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For a calibrated response

For a calibrated response

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: May 20, 2002

One of the last acts of Parliament before it ended its Budget session was also its most novel. For in a badly fragmented polity it was rare to see all sections of the House show a rare unanimity. What had brought Parliament together to the last member was the continuing threat of cross-border terrorism. Pakistan's export of barbarism to this country had shocked the entire nation. The manner in which innocent members of the families of army jawans were butchered in their sleep by three ISI men, dressed in Indian Army uniforms, can only bring further discredit to a heartless leadership uninformed by any human concern whatsoever.

General Musharraf, the winner of a fraudulent referendum, has shamed the uniform he routinely wears to keep the top generals in the Pak army in good humour while keeping civilians suitably frightened. He cannot have been unaware that the grim atrocity he had inflicted on the psyche of all India would evoke such a strong response.

Above all, it would unite all Indians regardless of their political, social, economic or any other differences. So much so that it would move J. Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, to give vent to the collective anger of the entire nation and demand an end, once for all, to the Pak-sponsored terrorist acts. Even the Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, who had otherwise taken a needlessly aggressive stance towards the ruling coalition, was constrained to offer her party's support to the Government on this tragic occasion. General Muaharraf had unwittingly united all sections of the public opinion in India by his latest terrorist act.

But what next? As Jayalalitha said in her statement, the time may have really come to match words with deeds. To begin with, the diplomatic ties with Pakistan ought to be severed forthwith. India stands to gain nothing by retaining the high-profile High Commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi while it had withdrawn its own in Islamabad after the attack on Indian Parliament on December 13 last year. Qazi Jehangir Ashraf should be asked to return home forthwith. The snapping of diplomatic ties with Pakistan should send a strong signal to the world community that New Delhi's patience with belligerent acts of Islamabad is indeed running out.

The US, which fashions itself as the peace-keeper of the world, ought to take note that merely counseling restraint to this country while it continues to sup with the Pakistani devil is bound to exacerbate Indian feelings further. If the US self-interest obliges it to do business with General Musharraf, the Indians' supreme interest calls for a lesson or two to be taught to the same General Musharraf. Unless the US can bring itself to distinguish between its selfish interests and its self-avowed role as a global peace-maker it would fail woefully in earning the respect of the world community.

For, if the twin towers attack last year was a one-off assault on human decency, the massacre of innocent civilians by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in this country has become routine, everyday atrocity. Instead of chanting the hollow sounding mantra of restraint to India, it will be quite in the fitness of things for the US policy-makers to join hands with India in devising ways to end the barbaric exports from Pakistan. The US can help immensely by leaning on Islamabad to switch off the tap of terrorism as it were at the pain of bloody reprisals by the Indians. Admittedly, the threat of nuclear devices, such as these are with Pakistan, might be grossly exaggerated. For, it remains highly uncertain if Islamabad has the delivery system in place to make the nuclear threat to this country real. But, more to the point, as the Minister of State for External Affairs, Omar Abdullah, in his intervention in the Lok Sabha said, it is not as if Pakistan was in a position to wipe out India, but, it certainly was so that this country could always wipe Pakistan off the face of this earth. No doubt those were words said more in anger than on cool reflection and, hopefully, both nations would learn to keep their fingers away from the respective nuclear buttons. But nonetheless these words showed the depth of Indian feelings of hurt and anger over the continuing acts of barbarity perpetrated by the ISI-sponsored 'jehadis'.

Short of launching armed hostilities against Pakistan, India will be fully justified, to begin with, in undertaking foolproof measures to try and stop the intrusion on its borders with Pakistan. The deployment of troops at the border in the wake of the attack on Parliament on December 13 last year should be so re-ordered as to make the intrusion from Pakistani side almost impossible. Also, the process of normalisation in Kashmir should engage the urgent attention of the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi.

There will be no bigger, and better, rebuff to Pakistan than a public conduct of orderly elections to the J and K Assembly. The world community at large ought to be convinced about the transparency of the electoral exercise in Kashmir. If the coming election results in terminating the monopoly in power of one particular Kashmiri family so be it. But India should not flinch even a weebit in upholding democracy in Kashmir. That will be the worst rebuff any Indian can administer to the hate-obsessed Pakistan.

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