Foreign policy — humility not national arrogance needed (June 19, 2009)

A cold but ice-breaker, President Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting did not start on a pleasant note. One presumes that a smiling Zardari must have been prepared for this Indian strategy. Following the discussion in the Indian lower house – Lok Sabah – the Foreign Office must have anticipated what would be the Indian stance at the summit on the sidelines of the Shanghai Conference. Still as Foreign Minister Qureshi said it was “a positive step.’

As this was the first meeting of the two leaders after the Mumbai carnage for which India has blamed Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba, what else one could expect but a complaint from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? He said firmly but politely: “Excellency, I am pleased to meet you. But I have a limited mandate to tell you that the Pakistani territory can’t be used for acts of terror against India.”

On his way back a day after his meeting the Indian PM told IAN reporter that he has put Pakistan to the ‘terrorism test.’ And according to IAN, he has “agreed to give Islamabad ‘some time’ to take action against anti-India terror outfits before the two leaders meet again in Egypt, mid-July.”

Manmohan Singh told Zardari at Yekaterinburg that Pakistan should show the same “sincerity and determination” against India-specific terrorist organisations, as it is showing in tackling the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. What India has to understand that Pakistan cannot open its all fronts at the same time. And to take on the India specific Jihadis, who are mainly from Punjab and Sindh, it needs some concessions from India on the Kashmir issue. Even a positive movement in the right direction with the Kashmiri leadership would nudge Pakistan to control these Jihadis.

India’s attitude has provoked hot discussions in Pakistan. A retired foreign secretary and a University professor were quite critical of the way Zardari handled this meeting. One of them had objections as to why President Zardari was grinning while Singh looked serious. All the discussants were of the view that Pakistan should not be apologetic in dealing with India because the latter has also been aiding and abetting terrorism in Pakistan.

For a good three scores and two years, we have listened to these foreign office experts and retired generals telling us we should be tough with India. All these years these wizards have pushed a covert policy of training Islamic Jihadis and sending them across the border – Oh! Sorry – they would like to call it the LOC. They have made us believe that India would be bogged down with low level insurgency and eventually give us Kashmir on a platter.

Unfortunately this did not happen. Instead, in 1965, Indian Prime Minister Shastri declared that if he has to fight he would choose the battle fronts and attacked Lahore. Then they lied to the nation that India has cowardly attacked us in the night. Only few people knew the truth then, but now whole nation knows who provoked the war. (Read Aziz Ahmed and Altaf Ghaur controversy in Dawn in early eighties and Aurangzeb’s letter in the last Friday issue of The News). Again in 1999 General Musharraf told us that the Mujahideens have taken over Kargil, but when the bodies of the Northern Light infantry Shaheeds started coming home this adventure was exposed. Poor Nawaz Sharif had to cut a sorry figure on the fourth of July and seek a bail-out through American intervention. Don’t we hate the Americans for their interventions?

These hawks in Pakistan have always tried to put Pakistan on the risky path. The Jihadis they nurtured are today a threat to the entire nation and the region. So when they say that Zardari shouldn’t be smiling and we shouldn’t be apologetic about our policies they have a misplaced pride and are still living dangerously. If we have done something wrong there is no harm to say sorry for it and stop being an spoilt brat. These generals, retired diplomats and short-sighted journalists should accept their follies and should not try to ridicule the politicians whenever they try to change the India policy. Yesterday, they called Prime Minister Bhutto a security risk and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a man having a short attention span. And even Musharraf was blamed for being too soft on India. Former foreign secretary Shamshad even criticised Musharraf for giving ‘an affidavit’ that Pakistan territory would not be allowed to be used against India. Excuse me isn’t this what international law demands. Now don’t tell us that this statement amount to admitting that we have been involved in cross-border terrorism. Everybody knows the reality. So its better to project Pakistan as state which wants follow the international law as inscribed in the documents.

Today they are saying why the present government is making an effort to revive composite dialogue with India. They are advising that we should be tough with India. And perhaps that President Zardari should have retorted to Manmohan Singh that India should also stop interfering in our affairs. I have no issue with Pakistan raising this issue but it should be at the right time with proof that Indian terrorist organisations are crossing over to Pakistan and attacking innocent Pakistanis. But the reality is that India plays it safe. It’s seldom that we catch an Indian agent who plants a bomb here and there. There are some cases, but so far we have not detected unwieldy Pakistan specific terrorist organisations in India. If there are any then our intelligence agencies which are well-entrenched in India should expose them.

So are the Indians innocent? Indeed not. They are in this tit-for-tat game, but cautiously, and do support the internal unrest in Pakistan through the disgruntled political elements in the country such as Baloch independence movement militants and a section of Sindhi nationalists. (This we can tackle by addressing the provincial autonomy issues which would isolate the extremists who play in the Indian hands). Indian response matches to our support to the home-grown Kashmiri militants. Till the game was restricted to this illegal and unethical contest the world was not pressing us to lay off, as they are doing today. The major mistake was that Pakistani policy-makers who are now criticising our soft stance did not know their limits; hence we had the 1965 war, Kargil and flourishing India specific Jihadi organisations. These organisations were allowed to grow so powerful that now they plan and execute missions like the attack on the Indian parliament and Mumbai, most probably, without the clearance from their official handlers.

So if today the political government is changing the policy on how to deal with India, the people who have failed in the past and risked the country’s security and integrity should not be given any weightage by the media. The world scenario has changed and so has the regional politics, we will have to shun away our anti-India phobia and accept the reality. Otherwise if we keep listening to these failed diplomats and analysts with inflated-nationalism, we will never come out of the mess we are in. Right now the priority should be that Pakistan should project itself as the country which is committed to peace and no interference in the affairs of our neighbours. We have to bend backward to prove it because our policy makers in the past have followed a dangerous policy. And the result is that today we are considered an epicenter of terrorism. This stigma can only be washed with the detergent of humility and not arrogance as suggested by failed generals, journalists and diplomats. (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

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