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Monday, June 20, 2016

India vs. Pakistan: Kashmir, Terrorism, N-Bomb

Guest post by 

Jatin Desai

Husain Haqqani in his new book India vs. Pakistan: Kashmir, Terrorism, N-Bomb has rightly said,” I realized the pitfalls of Pakistan’s policy on jihadi terrorism years before terrorists attacks inside Pakistan woke up my countrymen to its dangers. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Pakistanis publicly in October 2011: ‘You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.’ That was almost two decades after another US Secretary of State, James A Baker III, warned Pakistan about the prospect of being designated a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Haqqani was Pakistan’s ambassador in US. He has written couple of books such as Pakistan: Between Mosque & Military, Magnificent Delusions. He was involved in negotiations with US President George H W Bush’s administration in 1991-92 as he was special assistant to then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Jihadi terrorism of 1991-92 was quite different than of todays.

Pakistan’s jihadi terrorism had not yet come out in the open. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) were not big players. Let has 200 acre sprawling compound in Murdike, near Lahore and JeM has a big Madrasa in Bahawalpur. Baker wrote a letter to Sharif in May 1992 saying that Pakistan should take ‘steps to make certain that Kashmiri and Sikh groups and individuals who have committed acts of terrorism do not receive support from Pakistani officials.’ Sharif responded saying his government is firmly opposed to terrorism in all its forms.

The March 1987 Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) assembly elections is a major turning point. The controversial elections saw defeat of Muslim United Front (MUF). They could win only eight of seventy seats. Mohammad Yusuf Shah of MUF was declared winner earlier and later in a few minutes he was declared defeated and arrested. MUF accused that the polls were rigged. Shah later became Syed Salahuddin and heading a militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen from Pakistan. The 1987 elections provided an opportunity to Pakistan to influence people of Kashmir valley.

The pertinent question author raises is why cannot India and Pakistan be friends? Mistrust of each other is a major reason.  He is concerned about “shrinking space” for both the countries to become friends. The absence of trust is an issue and it needs to be tackled. To revive trust between two governments and common people various steps have been taken but it is like one step forward and two steps back. Specific issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, people-to-people contact, WullarBarage etc. were identified and a composite dialogue was initiated.

It moved in a positive direction but not towards resolution as some blasts, attacks took place in Indian soil. The pattern of attacks clearly indicates that there are forces in both the countries who do not want to peace to prevail in the region. The policy needs to be uninterrupted and uninterruptible. In the absence of such policy, enemies of peace will always take advantage. The author says under the military’s influence, Pakistani nationalism has evolved as anti-Indianism and Indian nationalism describes Pakistani identity as inherently communal and reiterates need to dispute the two-nation theory.

The current pause in the dialogue and mistrust between two countries is surprising. Mahatma Gandhi always wanted good ties between two countries. In fact, he wanted to visit Pakistan but could not do so as Nathuram Godse and his gang assassinated him on 30th January 1948. He lived for only few months in Independent India. Similarly, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan, had a special affection for Bombay. He wished India and Pakistan to have an association similar to US and Canada. Even he did not survive long after Pakistan became an independent nation. He passed away on 11th September 1948.

Both the great leaders were for enduring peace between two countries. Jinnah gave importance to the secularism in Pakistan. His speech of 11th August 1947 before the constitution assembly Indicates it truly.  He said,” You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state”.

The book is written objectively. It is not easy for any Indian or Pakistani to write objectively on the issue of India and Pakistan. Objectivity on the issue is seen with suspicious in his or her country. It is essential that more and more Indian and Pakistani writers writer objectively. Such kind of objectivity can help in removing misconception about other country and it can help in building trust.  The book is a must read. It is published by Juggernaut Book and priced 299.

Jatin Desai is the General Secretary of the India chapter of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD).

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