Antony’s Error, BJP’S Confusion!
Defence Minister A K Antony made a clumsy error by stating that the recent terrorists from across the ceasefire line wore army uniforms. What he seemed to imply was that they might have been terrorists in disguise. Regardless, even if they were soldiers, they might not have been representing either the government or even the army leadership in Pakistan which may not be in full control of all its personnel. Paradoxically, the fact is that when the army indulges in non-state activity it sheds uniforms to appear as militants. Recall how Indian army personnel shed uniforms to fight alongside the Bangladesh Mukti Bahini in 1971. Indeed, when army personnel in uniform commit serious ceasefire violations it may be concluded that it is the intention to convey the message that the action is officially inspired even though it may not in fact really be so. The opposition’s outcry against Antony, though valid, may not have been too relevant. The opposition as well as the government seems to miss the wood for the trees.
In the prevailing situation what is relevant is that regardless of whether the atrocity was committed by army regulars or by non-state terrorists, the responsibility rests with the Pakistan government and its army. Regardless of whether the atrocity had official sanction or was inspired by rogue elements that have subverted the government, the responsibility rests with the Pakistan government and its army. If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Kayani sincerely desire peace and accommodation, the responsibility rests with the Pakistan government and its army. India does not want good intentions, it wants results. India needs a government in Islamabad that can deliver.
Both our government and the opposition appear confused because they have lost sight of the real situation and the face of the real enemy. Consider this. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has recently committed numerous ceasefire violations. But these have never led to violence or killing. These merely create tension and pressure. But it is the Pakistan army that commits atrocities across its ceasefire line that escalates tension. Does that not greatly enhance pressure on India without China directly assuming responsibility? Does not Beijing exercise decisive influence over the official and rogue elements of the Pakistan establishment that promote terror against India? Does not Pakistan pressure against India serve Beijing’s strategic interests? Doubtless, the headless chickens and political twits in the government and in the opposition would scoff at this possibility. They all have their heads buried in sand.
As far as Beijing’s attitude to Pakistan-inspired terrorism against India is concerned, one incident should tell us all. After the US government exposed the role of Hafiz Saeed in the UN regarding his terrorist acts against India, the world body voted for sanctions against this proclaimed terrorist mastermind. The sanctions could not be imposed because China as a permanent member of the Security Council exercised its UN veto to block them. Hence Hafiz Saeed continues to walk free. It would be amusing if not so pathetic to see Indian politicians of the government as well as of the opposition rant against Hafiz Saeed and at the same time slobber over prospects of deepening trade and cultural ties with China. How can these dummies overlook the fact that Beijing and Hafiz Saeed are on the same page?
Our government neither recognizes the real enemy—the PLA and its Pakistan proxies—nor does it know how and where to hit both to really hurt them. It is stupid to be obsessed with increasing military expenditure in order to keep up with Pakistan ’s nuclear arsenal or with the PLA. We simply require deterrent capacity. We require an army that makes enemy occupation of our territory to be of an unacceptable price. We require nuclear weaponry, cyber technology and missiles that can inflict sufficient damage to deter China from an all-out attack. All these are achievable. Where China can be hit is through a drastic revision of our trade relations. Where Pakistan can be hit is through severe scaling down of our diplomatic relations and our changed attitude towards Baluchistan and the Durand Line Treaty which could severely destabilize Pakistan’s two provinces facing separatism and insurgency. But it is premature to even speculate about such options. Mr. Nawaz Sharif has inherited a difficult situation. He seems to have the right approach. There are discernible though faint signs of change.
For example, the first Muslim MP in Britain and a senior leader, Mr. Mohammed Sarwar, has left his family and friends in the UK by resigning from parliament and renouncing his British citizenship to return to Pakistan. Mr. Sarwar’s son remains in Britain as an MP. Mr. Nawaz Sharif has appointed Mr. Sarwar as the new Governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province. At this stage of his life would Mr. Sarwar make such a career and citizenship change unless he anticipated participation in some historic political change?
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Sharif can summon the will or the expertise to translate his ideas into reality. He should know, and all the politicians in India should know, that relations with China and Pakistan will stabilize in the long term only if a South Asian Union is created. That can happen only if the umbilical cord uniting the Pakistan army to Beijing is broken. That can happen only if Islamabad is prepared to enter into joint defence with India to contain and eliminate terrorism. That can happen only after the sane elements in India and Pakistan acknowledge that the real impediment to peace is the PLA.
Many years ago in a conversation Jarnail Singh Bhindranwle offered a piece of rustic wisdom. He differentiated between a lion and a dog. “If you wave a stick before a dog it grabs at the stick,” he said. “But if you wave a stick before a lion it grabs the man holding the stick!” What politicians in India need to decide is whether they want to be like lions or dogs.
By Rajinder Puri