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What is the alternative except war?

What is the alternative except war?

Author: M.V. Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: May 23, 2002

How many more people need to be killed in Jammu & Kashmir by Pakistan-sponsored jihadists, how many more times need railway coaches have to be torched and the Indian Parliament itself brought under attack before the Government of India resports to meaningful action? The calculated attack on family members of Army personnel in the Kaluchak Cantonment in Jammu the day US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca arrived in Delhi was obviously well-planned and intended, on the part of the jihadists, to show their utter contempt for the United States.

What that attack indicates is either Gen. Musharraf's complicity in the matter or his utter irrelevance. It is no secret that Musharraf is an active supporter of Kashmiri separatists; indeed, he has never made any bones of his "moral support" to the jihadists. Are we to presume that the United States wants to go down in history as his behind-the-scene backer? The United States can't have it both ways: either it takes firm action against him or it surrenders to his tactics. Firm action involves stoppage of all economic aid and isolation of Pakistan. It also involves taking complete charge of Pakistan's nuclear capabilities, so that it can't even dream of mounting a nuclear attack against India.

The United States must make it clear to the General that either he delivers on his promise to control terrorists or he quits. We have it from Bruce Riedel, a Director on the Clinton Administration's National Security Council that Musharraf has been wanting to "humble India once and for all". He is welcome to make his attempt. But in that case the United States must withdraw its Armed Force and its American personnel in its Embassy at Islamabad without further ado and leave it to India to handle Pakistan as it thinks fit. To keep saying that India and Pakistan must get back to the negotiating table is to make a mockery of human suffering. What is there to negotiate? India cannot and will not - give up Jammu & Kashmir. Indeed, it had every right to take over what now is Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. And it should pursue it in right earnest. This is not a matter for negotiations. Chief of Army Staff, General S. Padmanabhan put it straight when he said: "It's time for action now. The more we talk, the less we will act. We should not play to the gallery any more." And he said for all to hear: "As far as I am concerned, I'm ready for any kind of action". In other words, the Indian Army is only waiting for the order to march into POK. If necessary, into Pakistan itself.

A war against Pakistanis, to put it plainly, 'dharma yuddha', except that one does not proclaim it from the housetops. Even if it is conceded that the Pakistan Army, too, is ready for battle, the time and place for waging it must necessarily have to remain a secret. This is best left to the policy makers in the Armed Forces. We are told that full-scale war is not an option. Four reasons are adduced in support of inaction. One, that the United States is opposed to war as that would undermine some core U.S objectives. Two, that unleashing war against Pakistan would mean that U.S. troops presently stationed in Pakistan would have to be withdrawn summarily to which Washington is opposed. Three, that India will have to reckon with the possibility of Islamabad unleashing a nuclear attack on Indian cities and four, that Indian military machine may not quite be in a position to acquire a decisive edge over Pakistan inside a week.

To be effective, it is claimed, India will have to wind up military operations within ten days at the maximum. As against this we have Gen Padmanabhan's assurance that on his part he is ready "for any kind of action". One would presume that he knows what he is saying. And one would imagine that the Indian Armed Forces are ready to face any contingency. Or why would it have been moved to the border and maintained there all these weeks? The point to remember is that every day's delay gives Pakistan time and space to strengthen its position and make it that much harder for India. There is no such thing as a 'calibrated response' to Pakistan. Gen. Musharraf plainly wants a war.

For the United States two options are open: To give an ultimatum to Musharraf and force him to fight the jihadists in toto or to itself take over the administration of Pakistan and face a revolt. If it cannot execute either, then it must let India have its way and even help Delhi in its mission to subjugate Islamabad - and thereafter the jihadists.

The NDA government is meanwhile being inundated with unsought advice. It is told, for example, "to resist the political temptation to opt for even a limited military strike against Pakistan". The presumption is that the United States will force Musharraf to rein in his terrorists. That is some hope. The United States can do nothing of that sort. It has not even been able to locate bin Laden, the most wanted criminal in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for the simple reason that the Pakistan Armed Forces are giving him shelter. Musharraf will hum and haw; he will give endless promises but in another few weeks one can be sure that Pakistan jihadists will repeat another Kulachak and we will again go through the meaningless cycle of threatening action but stopping short of doing anything. How long is this theatre of the absurd to continue?

Let us face it: the Rocca Mission to Islamabad has been a total failure. One can't expect anything better from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's visit either. What faith can one put in the United States when under its guidance, the World Bank is processing a $ 500 million loan to Pakistan? Is that support to be a friendly gesture towards India? Musharraf must be laughing in his sleeves at America's naivete. He is having everything his own way. If Ms Rocca is to be believed - and she is on record - Pakistan is a friend of the United States. This must be the oddest, quaintest friend the United States has had in its two hundred year history.

India has NO option. It has to bring Pakistan to book. What it has to brood over is how to do it. And let it be stated clearly: time is not in its favour. The longer it takes to come to a decision, the faster it enables Pakistan to martial its forces. America's argument in support of Musharraf is that if he is deposed someone even worse than him may assume power. That is a risk one must take. Besides it must be remembered that unlike India, Pakistan is a state by grace and favour of the United States and the European Union. Should that favour be withdrawn nobody can service in Islamabad. If American forces are withdrawn from Pakistan and if Washington refuses any kind of military assistance (even second hand through Saudi Arabia), Islamabad can be brought to its knees. And that is what India's aim should be. Washington may frown at it but the best solution to the Kashmir problem is the break up of Pakistan and the setting up of India-friendly states of Sind and Baluchistan. Then the Hurriyat in Kashmir will get the message.

The United States may not consider this to be in its interests but it must be told firmly that it cannot run with the Indian hare and hunt with jihadi hound. Washington is taking Delhi for a ride with sweet words and no action. This kind of tomfoolery has to stop. Of course it will cost India a lot. For the last war India fought against Pakistan the citizens had to pay dearly for almost a decade. But how long are we to suffer Pakistan- inflicted indignities and to what end? For a smile from the White House? For a pat on the back from the anti- Semetic European Union? Unless the entire Pakistan jihadi apparatus is smashed for good, India will never be left in peace. That is for sure.

Musharraf is not a man to be trusted on his own record. In his speech soon after he assumed power in October 1999, he conjured up a vision of a modern Islamic state like Turkey; he promised, among other things, state control of madrassas through various measures, documentation of the economy to prevent tax evasion; signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a general sales tax on retail trade and curbs on smuggling on the Afghan route. He has reneged on all promises. After having a few hundred known and suspected jihadis arrested, he had most of them quietly released and few are any wiser for it. His backtracking on measures to curb jihadi culture is the talk of the town in Pakistan. Either he can't change Pakistan or he doesn't want to. Either way he is a menace not just to India but to the entire world. And if the United States wants to shut its eyes, God alone can help Washington. But that doesn't mean that India must look on helplessly.

The Indian Government has confirmed information of 75 training camps for terrorists in operation on the Pakistani side of the border. Delhi is also aware - and the information has been shared with Washington - that about 3,000 Al Qaida militants of different nationalities have recently shifted base from Afghanistan to Pakistan. In the face of all this, is India expected to sit back with folded hands and wait for Doomsday? Meanwhile within Indian borders a warning should be sent to Congress President Sonia Gandhi who has been making the most irresponsible statements. She has been quoted as saying that "the fault lies entirely with the Government". The fault, she must know was originally that of Jawaharlal Nehru; that fault was further compounded by Indira Gandhi at Simla. Sonia Gandhi should be told that criticising the government at this juncture would be an unpatriotic act. The nation has paid enough for the Nehru-Gandhi shortsightedness in the past. And enough is enough.

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