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Thursday, 17 February 2000

What counts, India or ties to a family? (Rediff)

During the last weeks of Sitaram Kesri's stewardship of the Congress party, there was a trickle of individuals heading for the exit. The same phenomenon is today visible in the Sonia Congress, with Meira Kumar being the most prominent of those deciding to quit a party dominated by an ill-educated lady and her children, sisters and mother. Yes, there are pressures on the Mainos, but there are compensations as well. Each week representatives of the Congress chief ministers come to Delhi to meet Ahmed Patel and to deliver "sweets."

However, Sonia and her brood are not the only ones enjoying a plentiful supply of Swiss chocolates. A check of passports will reveal several sons, wives, daughters and relatives of the well-connected ratcheting up frequent flyer miles on visits to Europe and the United States. Home Minister L K Advani has much of the details.

As Advani can find out if only he asked, both the UK as well as desi citizens have extensive networking in Washington, and regularly give several assurances of good conduct on behalf of their friends in India, among whom is that peerless follower of the Eduard Shevardnadze school of diplomacy, Jaswant Singh Rathore.

For years one fact has been well known about Jassu. It is that each evening, he becomes a high-spirited joy to his friends, the very heart of any get-together. Indeed, talk has it that the ISI planned the Indian Airlines hijack in the evening because it knew that Uncle Atal would entrust the resolution of the problem to kindred soul Jassu, who in the evenings is in a particularly generous mood and thus can be expected to take a lenient view of the ISI's pranks.

Which also explains why this evening-transformed soul was so generous towards both Pakistan and the Taleban, and why he insisted on accompanying such rambustious fellows as Masood Azhar to Kandahar. Small wonder that Uncle Atal sees him as the next prime minister of India.

Will India's home minister ask for the dossier on the three businesspersons who contact the prime minister of India so often? Will he check on the phone calls made from and to 5 Race Course Road from London and Geneva? Will he find out just why these favourites of both him as well as the prime minister visit Washington so often, and whom they meet while there? Or will he act as though he were responsible not to the people of India but towards a clutch of influentials?

There is hope, although a fading one, that the real L K Advani will speak out, will act, as his colleague George Fernandes has at last begun to do. Surely, the Indian people have a right to know the identity of the minister who ordered that the hijacked IA aircraft be allowed to leave Amritsar without attempting to keep it on Indian soil. Surely, we have a right to know the identity of the diplomat in a key western capital who advised that a surrender be effected and that three terrorists be released, and who recommended that such a view be accepted.

Should these facts be hidden now, they will come out later after the Vajpayee government goes. There are too many records of the verbal and other messages for the details to get buried.

True, looking at India's kept press, it would be logical for wrongdoers to assume that their errors can forever be kept hidden. Just as they howled in chorus during the time when Bill Clinton imposed sanctions on India, echoing the US chorus that these measures would "melt down" the Indian economy, today the Washington establishment has succeeded in making its numerous friends in the Indian media come out with lengthy reports on why it would in fact be desirable for Billy Boy to visits Islamabad as well.

The truth is that if Bill Clinton makes a stopover in Pakistan, he should be treated as unwelcome in India. You can either be a friend of democracy or a supporter of dictatorship. It is not possible to be both. Those who chorus about the "inevitability" of talking to Musharraf do a disservice to the people of Pakistan, who are still largely untainted by the fundamentalism unleashed by the narcotics mafia. Only by publicly snubbing Musharraf can such democratic forces get strengthened in Pakistan, and only if they do, can there be peace between the two cousins.

It is astonishing to read Brajesh Mishra's picked members of the National Security Council write about how a stable Pakistan (of course, under the current gang of thugs) is "essential to Indian interests". In the first place, a stable Pakistan is just not possible unless the current dispensation gets radically altered. In the second place, only a stable moderate Pakistan is in India's interests. If that country remains in the grip of the crazies, it would be better for Indian interests for it to fragment into a medley of states, including Seraikistan.

Given current trends, such a process is likely to pick up speed within five years. In such a process, New Delhi needs to be on the side of the disadvantaged in Pakistan, namely the women, minorities, Seraikis, Shias, Sindhis, Mohajhirs, Pashtuns and Baluchis. The peoples of Pakistan need help to resist the oppression of the narcotics mafia. They do not deserve to be ignored or to face the spectacle of the world coddling dictators just as Hitler and Mussolini were indulged during the 1930s.

There is also need to pay attention to Afghanistan. A proud race has been subjugated by Sunni Punjabis. The ISI now controls Afghanistan, making slaves of the once-proud Pashtuns. If the Taleban cannot escape from its present fate of being a servant of the Sunni Punjabis, then it deserves defeat at the hands of its foes.

Time is running out for Vajpayee. It may also be running out for the BJP unless its leaders realise that duty to the nation is more important than blind faith in a "supreme leader", now matter how charming and bountiful. Why is it that only George Fernandes has to battle against efforts at scuttling the nuclear and missile deterrent? Why does Advani allow Jaswant Singh to mortgage Indian security by demanding that India sign the CTBT under the humiliating conditions offered by Clinton?

The nation was fooled on Kargil. It opened its eyes at Kandahar. It will not forgive a third betrayal by the tired old men who rule over its destinies. This will come when Clinton insinuates himself and his country into the Kashmir cauldron in a month, thanks to the surprising welcome this enemy of Indian interests is being given by a Vajpayee government that talked of "zero tolerance" to the same terrorism to which it succumbed at Kandahar.

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