Only 960 years left

Only 960 years left


The Bhuttos, and Bhutto-led governments, seem lost in a rut that has become brittle and boring through over-use. Their only measure of Pakistani patriotism is the level of hysteria that they can simulate against India. A psychiatrist would be tempted to trace this habit to the fate of Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, prime minister of Junagadh before partition, whose plan to merge his state into Pakistan went badly awry. Bhutto went, of course, minus his state, closely followed by the Nawab of Junagadh who left his family behind but escaped with his dogs. Such speculation, however, is not quite within the realm of a newspaper column.

It is unarguable, though, that the Bhuttos, having proved pathetically impotent whenever they waged war against India, have tried to reassure themselves with the flatulent hype of a war of words. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the theorist as well as leader of the 1965 war for Kashmir, a claim that he would doubtless have stressed with far greater glee if Pakistan had succeeded. Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam failed miserably, an assertion proved by the simple fact that not an inch of territory changed hands along the Cease Fire Line in Jammu and Kashmir.

In 1971, Bhutto tried to camouflage humiliation in Dhaka by promising a thousand years of war against India. Well, we still have 960 years left. No hurry, then, for a peace treaty. Implicit in the 1000-year threat is the recognition that Pakistan cannot win on the battlefield, since if you win war ceases. Futility is, apparently, not sufficient reason for Pakistan to stop fighting.

Zulfiqar’s daughter Benazir Bhutto came to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 1989, abused Narasimha Rao and promised Kashmir ‘azadi’, her decibel levels rising to a shriek by the time she had finished the last ‘azadi’ in her speech. Two decades have passed since then, Benazir has been assassinated in her own country, and not an inch of territory has changed hands in Kashmir. Her husband Asif Zardari’s government will sooner or later leave office, either after a peaceful election, or a more violent ejection by the cantonment, and not an inch of territory will have changed despite his plastic smile or his Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s immature incandescence. War, formal or clandestine, will achieve nothing.

It is possible that the Bhuttos and their servitors do not mean what they say, that this is their default position in the confrontation with their permanent foes in the armed forces. It is time, however, they learnt that terrorism has made the world too dangerous for bluster. The international consensus against this plague will not tolerate the tepid ‘root cause’ argument, either, as justification.

The difference
Qureshi forgot that the world was listening when he said that terrorist-infiltrators in the Kashmir were India’s problem. He would not last a minute in his job if he told America that al-Qaeda was Washington’s problem and the Pentagon should deal with them once they had infiltrated into America. When the FBI wants a suspect, Pakistan picks up six in six hours. When India asks for Hafiz Saeed, Qureshi talks about India’s Home Secretary G K Pillai — not in the quiet of a conference hall, but at a press conference.

It is no one’s case that S M Krishna, a suave and seasoned politician, should stoop to Qureshi’s levels of street rhetoric. Perhaps Krishna’s courtesy prevented him from describing this as nonsense, but silence is not always the best answer to stupidity.

India is America’s friend. Pakistan is America’s ally. Islamabad has the transcript of David Headley’s interrogation in which he exposed the fact that ISI gave at least Rs 25 lakh to fund the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008. Any criminal enquiry will take the trail to the most powerful force in Pakistan. Qureshi had to try and deflect the terrorist issue. He did not have the intellectual sophistication and diplomatic skills for such a responsibility.

Pakistan does not have a foreign policy. It has relationships. Three, with America, China and Saudi Arabia, are as steady as an alliance between a benefactor and client. One, with India, is inimical; which is why army controls India policy. America, Saudi Arabia and China factor in Pakistan, but do not hold India hostage to Islamabad’s interests. However, Pakistan uses India as the bogey through which it can try to massage benefits from friends and sympathy from neutral countries or blocs. Confrontation suits it better than conciliation, domestically and internationally. Many Pakistanis are convinced about the wisdom of peace with India, but they are not strong enough to challenge the cantonment.

Manmohan Singh’s mandate to Krishna was to reduce the ‘trust deficit’. One wonders how much trust is left after Qureshi has equated Pillai with a terrorist and dismissed Krishna as unprepared and incompetent. Delhi should not respond with hostility. But a little indifference could go a long way.

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