September 1999 News

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Jammu & Kashmir: Need for multi-dimensional governance

7 September 1999
The Asian Age
By: B. G. Deshmukh

The government has formed a review committee to look into the whole matter about what happened in Kargil and how and why it happened at all and what should be done and what remedial steps should be taken. No doubt the review committee will do an excellent job entrusted to it, but I still think that it would not be able to tackle the basic issue. For this purpose certain bold decisions will have to be taken by the government.

Firstly we must accept that Jammu and Kashmir is not a matter to be tackled by a single ministry. At present the J&K cell in the home ministry looks after his subject, but even when I was in government I used to argue that this is not the correct approach. The home ministry is naturally concerned as it deals with all state matters. There is also a tradition of J&K being looked after by the home ministry. Years back there used to be a J&K Secretary whose sole responsibility and duty was to look after that single state. But other ministries are also vitally concerned. The defence ministry is obviously concerned because of national security considerations. The external affairs ministry is concerned because a foreign country namely Pakistan is involved and there are international ramifications. The finance ministry is concerned because of huge financial outlays required to tackle the problem. Other ministries are also concerned to a greater or lesser extent. I used to therefore argue that looking in the multi-ministry nature of the problem and looking also to the international importance of the subject, the J&K matter should be handled in the PMO. This would ensure proper coordination among all the ministries and any step or decision taken will have the authority of the PMO behind it. It should be in charge of a young and dynamic minister of state of even under professional technocrat working as an advisor to the PM but with the status of a minister of state. One argument against this suggestion was that this would give an unnecessary high profile to the J&K problem when we may not want to do so. But the fact is that whether we like it or not, J&K is going to be such high profile problem till it is fully resolved and especially when Pakistan will continue to do its utmost to highlight it on the international plane.

I had also seen that the J&K problem in government was not being handled on the basis of community. No doubt there are sections in the home ministry and also in the external affairs ministry dealing with this matter. But because of governmental working the officers holding these sections or divisions change periodically which affects the continuity of handling. This is apart from the political direction given by the party in power. I had therefore thought that government should encourage the establishment of think-tanks outside the government. I had in mind something like the Rands Cooperation or the Brookings Institute in United States. As Cabinet Secretary therefore I had called a meeting of important ministries to discuss this subject in a general way. The finance ministry was supportive and as a matter of fact, had got established and then continuously helped non-governmental autonomous bodies. Even the defence ministry supported the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, but was prepared to accept the need of some more such institutes. But both the home ministry and the external affairs ministry were not prepared to consider the idea especially in the case of J&K and Pakistan. I still think that we should have established a think-tank to deal with our relationship with Pakistan. This would have not only ensured continuity of handling the subject but it would also have ensured that both bureaucratic and political baggage would not have affected the study of this subject. These think-tanks could have then highlighted continuously the interests and the concerns of the country which they would have put up before the public. This would have ensured that everything is not left to government or to the discretion of politicians. The external affairs ministry at that time did mention about the unit in the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi for carrying out studies about relations with Pakistan. But I was not very happy with this.

I was also not happy the way the intelligence agencies were functioning . I had referred to this in my article "Centeral Intelligence Agencies - Lack of standing coordinating mechanism" written in April 1993 (in my book A Cabinet Secretary Looks Around). At least when I was in government there was no standing coordinating mechanism where the reports from all the intelligence agencies both civil and military would be studied, scrutinised and evaluated. No doubt there was the Joint Intelligence Committee, but it just went into limbo after its first chairman was shifted. The chairmanship of JID was used more to accommodate police officers either not wanted or who could not be found a slot. Our intelligence agencies also suffered from the usual inability of either not sharing their intelligence with other agencies or sharing their sources because of the risk of their disclosure. There was no coordinating mechanism which could tasks these intelligence agencies to undertake certain jobs. I had therefore at that time suggested something like an intelligence coordination committee on the pattern available in England. This would be a committee presided over by the Cabinet Secretary and the chairman of the JIC would be secretary of this committee. As usual the military intelligence was lukewarm to this idea. If only such a committee was set up, I am quite sure there would have been better scrutiny and utilisation of intelligence towards national security. Now that the National Security Council has been set up, hopefully the secretariat of this council would discharge such a function. Its job has been laid down and the NSC should start tackling it urgently. Just to give an example; we have launched satellites and some of them must be orbiting over the J&K area. I am told that such satellites orbit over these areas at least once a day. It is reasonable to assume that the defence ministry must be getting photographs from such satellites for scrutiny and this should have helped in keeping a watch over the LoC. If this has not been done it should be done now immediately. Another point for National Security Council - the security adviser will have to be a full-time person and not somebody, as it happens now, who is also holding another post. The present situation is thoroughly unsatisfactory as the principal secretary to the PM, even otherwise, is very very busy even as head of the PMO.

We are also very poor in projecting our case regarding J&K on the international scene, have always found that we are apologetic if not defensive. We should be bold and confident enough to tell the world that we are a mature working democracy while Pakistan is ruled in a dictatorial fashion by the Punjabi elite consisting of feudal landlords, industrialists and a civilian-military complex. Such a government always needs an issue to divert the public attention away from opposing the dictatorial set-up. There is no better issue to them than India bashing. The issue of Kashmir is not only emotional as it is a Muslim majority area which had decided to remain in India. It is also a sensitive issue to the Punjabi military elite as it has suffered a humiliating defeat in 1965 and 1971. We should be bold enough to tell the world that Pakistan cannot claim to a protector of Muslims as it has lost this claim when it butchered mercilessly almost 18 lakhs East Pakistani Muslims (now Bangladeshi Muslims) till 1970. What the Punjabi elite did to the East Pakistani Muslims is as reprehensible as what Hitler did to the Jewish community. The East Pakistani population was very large as compared to the West Pakistani population, especially the Punjabi population. On the basis of universal suffrage they should have therefore given the Prime Minister. This was not liked by the Punjabi elite and they therefore started butchering the East Pakistani Muslims. Not only this, but they even boasted that they had created a generation of bastards who would serve the Punjabi elite in ruling over East Pakistan. We should therefore make it very clear to the Pakistanis that they had no case at all for being the champion of the Muslims here.

Not only that but they cannot even look after all the Muslims in Pakistan. A predominant Sunni community is bent on subjugating the Shia minority. Other Islamic groups like the Ahmedias are also marked out. We should therefore expose what a hollow claim Pakistan has for being the champion of the Muslims here not only to the world but even to the Pakistani common man. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan and its first Governor General in his address to the Nation had declared that, "in Pakistan there are no Hindus or Muslims, they are all Pakistanis." I am told that these words are erased from his address. The minorities in Pakistanis have now become second class citizens. The number of Hindus now is 1/10th of what it was in 1947. The Punjabi elite has now embraced fundamental Islam to keep their grip on the people of Pakistan. It started with President Zia-Ul-Haq way back in Eighties. Final shape has now been given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Even the Opposition parties in Pakistan have exposed this hypocrisy and are openly alleging that the Punjabi elite are using Islam only to perpetuate their rule in Pakistan. The various states in Pakistan like Sind and Baluchistan are seething with discontent against the domination of the Punjabi elite. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did try to destroy the strange hold of this elite and give social justice to the common man and was therefore overthrown by this elite.

(B. G. Deshmukh is a former bureaucrat of the Government of India)


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