Red, White and Black

8 January, 2006, 10:54 pm
Filed under: India, Kashmir, Pakistan

Pakistan and India have been indulging in some rhetorical banter (at least, I hope so) over the last the ten days. The two countries seem to have developed some liking for the phrase “internal affairs”.

First, the Indian foreign ministry decided to express its concern over the spiralling violence in Baluchistan. This brought a strong rebuke from Pakistan which cautioned India against equating Baluchistan with Kashmir. The two countries had a brief exchange of words and thankfully left it at that. But I am still wondering – why did India choose this time to chide Pakistan over Baluchistan. Why was it still unable to maintain a stony silence over the issue? In any case, does India even have the right to comment on Baluchistan? I don’t quite understand how even reputed Indian foreign affairs experts fall for this mis-comparison:

The spokeswoman in Islamabad, Tasneem Aslam, said she was “intrigued? by the Indian provocation “at this time when the two countries are engaged in the peace process to address all issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute?.But it is precisely the Pakistani attitude on J&K that might have set off the Indian comments. In recent weeks, Pakistan appears to have been carried away by its own rhetoric on J&K. Its leaders have been demanding “demilitarisation? and “self-governance?.

Moreover, the justification that is provided is this:

In reviving its focus on Baluchistan, India was also partly compensating for its guilt in letting them down in the past. At precisely the moment that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched an extended military repression in the early 1970s, India looked the other way. Believing that it had won perpetual peace with Pakistan under the 1972 Shimla Agreement, India muted its voice. In raising it voice again Tuesday, India was signaling that it had not lost all empathy with the Baluch.

Hmm – I am actually a little lost with this approach. Both with the timing of the statements and the apparent logic behind it. Is India to play the role of the guardian of democracy in Pakistan as well? In any case, that’s a totally different debate and not what I had intended to blog about at this point. The timing, though… I would not have surprised if these statements had come during a period of hostility- but now the dynamics are different and one would expect the players to behave more prudently. Are these remarks possibly meant to divert attention? For some time now, Pakistan has been floating the ideas of self-rule for the Kashmiri people and yet has received no constructive response from India? It is possible that something might be going through the back channels – but there is obvious hesitancy at the formal level – there is almost a cold aloof sort of an attitude to be found there.

So that was last week, yesterday our own dear President dropped a ‘bombshell’:

“Let me give another bombshell, I propose, one way of moving forward. Take three towns, Srinagar, Kupwara and Baramulla. Let all the military move out of the cities to the outskirts. It will ensure there is no militancy inside.“Pakistan will be with the Indian government and Kashmiris to ensure that there will total peace and tranquillity in these three places. Look at the comfort level it brings. It does not need any constitutional amendments or anything like that. It just needs an administrative order,? he said.

He drew yet another scathing response from India:

India’s external affairs ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, said on Saturday: “Any demilitarisation or redeployment of security forces within the territory of India is a sovereign decision of the government of India and cannot be dictated by any foreign government.”

Again I am left wondering: why such a rebuke? Opponents of Musharraf are already too keen to point out that Pakistan has yielded more than India since the thaw in relations and such comments will only fuel their claims. I don’t quite agree with their assessment but still I would have expected a more circumspect response from India. All in all, I am left wondering over the prevalent Indian mindset viz-a-viz the peace process.


1 Comment so far
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well I think its fair and upto some extent called for, Pakistan seems so concerned with Kashmir and the Indian army treating the kashmiris so badly; I guess India is really(wink) concerned with Balochistan and the army of Pakistan using ruthless ways to supress the balochi voice.

Comment by eldon

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