Uncle Sam will visit, so please behave
22 January 2000
The Asian Age
US President Bill Clinton should have been declared the President of the millennium. through just the offer of a visit he has both India and Pakistan literally beseeching him to "please come, come soon" even as both extend promises of good behavior. The President, we in the third world have been told, is very keen to come, he has been keen on his visit for about a year now, he has full plans to make it to this visit but he expects both countries to conform to some US laid out principles, expectations, yardsticks (call it what you will). And once the governments of India and Pakistan meet the necessary conditions, well what do you know, the President of the United States of America will actually set foot on subcontinental soil.
India is being good. it is engaged in a dialogue with the US engaged in a dialogue with US interlocutor. It wants to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and is working (or so our Jaswant Singh has assured Strobe Talbott) to evolve a consensus. It is not flashing its nuclear status, the initial enthusiasm substantially tempered by US admonishment. And so President Clinton has no hesitation in announcing his visit for this March. After enough postponement to keep the Vajpayee government on tenterhooks and effectively putting Messrs Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh, for whom this visit appears crucial into the "please, please come soon" mould.
Pakistan is not being so good. General Pervez Musharraf is not willing to set a time frame for a return to democracy. He is holding out on this vital announcement and is refusing to completely subjugate his authority to the presidential diktat. But then he is willing to concede on another front. He is willing to sign President Clinton's pet treaty, and has begun the process of active consultation with his political opponents. This can be sop enough, for if Pakistan signs India cannot hold out. So well have the two countries been linked through US diplomacy over the years. And once Pakistan meets some of the requirements, President Clinton will announce the final dates for his visit to the region which will, of course, bring with it peace, stability and perhaps the faithfuls can then go on to add prosperity.
And in the process, President Clinton has the mighty governments of India and Pakistan dancing around him. Pleading for intervention. India of course, is a big democracy and its government feels compelled to deny any role for a third party in the internal affairs of the country. Pakistan has never even tried to be independent, having accepted US hegemony almost since it was born.
So, in that sense General Musharraf is living up to established tradition by pleading with President Clinton to intervene on Kashmir. It is the single reason for tension between two countries, it is a nuclear flashpoint, it is a worrisome trouble spot... President Clinton has endorsed each and every Pakistani utterance on Kashmir but, as the head of the world's most civilised democracy of course, he does not want to intervene unless asked to by both India and Pakistan. Until then he will guide, monitor, supervise the two countries in their dealings with each other and the world and will ensure that neither steps out of line. As for Kashmir, it s an integral part of the US agenda now, necessary of course as it is the biggest troublespot in the world. And the self-styled world policeman has to take notice.
As for India. It will never ask for third party mediation. Never. But terrorism is a different mater an it is in the interest of the nation if the government of India falls over its feet pleading with USA to "please help us," as if salvation lies in the reply. The Indian Parliament which is there to take unilateral decisions, pass laws, support the executive has been forgotten. Instead Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee appealed to President Clinton to come to India's rescue and declare Pakistan a terrorist state. And the President responded by turning a conveniently deal ear. which has remained deaf since.
Or course, Jaswant Singhji has returned from London with a terrorist pact signed duly with US counterpart Strobe Talbott. Both countries will work jointly to counter terrorism. And will meet at Washington in February to chalk out further details. More jaunts for the officials, more power to their elbow.
For India and Pakistan will not talk to each other. Pakistan always wanted a mediator. India has legitimised the existence of one. Both have nuclear weapons. Both have been told by the US, in the strongest possible language, that they cannot ever hope to be a part of the exclusive nuclear club which is confined only to the chosen few who had entered into an agreement at the onset. And that threats to nuke the other out of existence will not work to ensure membership, but will just ensure more and more international attention and intervention in the region.
Pakistan is stuck on Kashmir. It has not produced a leader who was statesman enough to take it out of this ambit, on to the path of development and progress. Kashmir and the survival of any government have been inextricably linked together by a nation fed and brought up on limited propaganda. Terrorism is justified as jehad, terrorists are called mujahideen and the killing of innocents in Jammu and Kashmir is hailed a successful strikes against the Kafirs. Primitive response to a complex situation, which has now caught the rulers of Pakistan in a trap of their own making.
Kashmir has led them to exercise the nuclear option which has led to economic sanctions which has increased their dependency on terrorism and violence. It will need a man with more domestic support and foresight than General Musharraf, to take Pakistan down from the rollercoaster which is hurtling towards destruction and ruin. Kargils, hijackings, wars, bombs are not indicators of a nation's strength. These are signs of weakness in today's world where power should come not from the barrel of a terrorist's gun but from economic prosperity and real development.
India, on the other hand, does not know how to deal with Pakistan. And if previous governments were confused, the Vajpayee government is walking blindly in the dark. It began by not just extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan, but by rushing forward to clutch the neighbouring country in a tight embrace which fooled nobody but the Prime Minister's men. The back slapping, the "we love you, you love us" diplomacy was too exaggerated to be real. And the unreality was exposed by Kargil.
Then the government went into reverse gear. And moved backwards of fast that the reactions again defied logic and now a situation is created where Big Brother appears to have become indispensable to both countries. From talking too much and kisses on the cheek, the government will not talk at all now. Never. Until Pakistan apologises for the hijacking,swears with a hand on its heart that it will never indulge in terrorism, and gives positive signals that can be recognised as sincere by Delhi.
Pakistan has refused. General Musharraf would rather face a counter coup than talk to India. Messrs Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh have crossed both hands at the back, never to be extended again unless and until Islamabad sees reason. Of course, the RSS will throw them out if they even whisper across the border. The rhetoric has gone from bad to worse. In fact relations have reached a new low between the neighbours who have neither the sagacity nor the will to manage bilateral affairs. And who are arming their arsenals for use against each other.
So who will break the ice? Considered so necessary by the international community for peace in the region. which, in turn, is so very essential to prevent the two poor, irresponsible nations from pressing that no longer elusive button.
Obviously Uncle Sam. Not through the back door now. But right through the front door with red carpets, flowers and ceremonial salutes.