July 25, 2010

India’s independence was accompanied by the creation of Pakistan.

Partition had traumatic consequences: the killing of lakhs of innocent men, women and children, and the uprooting of crores.

Since independence, therefore, a vital touchstone for judging Government of India’s handling of external affairs has been its Pakistan Policy.

And presently, New Delhi’s Pakistan Policy is really in a shambles.

Starting with the Prime Minister’s blunder at Sharm-el-Sheikh when he announced delinking the issue of Indo-Pak dialogue from the issue of Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism, to the External Affairs Minister’s recent performance in Pakistan, never before has India’s Pakistan policy been so completely alienated from public opinion as it is today. Even within the Government, Ministers have serious reservations about the policy.

I have personally known Home Secretary G.K. Pillai as a very responsible and competent official and so when at the joint press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan’s External Affairs Minister Qureshi castigated Pillai and bracketed him with terrorist Hafeez Saeed, and I saw our foreign minister quietly swallowing the insult, I was surprised.

My surprise verily became a sense of outrage when a couple of days later, our own minister added injury to the Pakistani insult by publicly admonishing Pillai not for any fault of his but for the signal service he had rendered the country by exposing the ISI‘s role in the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai.

Shri Vajpayee became Prime Minister in 1998 and ruled the country for six years. Today, Dr. Manmohan Singh has also been in office for six years from 2004 to 2010.

NDA’s conduct of Pakistan policy was a conspicuous contrast.

This BJP- led government began its tenure with an evident disadvantage. It was perceived by Pakistan as a hostile government.

But it was this supposedly anti-Pak Government which earned encomiums from the whole world when in a move whose sincerity no one could doubt, the Prime Minister undertook a bus journey to Lahore and had a very warm interaction with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

What followed from the Pakistani side were two events that astounded everyone.

The first was Kargil, an operation executed by the Pak army without the Prime Minister’s knowledge; and the second, an army coup which installed Gen. Musharraf as President.

Nawaz Sharif was not just ousted from power, he was deported from the country.

Only a government confident of itself could have responded to all this in the manner in which Vajpayee did.

He first had the Army use its full might to quell the Kargil operation, which was the General’s own adventure. And he followed it up by another brave move : an invitation to the General for talks at Agra.

The objective was to explore if Pakistan could be persuaded to abandon the terrorist path it had adopted after being worsted in a series of military encounters.

The General came to Agra, talked, and went back empty-handed.

The General drew blank because of his brazen stand that Pakistan was not doing anything in India, and that there was indeed no such thing as terrorism in India; what was happening was a freedom struggle by the people of Kashmir and nothing else!

Agra had demonstrated to Islamabad as nothing else could have that India’s stand on cross -border terrorism would remain uncompromising.

It was this firm stand that made the General ultimately discard his Agra attitude and at Islamabad in January 2004 sign a joint statement with Vajpayee that “he will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner ”.

One wishes both Dr.Manmohan Singh as well as S.M Krishna realise that firmness of purpose is one of the most necessary sinews of character, and one of the best instruments of success. As of today, the prime purpose of India’s Pak Policy must be to force this neighbour of ours to abandon terrorism.

L.K. Advani
New Delhi

July 25, 2010

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