Coming to terms with Kargil

By Nazar Hayat
24 August 1999

Launching lashkars from our own territory to capture peaks inside enemy territory, and then playing innocent was never a story that could be easily sold. Mankind has now reached a level of consciousness where everything is no more fair in love and war. You not only have to have a justifiable cause but should seem to be speaking the truth as well.

For Pakistan, the biggest news was that India had been capturing similar peaks in the past, but our governments had been playing dumb. By keeping the public in the dark, they sought the short-term goal of not losing public support. Had we been raising a hue and cry on those occasions, India would now be sharing that infamous title of `intruders' with us. The world is also fed up with conflicts based on ethnicity of religion - the two emotional factor that are amenable to no logic and can get easily out of hand.

Words such as Mujahideen, Taliban or religious zealots now enjoy a connotation bordering on terrorism. Such militias also have a nasty habit of turning back on you as Frankensteins the moment their job is done. Entire Christian Europe is trying to get a handful of the Kosovar Muslims back into their territory only to avoid another ethnic/religious war.

It is time Kashmiri militants realized that the PLO and IRA are about to achieve their objectives only because they openly renounced violence. Militancy is disliked strategy - be it of a government, a group or of an individual. Only a broad-based peaceful struggle can hope to get the desirable results for the Kashmiris.

We are also bubbling with credit fro the "internationalization of the Kashmir issue." Besides the "personal interest" of Mr. Clinton, we have only been cast in a bad light. Topping that, India has the audacity to now demand that Pakistan should withdraw its support of the Mujahideen inside Kashmir. So far, the world kept quiet on our moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri cause. It might just be getting double-minded. As for the intelligence agencies, they are paid to do the intelligence work, and not fight wars for the country or make the next foreign policy move. Our diplomatic isolation should not have come as a surprise. With so many marketable causes available, we chose the wrong slogans. Why talk about Muslims fighting a war for God when we have human rights, waters that flow from Kashmir or territorial conflict out of unjust past treaties.

Much of the tragedy is our leaders', who are ordinary folks like us, with a knowledge base created out of the wisdom of Urdu newspapers of the Readers' Digest. Not surprisingly, their thought process churns is a small time-and-space dimension. These are not the statesmen who view the events in the back-drop of the dynamic flow of history, the evolution of cultures of the development of the collective consciousness of mankind nearing the next millennium.

Some argue that the super powers have double standards. They can afford to do so. You build up a stable nation of strong institutions with a sound economic base and the world would pay heed to you. The resolution of the Kashmir issue would automatically get closer. living under day-to-day policies of the past fifty years has gotten us nowhere. So far, we have loved rhetoric and slogan-mongering, which, fed to our new generation, have distorted our history. And Kashmir has always come handy when our politicians ran out of ideas.

The logic is simple. The nuclear option is unthinkable because it would destroy everything, including Kashmir. Working on a safe figure on one Pakistani soldier being equal to one Indian soldier, winning a conventional war with India is out of the question. That leaves negotiations as sane alternative. Negotiations succeed only when both parties compromise. Compromise requires big leaders with big hearts. Neither country has them at present.

The only remaining option is to let Kashmir stay quiet for a few years, to get our house in order, and then opt for time and place of our choosing when everything else would work in our favour. Even more important, Pakistan has to come to terms with itself, feel confidant and does not need an enemy perception of India to prop up its separate identity.

The new generation has no such complexes. It treats India just as another big country, the only difference being that it can relate far easily to the Indians than to our other close fiends like the Arabs or the Chinese. India is not far wrong when it says, `let us first talk on issues where we can cooperate'. Pakistan alive but by using a more refined language - the way China does in respect of Taiwan and others.

Military exercise, refusing a visa, canceling a delegation's visit, China does not launch `Ghusbatias' into Taiwan. It knows that Taiwan will fall into its lap as a ripe time; and has no intention of capturing Taiwan as a war trophy. Another ten years or fifty years make no difference. West Germany did it even better. It simply decided to forget about East Germany. And then West Germany rose to a level of such progress and significance in themselves broke the Berlin wall to join the West Germans.

Our little Kargil began with too many convenient assumptions, false hopes and with many loose ends united. It was a gamble that the leaders took, hoping to bask in its glory if it turned out right. It did not. The military commanders are not wholly to blame. They are trained to give only the military advice. In our case, sadly at times, even the military men consider themselves experts in areas for which they are neither trained nor qualified.

,p>The bare bones plan is wrapped in fancy phraseology such as "low-intensity conflict" and "bleeding the enemy to an economic defeat". In actual fact, our "brilliant" tactical move "to capture the heights overlooking the supply route to the Siachen to stifle the enemy forces at Siachen" is a concept that is as old as the warfare itself.

There were many lapses on the Indian side as well. The Indian media went on a rampage. Every evening they conquered the same hill. Before we begin showering kudos on our media for its sobriety, let us not forget that we were never at war. It was only some indigenous militants, wearing the latest snow suits, dark goggles and equipped with solar-powered batteries who had climbed those peaks. The Indian politicians also came out as small men fighting for their elections. The world went with them because they were lucky to be seen as being victims of an aggression and subsequently did not make any wrong move.

So what are the remains of the day? The kindest word that outsiders have for us is `naughty'. Notwithstanding our differences, why can't we - the eternal enemies in SAARC - live in a working relationship the way the once sworn enemies - France, Britain, Germany and Italy of the EC - live. We have far more commonalities in us than those nations of the EC.

Let the Lahoris have the pleasure of going to Amritsar and speak in Punjabi. Let us export dramas, pop and denim to India; and import music choreography and books. Let us holiday in Simla, Goa and canoe in Lake Dal in Kashmir.

Let the Indians find for themselves why we look so well fed and so better dressed. The new generation, on both sides, thanks to the media and modern technologies, already live in the global village of internet chat, news groups box office movies and Microsoft; and has discarded old insulting terminologies such as `Bania' or `Musla'.

Our leaders are behind times. Let us get on the road of a friendly coexistence in the SAARC. Given a chance, a wait and the right policies, and Kashmir will fall into our lap as a ripe apple - the way Taiwan will fall into China's lap.

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