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The News International, Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Enough is enough

Shireen M Mazari

The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad

It is becoming truly absurd now. As India has built up its aggressive stance, and conducted a virtual ethnic cleansing of the Muslims in Gujarat, the international community has either deliberately, or otherwise, chosen to ignore the systematic upping of the ante by India. In fact, during a period of heightened tensions along the Pakistan-India border, as a result of India's decision to amass its troops along this border, the Americans chose to conduct joint military exercises with the Indians near Agra - thereby, sending destabilising signals to Pakistan, and positive signals to India of an acceptance of their belligerency.

Thus, having indulged India's brinkmanship, the US and its allies have turned on Pakistan - their favourite whipping boy in the Pakistan-India equation - as the very real possibility of war dawns on them belatedly.

So Pakistan is being asked to "turn off the terrorist tap" (no such demands from India and Israel, of course!) and its scheduled missile tests are being condemned! In addition, the British have started a deliberate effort to destabilise Pakistan internally in terms of investment and so on, by going for an evacuation of all its diplomatic personnel, barring the essential staff. This has, in turn, set off a domino effect, with other Anglo-Saxon and European allies following suit. In all fairness, at least the Americans have issued an advisory to their citizens for both India and Pakistan. Strange why no Western State has chosen to evacuate their citizens from the highly violent Israel - what with suicide bombings and a virtual state of war pervading that country!

In any event, the absurdity of it all is heightened by the declared intent of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to visit Pakistan (and India, of course). Having conducted a well-planned policy of undermining Pakistan and accepting Indian violations of all manner of human rights and international norms (be it in Occupied Kashmir or Gujarat), it is a little absurd to host him in Islamabad. Of course, we will do it, but there is little to be gained by it. Mr Straw and the British have absolutely nothing to offer -- at least to Pakistan since they cannot even play the role of honest broker -- beyond echoing US desires.

Pakistan has played a most accommodating role with the US-led coalition against terrorism since 9/11, but finally it is in danger of being pushed beyond tolerance level. In this context, the missile tests and the assertive remarks regarding our security and defence, coming from the President (at the Seerat Conference) and the army leadership were very much the need of the hour. Pakistan is fulfilling its commitments to the international community as well to the domestic agenda regarding terrorism but the pace has to be in keeping with its national compulsions and security needs; and, Mr Bush should first examine how far he has kept US commitments to Pakistan (he may find the record dismal), before he continues to repeat, ad nauseum, that Pakistan "must fulfil its commitments."

There is a reality that the international community must make India accept - and that is the reality of the indigenous struggle in Occupied Kashmir. Despite the Indian military being deployed in Occupied Kashmir for over a decade, and despite the massive abuse of human rights by these forces, the Kashmiri struggle has not been stamped out. No struggle can sustain itself for so long without an indigenous base.

As for Pakistan putting Kashmir on the backburner, Pakistan has done so many times before from the time of dictator Zia onwards - and Ms Bhutto even tried to obliterate harmless reminders of Kashmir by having the signpost of Kashmir House removed - but this brought neither dÈtente and peace to South Asia, nor did it force the Kashmiris to accept Indian occupation. All that happened was that India occupied Siachin and destroyed the 1972 LoC, which both Pakistan and India had accepted through the Simla Agreement.

As for the issue of Kashmiris being fed up of Pakistan and wanting independence, no one has ascertained this from the Kashmiris through a referendum/plebiscite. Whatever such an exercise would demonstrate, what is already clear is that the Kashmiris do not want to remain under Indian occupation!

In addition, the international community may not like it, but until they renounce existing treaties and the UN Charter and resolutions, they have to come to terms with the reality that three types of struggles for self-determination have been given international legitimacy repeatedly. Of course, as EU Commissioner Chris Patten demonstrated at the ISSI last week, the Europeans may well desire to accept only selective UN resolutions, but that is not how international behaviour can be governed. All treaties have to be respected just as all UN resolutions are norm-creators in their field. One cannot pick and choose which resolutions should be acceptable, for example, on terrorism - unless one is able to get the UN to rescind all other related resolutions.

The real problem today is that since 9/11, the US has let loose a certain type of political anarchy in the world by bringing in a subjective and dangerous morality into international relations through the good-evil paradigm. Anyone who goes along with Mr Bush is "good" and those who do not want to be part of the US global agenda are "evil". Also, with little proof, Mr Bush continues to declare one state after another as a supporter of terrorists, or/and as a developer of weapons of mass destruction (which the US and its allies have in plenty). From Cuba to North Korea, no one whom the US distrusts is safe! And the US has the military power to attack anyone it chooses - with the rest of the world being fairly helpless in military terms.

As for international norms of behaviour, do they really count anymore? No matter, for example, that states like Iran, Iraq and Libya are all parties to the NPT and other international treaties relating to weapons of mass destruction. No matter that Cuba has barely seen the sort of international activism it undertook in the seventies - which only helped to liberate many territories in Africa from the twin evils of colonialism and apartheid.

It is unfortunate that the only military superpower has taken to indulging in jingoism, because this will undermine the credibility of existing international treaties. After all, if states, who have given their commitment in terms of arms control through international treaties, are still to be distrusted, then what use are those treaties and their acquisition to them? But then, the present US Administration itself does not lay great store by international treaties - as reflected in the dismissal of the International Criminal Court agreement, the Kyoto Protocol and the already US-Senate-rejected CTBT.

In the prevailing scenario, while Pakistan needs to fulfil its international commitments, it needs to realise that in its relationship with India, the US and its allies will not be neutral players. The US has a growing strategic relationship with India and it is prepared to allow India the same indulgence it allows Israel in terms of state terrorism and belligerency. The British have always been clear in their bias towards India - both at the official and unofficial levels. As for the Europeans, they still have to evolve their own definitive foreign policy identity. So while Pakistan has to engage with these powers, it needs to look to its own interests from within and from beyond the Western alliance.

As for avoiding a military confrontation with India, Pakistan has been trying to do that since December 13, 2001, but India seems to have misread peaceful intent for a complete political surrender. That is why it has continued to up the ante, and, in this venture it has been given either overt or tacit or misperceived support by the US and its allies. Pakistan cannot satisfy India's irrational demands and this has to be made clear to the international community. After all, the example of indulging irrational leaders is before the US and Europe in the form of Hitler and Munich. We in Pakistan do tend to forget the lessons of history - to our cost - but why have the British and Americans suddenly become so ready to do the same. If Mr Straw must come, then at least let us remind him of his own history and the far-reaching fallout of Mr Chamberlain's Munich visit. Perhaps that will stop a new Munich happening - this time in New Delhi!

 

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