By K.N. Pandita
“We have difficult relations with Pakistan”, said the India’s Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna at the UN General Assembly in New York. The difficulty arises because of bi-polarity of Pakistan’s power centre. An undeclared pull and push struggle has been going on in Pakistan ever since its creation. It has intensified in recent years. The struggle is with whom should the ultimate power rest, the Army or the lame civilian governments. Both are politicising Kashmir issue but with different objective. Army presents India as enemy number one, which, according to its notion, has to be contained only through aggressive military power.
Conducting proxy war in Kashmir, patronizing Theo-fascists at home to build its supportive civilian constituency, sponsoring terrorist attacks on sensitive institutions of India, fomenting subversion or planning 26/11 type bomb attacks are all meant to dispel the loss of trust of Pakistan’s silent majority in her armed forces after their humiliation in Bangladesh war.
As long as Kashmir pot simmers, Pakistan Army flaunts into the face of the masses of people the justification of ouster of civilian government and its replacement by military dictatorship. As long as Pakistan Army is able to project Kashmir as the core issue, it has justification to ask for lion’s share of country’s annual budget and special grants from the US – Army’s old time ally – without accountability.
Civilian governments in Pakistan, whenever posited in power, exist only as long as the Army wants, and never beyond. It means that every civilian government functions under the shadow of the Army. Therefore, in crucial matters, the civilian governments have to carry forward the diktat of the Army. If it does not, its fate is sealed there and then. It is under this compelling diktat that the President of Pakistan had to make a reference to Kashmir while addressing the General Assembly in New York. Left to himself, he would have chosen not to touch on the issue as did the foreign minister last year. Pakistan’s civil society understands that Kashmir has proved Achilles’ heel for her. This explains why Krishna said that we have difficult relations with Pakistan. New Delhi has been studiously trying to placate Army’s interventionist stance in Pak-India bilateral relations. This is what Krishna meant by saying that India wants to handle Pakistan with patience, tolerance and futuristic vision.
Political commentators in our country raise some pertinent questions. While bilateral talks are going on “in right direction” as claimed by both sides, and while they are inching slowly but steadily towards a viable solution of all outstanding issues including Kashmir, what is the meaning of Pakistan intensifying infiltration and unprovoked firing along LoC in J&K, or resorting to other subversive activities like cyber crimes, digging tunnels for espionage and smuggling of arms and printing and passing on fake Indian currency notes. These are pertinent questions. They prove that what Islamabad talks with Indians is not palatable to the Army and that Army has its own agenda about India.
Statesmanship lies not in confronting Pakistan Army directly because it is using deniability option to the maximum. Taking on the Army or tackling it is the job of the civilian government in Islamabad. India will not take on its shoulders the role which the people of Pakistan expect Islamabad regime to perform. Therefore, India has to understand what Zardari said at the UN from more than one dimension. Obviously, Islamabad regime is making every move very cautiously and carefully weighing how far it would or would not tilt the scales in its favour in the context of military related domestic politics. If we in India want that the struggle between the Army and democratic forces in Pakistan represented by the elected government should intensify and culminate in latter’s success, then we shall have to be patient and persevering with the democratic forces in Pakistan. It calls for restraint and patience and fortunately the Indian government has exemplary record in that area.
Nevertheless, keeping in mind that Pakistani President made a reference to Kashmir issue on the platform of the UN General Assembly, India needed to re-state her position on Kashmir as Krishna did. He meant to remind the General Assembly of India’s position on Kashmir. True, the two sides were talking about Kashmir and they are talking from respective positions that have been stated before the General Assembly at many occasions. What Krishna said does not mean to put an end to on-going bilateral dialogue. Stopping the dialogue will be a set back for democratic forces. That is not acceptable. Krishna’s response is a message to Pakistan Army conveyed through their President that J&K is and shall remain integral part of the Indian Union, and no power on earth can change that position. With this deliberate and calculated understatement from Krishna at the UN General Assembly, the ball is now in the court on which Pakistan Army and her civilian government are competing for ascendency. India will watch the duel with deep interest.