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India Shining?

Show-cased as an annual event, the ”India Economic Summit” of the “World Economic Forum” offers a tremendous networking opportunity for both foreign and Indian businesses, providing a rare encapsulated insight into new products and developments for participants. India’s high growth rate is sustained and force-multiplied by foreign direct investment (FDI), a combination of western entrepreneurs, non-resident Indians (NRIs) and dynamic local industrialists and businessmen taking good advantage of the vastness of India and its teeming population. While the talent and expertise exhibited by both the public and private sector are impressive, the major components of the booming economy include “Information Technology” (IT), and “Outsourcing”. The opening of the aviation sector has initiated another surge, new private airlines adding more and more aircraft as passengers turn for long hauls from trains and buses to the air. With public-private sector investment in roads and highways, multiple number of high-rises are being constructed in many cities and towns, force-multiplying the economic boom.

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Playing Nuclear Chicken

India played nuclear chicken with Pakistan and the world blinked. The President’s swift decision to go with the Coalition against terrorism, and thus against the Taliban in Afghanistan, gave the world (and many of our countrymen) a wrong perception that under pressure he was a pushover. Bureaucrats have it right when they caution new entrants from taking decisions expeditiously. You will be called “hasty”, they say, delay the decision-making, be “deliberate”. Pervez Musharraf was right in opposing terrorism emanating from Pakistan’s backyard and he was not going to allow hell to freeze over before taking a decision. The vast middle ground among the intelligentsia and the masses supported him then, and still supports him on this issue. The President gauged the west’s mood after 9/11 very correctly and he confounded friend and foe alike by being decisive for Pakistan’s sake at a moment of world truth. The religious parties took to the streets and even though the country waited with bated breath the fanatical lot failed to excite the masses, who while plainly aggrieved at the abandonment of the Taliban to their fate, knew that the President had done right by the country. A sustained Indian media and diplomatic campaign thereafter has successfully blurred “freedom fighters” from “terrorists”. One can only imagine to what lengths India would have gone to if Pervez Musharraf had delayed even by a few days. Putting it bluntly, we can resist and even counter an Indian offensive, would we have been able to simultaneously resist concentrated US and allied airpower? And to what purpose?

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Media Strategy Failure

If one can orchestrate a barrage of lies to the media long enough, it will eventually be broadcast to the world as the truth. Take for example, the theory that India will do a limited strike in Kashmir as punitive action and hard-pressed Pakistan will be forced to react across the international border in an all-out war. The surmise is that since India has greater numbers in conventional forces and Pakistan has no strategic/tactical depth, Pakistan will eventually be forced into first use of nuclear weapons at the tactical level and such an exchange may well escalate very quickly into all-out nuclear war. This makes out Pakistan to be an irresponsible “rogue” State whose nuclear weapons are a menace to the world at large. This is far from the truth. In 1965 Operation Gibraltar was a brilliant plan but it had one major flaw, the conditions within Occupied Kashmir were not conducive to guerrilla warfare. Today, that situation is totally reversed, a full fledged guerrilla war mostly indigenously nurtured has been a fact of life for a dozen years even though they are badly outnumbered and outgunned by better trained and equipped Indian forces, the Kashmiris are hardened guerillas and can tie up the operations and logistics of Indian forces on the frontline. What will happen if a few thousand well armed totally motivated commandos infiltrate a number of locations across the “Line of Control” (LOC) to bolster their strength? This time motivation is at its height, and the Indians have created the right conditions by their inhuman behaviour, surrounded by a hostile population up in arms anything can happen. Remember what happened to the Indians when the Chinese got behind them in 1962 in NEFA. Who will then be ready to resort to nuclear weapons? This very likely scenario is ignored by the media.

Our media strategy failures started with the Kargil crisis when a brilliantly executed tactical military plan having strategic dimensions became a diplomatic disaster because of lack of strategic media harmony duly orchestrated by the government of the day. Despite the fact that on the ground a terrible toll was taken from the Indians sent to dislodge those occupying the mountain-tops, our credibility took a sustained pounding in the international media and the Indians had a field day. While taking at least 4 to 5 times the number of casualties we had, the Indians went on a media blitz to claim victory on the one hand, while successfully tarring and feathering whatever official line we dished out. The domestic reward for the BJP government was electoral success, enough for them to head a credible coalition.

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The Drums of War

Those of us who will be alive after the war being forced on us by India will lament the sheer helplessness of the lack of cogent reason for India to consign millions of Pakistanis and Indians to their death. Even as war hysteria engulfs India, or at least that part of India where BJP’s Hindu chauvinism is very much manifest, Pakistan remains a sea of calm. With war seemingly imminent people are going about their business unbelieving that death from the skies may rain down on them at any moment. To a great extent this epitomizes the absolute calm within the present Pakistan government, belied even by the headlong fall of the stock market. If there is fury in Pakistan at the Indian obduracy it is displayed in resigned disappointment rather than equivalent belligerent rhetoric. Exhorted to prepare the Pakistani public for war by at least initiating visible civil-defence measures, the President demurred. He was not going to initiate panic, that would be dancing to the Indian tune. While Mr Majid Nizami and a couple of senior media personalities have always maintained a constant principled stand through the years without any fear or favour, some others suddenly found their voices and went over the fail-safe line due to his position and person, mistaking the President’s calm approach as a sign of weakness. Unlike some of his predecessors, khaki-clad and mufti alike, Pervez Musharraf readily accepts objective criticism if it is made without motivation, his patience defines the measure of his persona, calm in the face of danger. Not everyone remains cool under fire.

The briefing by the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Pakistan Army made the hitherto “possible” war into a real-time issue. Hoping that it would be limited to Indian action across the LOC in Kashmir, the military hierarchy are quite prepared for a worst-case scenario, an all-out attack across the international border. Into his 80s and with one foot visibly in the grave, Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee exhorted the Indian Armed Forces, mostly in their 20s and 30s to “fight a decisive war and win victory” (sic against Pakistan). In any conventional war between India and Pakistan there will certainly be many more civilian casualties than military ones but in case of nuclear exchange, and there is no guarantee that any limited war will not escalate into a general all-out war and than into a nuclear one, there will be hundreds and thousand times more civilian casualties than military ones, innocents caught in the crossfire of unnecessary conflict. The number of dead and wounded in a nuclear exchange in densely populated South Asia may exceed in one day that equivalent to the number of casualties in the entire Second World War.

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Lessons from History

The lessons of realpolitik emerging from Afghanistan are extremely scary for countries hard put to defend themselves, both physically against aggression as well as targeted media campaigns that may be less than liberal with the truth. Before the two World Wars, the major powers would decide the fate of nations at their will, which country could or could not exist, and if they should exist, in what form? A de facto government-in-place in Kabul allowed the Punjsheeris to virtually compose the Interim Government heavily weighted in their favour, ostensibly at the expense of the Pakhtuns, in fact at everyone’s expense, fellow Tajiks included, among them their nominal leader former President Burhanuddin Rabbani as well as warlords Dostum and Ismail Khan. That the US, whom some of us look upto as the symbol of fairplay and justice, compromised their high moral standards at the altar of convenience, was disappointing. A hint of silver lining is that Hamid Karzai got his way in moving Punjsheeri troops out of Kabul, Fahim and Qanooni reluctantly signing off on that arrangement with the International Peacekeeping Force.

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Understanding Each Other

At Agra Pakistan and India seemed very close to an agreement, post-Summit statements make it quite clear that both sides were in fact far apart in their respective perceptions about what the agreement amounted to. Pakistan held out that their long-standing stand on Kashmir being a core issue was about to be formally recognized, India felt that its main concern, “cross-border terrorism” was going to be addressed by Pakistan and this would drastically curtail the freedom struggle within Kashmir. Such different interpretations post-Summit would have made any Declaration a non-starter, the various clauses could have been used as enough pretext by extremists on either side to destroy whatever understanding was developing among the leaders and intelligentsia of both the countries, seriously retarding the peace process. Both Musharraf and Vajpayee are very conscious of hard-liners in their constituencies, that is why they avoided eroding each others’ domestic standing by giving these hard-liners due cause. When two people meet to solve a problem, the sensitivity each displays for the other’s problems despite disagreeing with each other goes a long way in creating the right atmosphere for eventual solution. The good chemistry between Musharraf and Vajpayee was the main success of Agra, that it did not result in an “instant Declaration” may be temporarily disappointing, in the cold light of reality one can understand it has created the foundation that will eventually lead to lasting solutions.

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Dilli Hanuz Dur Ust

Within days of a most pleasant invitation for talks by the Indian PM to his Pakistani counterpart, the Indian External Affairs and Defence Minister back-pedalled furiously at a televised Press Conference. Had the hardliners in BJP succeeded in bringing Jaswant Singh into line or was the live charade stage-managed to convey the real message, that India had no intention of bargaining over (Indian-Occupied) Kashmir, and that the Kashmiris themselves had no role in the proposed talks? As an afterthought nail in the coffin of peace, Jaswant Singh added that inviting Pervez Musharraf did not mean that India was recognising the Pakistan’s military regime. So why was the invitation made in the first place, was the Pakistani Chief Executive (CE) only meant to be an “accidental tourist to New Delhi”? “The talks are meant to forget the bitter past between the two countries and begin a new chapter for the future”, said Jaswant Singh, and perhaps to drum it into Pakistan at the highest level to forget Kashmir.

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