By Arun Kumar Singh
IN THE last few days the unthinkable has stared India's political leadership in the face. India has almost achieved in a few days what Pakistan could not achieve in Kashmir in 61 years. Despite our enormous economic growth and rising aspirations, we appear to have shot ourselves in the foot, twice, and that too simultaneously. The reasons are well-known in both cases: lack of strategic vision, lack of political will, aided and abetted by a deadly cocktail of ignorance, Brahmin cal arrogance and political opportunism.
Let us take the nuclear issue first. It is, indeed, not a coincidence that Richard Boucher arrived in India a day before the NSG meet in Vienna proved "inconclusive" on August 22, 2008, and the NSG is scheduled to meet again on September 4-5, 2008. Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon has rushed off to the United States to work out a new draft, taking into account "suggestions" of some NSG members - signing NPT, CTBT, cancellation of the deal in case India tests, no enrichment and reprocessing facilities. While we may take comfort in the fact that major countries like US, Russia, France and Britain supported us, and China did not oppose us, was the opposition from "smaller" nations not foreseen or, at worst, was it a trap to get India to agree to these "suggestions". What is disturbing here, apart from the palpable loss of face, is Mr Boucher's statement as reported by the media: "…some changes will be made, and India will have to agree to these…"
There is no doubt that the nuclear deal, as envisaged originally in its "India-specific" form, would give India some long-term benefits for power generation and access to new technology despite the known implications of the Hyde Act. Fortunately, external affairs minister Pranab Mukerjee has made a public statement that India cannot sign any agreement which is "prescriptive". India must stand firm and walk out of the NSG should any attempt be made in the new draft to make the country "NPT or CTBT compliant", and if reprocessing or enrichment facilities are not catered for. We must not give any undertaking on signing the FMCT and ensure that our indigenous fast-breeder plants are kept out of the proposed nuclear deal. It's high time we learnt to behave like a modern, confident nation and stand with dignity.
Kashmir has, over the past 10 weeks, turned into a nightmare. Politicians hoping to garner votes in the forthcoming October elections have, for their short-term gains, destroyed the peace which had prevailed over the last two years. On August 22, 43-year-old Col. Jojan Joseph Thomas of 45 Rashtriya Rifles laid down his life along with three other Indian jawans in a fierce encounter with infiltrating jihadis, while the situation in Jammu and Kashmir continued to spiral out of control with the Hurriyat, PDP and NC openly demanding "azadi", and the Pakistani flag being hoisted during demonstrations. Three terrorists cut the fence at LoC under fire cover of the Pakistan Army and killed a few innocent people in Jammu before holding young children and women hostage. The three terrorists were later killed after a day-long siege.
The media too, in some cases, has behaved irresponsibly, with a couple of editorials and at least one TV anchor practically waving the "white flag". The past sacrifices, including the freedom struggle and four wars for Kashmir, have been forgotten. Few remember that in 1947 the Partition was on communal lines and that India, despite a Hindu majority (83 per cent of the population) chose to remain secular and has made great progress as compared to its neighbour. The consequences of a second partition, apart from putting the clock back, may have unforeseen horrendous humanitarian consequences which may put us back into the Stone Age.
History and sentiments aside, few have the strategic vision to see that along with Kashmir will go Ladakh (logistically unsustainable without Kashmir) and rivers which are crucial to combat water shortage. Also, the jihadis will move closer to the hinterland and stoke similar fires in other communally-sensitive areas. Strategically and emotionally, Kashmir is crucial to a secular and strong India, and the nation must do what is necessary to ensure that our borders don't change again.
We need to look at how other nations have dealt with secessionists and terror. Russia used brute, overwhelming force in Chechnya because it realised that after the breakup of the USSR, Chechnya would be the catalyst for further disintegration. How have Spain and Britain dealt with Basque separatists and Ireland - did they give them "azadi"? What about China's application of brute force in Tibet? Look at how Sri Lanka is fighting and using not only its Army, but also the Air Force and Navy to fight terrorists and separatists. Can we learn from their experiences before it's too late?
The time has come to stop the policy of appeasement and deal with Kashmir firmly, but fairly, because the future of a secular, democratic modern India is at stake. No leniency should be shown to anyone talking about "azadi" or dual currency or waving the Pakistani flag. Any talk of aiding and abetting secession, a la Arundhati Roy, must be dealt with under the existing law - the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967. India must formally declare that it is in a state of war with terrorism within our borders. The time has come to deal firmly with Pakistan and fight fire with fire, since political and diplomatic niceties seem to further embolden the Pakistan Army and the ISI.
It is my opinion that at some time in the future Indo-Pak relations will improve - given India's economic surge, common sense will dictate that our neighbours have much to gain from good economic relations and peace with India. But before we reach this milestone, we need to ensure that Kashmir remains an integral part of India.
Finally, if resurgent modern India aspires to take a seat at the high tables of the UN Security Council and the G-8, it needs to remember that the present incumbents are great nations who are on these international forums because they have a proven track record of taking timely, hard decisions on matters which affect their national interests - these nations, like the rest of the world, have no respect for the weak or those who seek to sidestep decision-making by appeasement.
Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam
Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi