is concerned, so long as the Bush policy of
non-supply of lethal weapons was adhered to, Washington
could argue that it was not responsible for Islamabad's actions,
just as a businessman can argue that the deeds of an acquaintance
cannot be blamed on him, However, should the businessman
employ the acquaintance, the relationship changes into one of
principal and agent. By resuming the earlier arms supply
relationship with Pakistan, the Clinton administration has made
itself answerable for Islamabad’s actions, including the terrorist

'Out of Control'
Clearly, Washington would not give sophisticated armaments to
a country unless it had a significant degree of leverage there.
Thus it is no longer possible to feign non-culpability in Islamabad’s
"terror factories" in Lahore, Muzaffarabad and Peshawar. If
Pakistan were "out of control" in carrying out such activities,
surely the US would not have trusted it with lethal weapons.

India needs to adopt a variant of the US policy of "even-
handedness" and link US advice on security issues to the
behaviour of Pakistan. So long as Washington’s strategic ally
continues with its terrorist war on India, it will be difficult to
take seriously US protestations that it is supportive of India’s
security concerns. Even more than the Clinton administration’s
unwillingness to rein in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan from
promoting fanaticism around the globe, what is inexplicable is
New Delhi's inability to realise that with the swearing in of Bill
Clinton, US policy had resumed its Pakistan tilt. For more than
three years, this fact has been obvious to all except the PMO and
the MEA.

As a consequence of this myopia, India has over the past
three years implemented a chain of "confidence-building
measures" while Pakistan has focused on "confidence-blocking
methods". As a consequence, immense damage has been done to
Indian security. While Islamabad has waged its war on India
with undiluted ferocity, now extending it to left extremists and
to states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the Rao government
has responded by lowering defence preparedness and giving
credibility to agents of Pakistan such as the Hurriyat Conference.

National Security
Unless it is the policy of Raisina Hill to demolish India's defenses
as completely as they were neglected during 1957-62, there is
need to set up a national security machinery that is not
compromised by officials thirsting after dollar pensions. Such a
machinery would be able to formulate and get implemented a
strategy that would deter mischief-makers from attacking India.
Had such a deterrent been in operation already, India would not
have been undergoing the trauma of having a terrorist war
waged against it, and watching as self-declared "friends" seek to
repeat their efforts of 1953 and 1963 to delink Kashmir from the
rest of the country.

There is need to involve the private sector in the nuclear
power programme, so that the Department of Atomic Energy
can concentrate on developing both power-related as well as
deterrent-related technologies, Before the CTBT comes into
operation in four years time, India needs to follow France and
China in perfecting its weapons systems, so that these are safe
and reliable. Work on delivery systems—including its civilian
applications—needs to get speeded up. As for Washington, a
country that pleads ignorance of Pakistan’s efforts to become a
nuclear and missile power—rather than admitting the truth—
has no ethical right to condemn India for taking care of the
security of 900 million people who have sought to preserve
secular democracy in their country against the wars and terror
propagated by a country that has been emboldened to attack
India only because it has got diplomatic and material support
from Washington.

Friday 11 June 1999

Pakistan: The end of innocence (Rediff)

George Fernandes is a dear friend, and a very brave individual fully committed to the country of his birth. Whether organising taxi drivers in Mumbai during the 1960s or railway staff in the 1974, he showed a courage not shared by many politicians. However, his weakness was -- and is -- a blind reliance on friends, a trait he shares with close buddy Brajesh Mishra, the de facto prime minister of India, otherwise titled 'principal secretary to the prime minister'. Clearly, this has led him astray, as when he relied totally on (then) defence secretary Ajit Kumar and delighted the babu lobby by dismissing Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat.

George is an avid reader of history. He should have gone through the archives of the greatest naval power of the past era, Britain. He would have read of Fisher or Jellicoe, crusty salts who irritated their civilian masters beyond endurance, yet were retained by them in view of their brilliance. Bhagwat's advocacy of a blue water navy built on largely indigenous foundations did anger two lobbies: the first, which wants India to remain a weak power. And the second, which derives huge commissions on sale of what is essentially scrap to the armed forces at hugely inflated prices.

Had Vishnu Bhagwat -- a brilliant strategic mind and a patriot as true as Fernandes himself -- devoted some attention to better relations with his minister, the country may have avoided an action caused by the jealousy of Ajit Kumar magnified operationally through the (then) defence secretary's very, very, very close links to Brajesh.

For Brajesh, as his superiors in the foreign service soon found out, to think is to act. These days the poor man goes through a very punishing schedule. A quick breakfast, followed by a dozen meetings at each of which orders have to be barked out to underlings such as the Cabinet secretary or the foreign secretary (both highly capable officers who would have done much better were they left alone).

After that, a lunch with a senior editor, followed by tea with an industrialist. Then a quick recitation to the prime minister, telling him what he needs to do to remain a good boy, followed by two dinners, at two socialite homes in Delhi, with an exhausted Brajesh leaving for home in the early hours, reflecting on how exhausting it is to save this benighted country.

Truly, Prime Minister Vajpayee could not have found a better person to ensure that Sonia Gandhi takes over his job soon.

Those familiar with Pakistan, and who do not derive their input from two British nationals based in London who have close ties to the Pakistan army, know it cannot be trusted and that any strategic concession to it is immediately seen as a sign of weakness. That is why many have argued against any such concessions, even while showing generosity towards the business community and other civilians in that country.

Sadly, India is still controlled by the British, these days through the two UK citizens mentioned earlier, who make Indian prime ministers dance the tango at will. As a result, the Government of India retreated on its Kashmir formulation and moved closer to the vicious Pakistani position. It was not at Lahore that the recent incursions by the Pakistan army were planned. It was after Lahore, after the dilution of India's stand by a prime minister anxious perhaps to be the second Indian premier after Morarji Desai to win the coveted Nishan-e-Pakistan. Hopefully, Atal Bihari Vajpayee will slough off his love for the two Londoners and not make any more errors of judgement on Pakistan.

George Fernandes should not be blamed for not knowing that the ISI is part of the Pakistan army. Not many people know this. Most believe the ISI is a civilian organisation, unaware that the best brains in the Pakistan army are seconded to it, and that it works in daily liaison with the Pakistan armed forces general staff directorate.

It is unfair to blame the defence minister of India for lacking this piece of information, especially when his priority is to ensure that the Samata Party does not splinter in Bihar and leave the field clear for Laloo Prasad Yadav. However, some friend could perhaps suggest to George that he is a brilliant political organiser, and should concentrate on that, leaving the burdens of a ministry to lesser folk.

As for the clean chit to Mian Nawaz Sharief, here again few are aware that by now both Sharief and his brother Shahbaz have got co-opted into the drugs-terror industry in Pakistan. This sector of the Pakistan economy generates $ 20 billion in revenue each year, much of which goes to finance the education of the children of the Pakistan armed forces and officials and politicians. The stupid offspring are sent to Australia, while the brighter ones go to the United States. Cretins go to Switzerland, where everything has a price tag.

Were the Indian government to make a quick survey of just how many Pakistanis on government payrolls have children studying abroad (or wives and girlfriends in business), it may realise just why that country will never make peace with India. Should peace break out, then attention will get focussed away from red herrings such as "the world's most dangerous nuclear flashpoint" or "the longest-running insurgency" to the trade in the poppy and its products.

Just as rogue elements in the Chinese army use Myanmar as a base for supply and shipment of heroin that they control, the Pakistan army (including the ISI) has moved opium production facilities to Afghanistan. However, as the Taliban Pashtuns are minions of the Pakistani Punjabis, very little of the profits of this trade return to Afghanistan.

Thanks to the need of the drugs lobby to keep alive terror and tension as a diversion drawing attention away from itself, there is no hope of a reconciliation with Pakistan until an honest prime minister comes to power in Islamabad. And if he does, the chances are that he will be blown away by a bomb blamed on "indian intelligence".

Benazir Bhutto soon got co-opted into the drugs lobby thanks to Asif Ali Zardari's love for cash. Nawaz Sharief held out for a while, but has today become as much an agent of this network as Zardari was. Thus, it is wishful thinking to believe that the gang of drug-runners that controls Pakistan will ever accept a settlement based on the status quo.

However, gestures such as the Lahore bus trip should continue to be made, in order to teach the common people of Pakistan that India is their friend, even while refusing to fall into the clutches of the Pakistan army.

Squadron Leader Ahuja was, in a most cowardly fashion, shot down by the Pakistan army after touching down. Had the Government of India shown the gunshot wounds caused by that despicable act, it would have sent tremors across the world and perhaps dissuaded Islamabad from further atrocities. However, as another gesture of goodwill towards Pakistan, the gallant airman was cremated without showing to the world the desecration done to a brave human being.

Unless the Government of India breaks away from this reliance on advice from Washington, it will be untrue to its duty. Just as the Vajpayee government has not yet taken action against Gopi Arora (who knows more about Bofors than any other officer), it has thus far refused to show on television the many Pakistan army regulars captured by it. Why this compassion for the drugs-terror lobby that runs that country?

Right-thinking elements in the Peoples Liberation Army of China need to realise that the policy of those among them who are partners of the Pakistan army in the drugs trade is harmful to Beijing's interests. These rogue elements gave Pakistan a nuclear device, and now are being bribed to ensure that Islamabad is given a full-fledged weapon.should the PLA continue to transfer nuclear technology to Pakistan directly or indirectly, New Delhi will have every justification for giving such know-how to Vietnam and Taiwan. Two can play the game, not just China.

As for Washington, that capital needs to realise that the greatest emerging threat to democratic states comes from the very drugs-terror industry that is being nurtured by its Pakistani client. India needs to educate opinion in the United States on this menace, while strengthening its own laws against drugs to match the standards of Singapore.

India is on the front line of the drugs-terror war. Please recognise that, Mr Prime Minister, and act before it is too late.