Thursday 28 October 2004

Musharraf Calls the Bluff (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- While most U.S. secretaries of state -- save perhaps Dean Rusk -- have gobbled up credit for outcomes that they had little to do with, few have been as brazen as Colin Powell.
Two years ago, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was surprised when the leader of the main Islamist alliance -- Maulana Fazlur Rahman -- visited India and issued a series of highly conciliatory statements. As Pakistan's president had been telling the United States he was "forced" into taking a hawkish line on India precisely by the likes of Rahman, this was an embarrassment.
The reality is that India is no longer the enemy of choice for the people of Pakistan. That distinction has now gone to the United States.
Realists, and this even includes members of the U.S. Democratic foreign policy establishment such as Strobe Talbott, who have long sought to divest India of its defensive capability against another nuclear power in Asia, understand the only feasible solution for Kashmir is the acceptance of the status quo. India keeps what it has while Pakistan and China (which was gifted a slice of the territory three decades ago) do likewise.
Simultaneously, New Delhi would ensure a degree of autonomy for the state that would help cut popular support off from jihadis attempting to convert Kashmir into a second Afghanistan.
Bill Clinton understood this at the end of his term in office yet, under Colin Powell (who appears to have an affinity for generals active in politics), the pendulum of U.S. policy has once again swung toward a quixotic effort to prize at least the Valley of Kashmir loose from India.

This, Pakistan's lobbyist in Washington Christina Rocca has been told, is the "minimum" that the Pakistan army will accept. It is also far more than what any administration in New Delhi can deliver.
This writer has for years regarded the best solution to the Kashmir problem as being the trifurcation of the Indian part of the state into a Hindu-majority Jammu, a Buddhist-dominated Ladakh and the overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir Valley, with the third state given little of taxpayers' money but substantial autonomy. With luck, the Kashmir Valley can attract investment from the Middle East and other locations where Muslims are dominant and become a tourist, education and services haven within India.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims in Kashmir would be happy with such an outcome, except for the tiny jihadi segment patronized by the U.S. State Department and the Pakistan Army, which would like to even the score with India for their catastrophic defeat in Bangladesh in 1971.
Unreported by the international media, the Valley of Kashmir has seen an ethnic and cultural genocide that has resulted in the fleeing from the valley of almost all the Hindu families who have been living there since human habitation was first recorded. Over nine dozen temples that had served the Hindu population have been destroyed, with some used as building material and others as urinals. Thus far, none of the many "human rights" busybodies across the world have bothered to even notice such a development.
Indeed, their reports are filled with tales of the "atrocities" of Indian troops on the innocent jihadis. Despite Sept. 11, the United States still supports the Kashmir groups that back jihad as part of the price Washington is paying to keep Pervez Musharraf happy. Unfortunately for them, the general has decided to take seriously Colin Powell's frequent boasts that it was on his nudging that the Indians made conciliatory gestures toward Islamabad.
The U.S. State Department and the misnamed think tanks that follow its lead have held numerous conferences on Kashmir and, in most of them, the solution that has emerged is a valley prized loose from Indian control and under its own version of Ibrahim Rugova. That India is not Yugoslavia and that the "foreigner-led" Indian National Congress can least afford to ignore Indian nationalism, has not struck the conferees, among whom have been several Indian "scholars" and "analysts" ready to say and endorse anything for the sake of a free trip to New York or Vienna.
Despite many wrinkles, India remains a part-democracy and merely signing on to a piece of paper that calls for an independent Kashmir does not get you into the trouble that writing an op-ed piece against Sonia Gandhi or Atal Behari Vajpayee would instantly.
It was the business community in India that stepped in after Vajpayee indulged in an empty bout of saber rattling in 2002, pointing out that the only beneficiary of the mythical perception that war -- especially nuclear war -- was around the corner in the subcontinent was China. The reason for this is that India is emerging as an alternative investment destination to China, hence the favor that the generals in Islamabad do to their trusty supplier of nukes and missiles by creating a scare about war involving India when in fact the real flashpoints are the Taiwan Straits and North Korea.
Since then, India has talked peace while always signaling that only the status quo would be acceptable as a final settlement: a line of action that is followed in the case of disputes with China as well.
Unfortunately for those eager to indefinitely carry on with the lucrative business of conflict resolution in South Asia, Pervez Musharraf has now called Colin Powell's bluff, challenging him to deliver on his frequent statements implying that the Indians jump to his commands.
Once the Manmohan Singh government shows that it has little appetite for suicide, Musharraf will face the moment of truth: accept the inevitable, or once again ramp up the insurgency and spawn a fresh lot of killers that can hit not merely Mumbai and New Delhi but London and Chicago as well.
The one country that has shown that it understands the realities in South Asia is China. Under President Hu Jintao, Beijing has opened out to New Delhi and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is expected to visit early next year, making friends by formally accepting Sikkim as part of India and backing India as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council -- thus leaving Washington as the only one of the "permanent five" that has not yet done so.
With Colin Powell around, the U.S. has no need of an Osama bin Laden
- M.D. Nalapat, an expert on jihad, is professor of geopolitics at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India.

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