DAWN - OpEd; April 01, 2002

Published April 1, 2002

India’s coercive diplomacy

By Maqbool Ahmad Bhatty


INDIA’S persistence in coercive diplomacy, by maintaining the concentration of its armed forces on Pakistan’s border is beginning to look incongruous to many thinking Indians. Our neighbours have a gift for putting on a mantle of moral superiority even as they violate ethical and political norms in the exercise of power.

While they enact more draconian laws, such as POTO (Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance), to enable the state apparatus to violate the residual human rights of the ordinary people with impunity, they apportion blame for the revolt of the Kashmiris to cross-border incursions.

Mr Vajpayee, who represents the moderate image of the BJP government, has again affirmed India’s desire to develop friendly relations with Pakistan, provided Islamabad gives up resort to cross-border terrorism. In the same statement, he declares that India will never allow Pakistan to take Kashmir. This amounts to a declaration that India will never allow the people of Kashmir to exercise the right of self-determination which is recognized in the UN resolutions, because that is all Pakistan seeks.

The September 11 events that made terrorism the central concern for the international community, were seen as presenting a golden opportunity by India to suppress the freedom movement in Kashmir, which New Delhi thought it had managed to link to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. India stepped up its repression, using the kind of brutal tactics that the Sharon government in Israel has been using against the Palestinians. However, the policy of legitimizing brutal tactics by putting the terrorist label on the Kashmiri freedom struggle is one that has been tried many times, without success. The UN has always accepted the distinction between terrorism and struggles for liberation.

New Delhi continues to believe that it can delude the world into accepting its version, that the people of Kashmir are quite happy to be kept under Indian occupation by a force of 700,000 armed men, and that all the trouble is created by the terrorists sent by Pakistan across the Line of Control. The contradictory impact of the pursuit of paradoxical policies is beginning to worry informed Indian analysts, on the one hand and to confuse foreign observers on the other.

The crisis over Ayodhya brought out the paradox, which is inherent in Prime Minister Vajpayee’s own thought processes, in a stark manner. He is heading the coalition of 23 parties in the NDA, as the leader of the BJP, a party whose roots are in the Sangh Parivar, and its concept of Hindutva. It is significant that the crisis was precipitated by the militant stand adopted by the hardliners in the party after the September 11 events, which were seen as having weakened the world standing of the Muslim community. The stepping up repression in Kashmir was one facet of the new line, and greater assertiveness by the Hindutva forces was the other.

The suspect incident of the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, which India never allowed to be properly investigated, was used to justify the concentration of Indian forces along Pakistan’s borders. President Musharraf not only condemned the incident, but also took strong measures against religious extremists in Pakistan. His address to the nation of January 12 was hailed not only by the world community but even grudgingly conceded to be path-breaking by the BJP leadership. In this, he banned five jihadist groups, arresting their leaders, and committed the country to a policy of opposing terrorism in all its manifestations, and of building a progressive Islamic polity based on moderation, and democracy. He again extended the hand of friendship to India, urging the resumption of a dialogue to resolve all disputes, including those over Kashmir, peacefully.

India has insisted on two conditions before agreeing to the resumption of the dialogue. One is that 20 terro

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