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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Should Dr. Man Mohan Singh Visit Pakistan Now ? Part - I

The recently concluded foreign ministers’ meeting between India and Pakistan at Islamabad saw the Pakistani side demanding yet again a visit by the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh to that country in November coinciding with the Guru Purnima, a holy day for the Sikhs, to which community the Indian Prime Minister belongs. The crescendo has been building up for a while now and was brought up by President Asif Ali Zardari himself when he came over to India in June, 2012 ostensibly to pay obeisance at the Ajmer Sharif dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a holy place for Sufi Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. The sudden and an inexplicable visit of President Zardari to Ajmer Sharif, appears in hindsight, to be for no ostensible reason other than eliciting a reciprocal religious visit by the Indian Prime Minister through subtle pressure.

Though speculations have abounded as to why such an incessant request, even demand, has been made to the Indian Prime Minister when there has been apparently no significant progress in the on-going dialogue between the two nations, ranging from possible political gains to the much beleaguered Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP), to mounting American pressure in view of the looming withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan and therefore a need to forge a regional consensus, one is not certain about the real reason behind this request. The political dimension appears to be a more plausible reason. Recently, Pakistan delayed the signing of the documents for the new 'liberalized visa regime' when the Indian Home Secretary visited Islamabad,  by claiming that only political leaders should sign such an important agreement. Thus, Pakistan was even willing to wait longer for something that it has been vociferously demanding for many years now, just in order to get some political mileage out of this event.

The non-stop demand for the Indian PM's visit to Pakistan also appears, therefore,  to be a political stunt by the ruling PPP which otherwise is hopeless about retaining its rule after the elections which are just around the corner. Coming in the wake of a series of D-Days for the PPP government in the form of pronouncements from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, one can only conclude that the visit of an Indian Prime Minister is desperately being sought to bolster the sagging fortunes of the ruling party. The announcement of an agreement on withdrawal of troops from the Siachen glaciers, for example, could contribute significantly towards a turnaround of fortunes for the PPP. Since June, 2005 when Mr. Man Mohan Singh visited Siachen, he has been determined to work out a deal to withdraw Indian troops from the advantageous and commanding positions that they have enjoyed along the Saltoro Range. This obsession by the Indian Prime Minister to commit a harakiri in Siachen is of course, music to Pakistani ears and they have been massaging him and his advisers to agree to Pakistani promises of good behaviour which is worth much less than anything written on a sandy beach washed by smashing tidal waves. Since that is something that the Pakistani Army also demands, especially after the recent Gyari incident, there is a rare approval of the PPP by the Army at least on this issue. Since Indian Prime Ministers have regularly conceded Pakistani demands in one-on-one meetings, it may be Pakistan's calculation that if Mr. Man Mohan Singh visits Islamabad they may have a chance of striking a deal on Siachen favourable to Pakistan.
Whatever may be the reason or reasons for Pakistan to demand this visit, we need to debate whether such a visit would do any good to India at all. Some Indian analysts have opined that such a visit must be undertaken now because they see no deleterious effect at all while there is a possibility of a progress, even if not a breakthrough, in one or more of the issues such as Sir Creek or Siachen or the Indus Water sharing disputes. At least one of them has cited how the meeting between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan led to the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of  April 8, 1950 on the protection of the rights of religious minorities in both the countries in the wake of continuing violence after a genocidal Partition. Then, there is a reference to the Indus Water Treaty(IWT), signing for which, Pandit Nehru went to Karachi (September, 1960) and met Field Marshal Ayub Khan. The visit of Rajiv Gandhi to Islamabad (December, 1988) is also thrown in as a proof of a meeting that resulted in instituting a mechanism to exchange data about nuclear installations in either countries that would not be attacked in case of a war, thus paving some way for nuclear Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Last, but not the least is the citation of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s bus-trip to Lahore (February, 1999) that realized a long-standing dream of bus travel and border trade between the two divided portions of Kashmir. The point being made by such an analysis is that summit meetings between Indian & Pakistani Prime Ministers can lead to some positives even if not a breakthrough is achieved resolving the ‘enduring hostility'. But, is such a conclusion correct and warranted ?  No, not at all, in my opinion.

Between circa 1972 and 1989 (when Pakistan-sponsored terrorism erupted in all its glory in India eventhough Pakistan has been sponsoring terrorism in J&K since c. 1947 itself), the Indian Prime Minister  and his / her Pakistani counterpart had met eight times in either countries. I have not included the meetings between them in third countries which account for another eight such meetings. In spite of these meetings, cross-border terrorism of the worst kind was inflicted upon India by Pakistan. Since circa 1990, there have been many more such meetings, and though some progress has indeed been made, the reasons for which are the dire economic necessity of Pakistan and the enormous pressure exerted on both countries by the USA, the fundamental differences continue to exist and have not been touched at all. And, Pakistan continues to pummel India with terrorism in all parts of India.

Less than two months back, there were serial bomb blasts in Pune and much fatalities, maiming and damage were averted because of pure luck: rain and a failed electronic circuitry. In July 2011, the most sought after target in India, Mumbai, was rocked once again by three serial bomb blasts that killed over two dozen people and maimed 150. In December 2010, the Varanasi temple was bombed and a toddler was killed. In February 2010, the Best bakery in Pune was bombed, again killing a dozen and injuring over 50. Yet another attack was exactly a year ago almost to this day at the Delhi High Court which killed a dozen people and injured over 70. How quickly we have forgotten all these ! May be, we no longer classify such attacks where the fatalities are less than a hundred, as terror attacks. These are cases which happened. We will never know how many attempts were nipped by the intelligence agencies. So, Pakistan believes that it needs to continue the terrorism pressure on India even while it tricks her into summit talks to get more and more concessions from the very big neighbour. The demand has always been that India must be more generous, something to which the Indian Wagah Kandle Kissers (WKKs) have regularly subscribed too.
Above anything else, we have to recognize one grand difference (among many others) between the way Pakistani and Indian leaders approach India-Pakistan relationship and the way to go about resolving disputes. Pakistan has always been governed by a powerful central leader (Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Z.A.Bhutto or military dictators from the front seat or Chiefs of Army Staff from the backseat). I have not included either Ms. Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif or Yousuf Raza Gilani in the list because while they were powerful (at least the first two), they were circumscribed in their handling of relationship with India by the powerful Army. These powerful central leaders (Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan or Z.A. Bhutto) and military dictators or the Army Chiefs (COASs) were answerable to none and handled the India-situation as they liked. Their goal was tactical and always to bring India down to her knees at any opportunity and they worked towards that goal, mindless of consequences. If the Pakistani Army sensed any small change in the government's policy from the conflict-mode to a peace-mode, it immediately stepped in to nip such changes in the bud. The characterization of Ms. Benazir Bhutto as a 'security risk' during her first term in office as the Prime Minister is an example. That she atoned for this lapse in her second term by vigorously supporting jihad against India is another matter though.

If a servile relationship with Western powers were to be forged, Pakistan was willing to do that without much of a debate. If jihadi Islamism were to be nurtured, they were happy to do so without worrying about the backlash. If a capitalist Western friend were to be substituted by a communist country at the height of Cold War even while being part and parcel of the Western military alliances against spread of communism, because that suited Pakistan at that particular moment, they did so without batting an eyelid. If thousands of square kilometres of land were to be ceded to China just so that friendship could be developed with that country to target India later, they did so without much of an internal debate. All these were explained away casually as decisions taken in the 'best national interests' to Pakistanis. Generally, the people of Pakistan including opposition political parties never questioned such short-term deals because these were acceptable tactics against  the mortal kafir enemy, India. They were never discussed in the Parliament firstly because there was no worthwhile Parliament most of the time (as military dictators have ruled for almost half the life of Pakistan) and even when there was one, everybody understood that such important foreign policy decisions would have been taken by the Pakistani Army and it was futile and even downright dangerous to discuss such 'sensitive' decisions. Even a few feeble attempts to bring the Pakistani Army and its notorious intelligence wing, the ISI, have been failures to this day.
Indian leaders cannot behave like that and have not behaved like that. They are answerable to the collective responsibility of the Cabinet, to the elected representatives in the Parliament and to the people at large. They have to and they do respect international conventions and agreements. A country encompassing roughly one-sixth of humanity within itself cannot take decisions without bothering about the consequences. An Indian leader cannot simply visit Islamabad and take a decision on the spur of the moment. The Indian Cabinet would authorize the Prime Minister for certain decisions before embarking on a summit meeting and he or she has to keep himself/herself strictly to that script. There have been a few exceptions like when Dr. Man Mohan Singh went out of his way to please and placate a fellow Punjabi, Yousuf Raza Gilani, by almost implicating India in Pakistan's Balochistan mess at the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting in mid-July 2009. This caused such a massive uproar within the country and within his own Congress party, that a huge damage control exercise had to be resorted to contain the fallout. But, such incidents are rare and almost unheard of even when a steam-rolling and all-powerful Nehru was in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Let us also see if the Nehru-Liaquat Pact or the IWT or even the Nuclear CBM between Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto came about just because the two Prime Ministers met or they met just to sign a deal that had been worked out after extensive preparatory work between the secretaries and ministers of both the countries.
Only Nehru-Liaquat Pact of April 1950 could qualify as something that was signed in a very quick time, without elaborate discussions. However, the exigencies of the grave situation were such that a quick action had to be taken and the Pact was a result of that. Why such a haste, one may ask ? I would only quote from the resignation letter tendered by a federal Pakistani minister and one of the staunchest Muslim League supporters, Jogendra Nath Mandal, in the wake of the 1950 genocide of the Hindus in East Pakistan. Mandal, a Bengali, was a freedom fighter and a Harijan (nowadays referred to as Dalits) leader, but was brain-washed by the Muslim League and enticed to support its causes and stay in Pakistan. Pakistan desperately wanted the services of these depressed people as no Muslim was expected to do the menial jobs in their cities and they feared that if Mandal left, the people would also follow him. In her wonderful book, 'Empires of the Indus', Ms. Alice Albinia recalls a similar incident with another Harijan leaders in Karachi in c. 1948. Mandal did not realize that the Muslim league had already accorded 'third-class citizenship' to the Harijans. Therefore, he received the shock of his lifetime one day in February, 1949. When Mandal raised the fear of the minorities during a discussion in the Constituent Assembly over the introduction of the Objectives Resolution, he was told by Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, the sponsor of the Resolution, that as a Hindu he should not have been in the first place in the cabinet of a Muslim nation and that he should be paying jizya. Mandal simply shut up. Now, let me quote a portion of Mandal's resignation letter:
It must be noted that stories of a few incidents of communal disturbance that took place in West Bengal as a sort of repercussion of the incidents at Kalshira were published in exaggerated form in he East Bengal press. In the second week of February 1950 when the Budget Session of the East Bengal Assembly commenced, the Congress Members sought permission to move two adjournment motions to discuss the situation created at Kalshira and Nachole. But the motions were disallowed. The Congress members walked out of the Assembly in protest. This action of the Hindu members of the Assembly annoyed and enraged not only the Ministers but also the Muslim leaders and officials of the Province. This was perhaps one of the principal reasons for Dacca (now Dhaka) and East Bengal riots in February 1950.
 It is significant that on February 10, 1950 at about 10 o'clock in the morning a woman was painted with red to show that her breast was cut off in Calcutta riot, and was taken round the East Bengal Secretariat at Dacca. Immediately the Government servants of the Secretariat stuck work and came out in procession raising slogans of revenge against the Hindus. The procession began to swell as it passed over a distance of more than a mile. It ended in a meeting at Victoria Park at about 12 o'clock in the noon where violent speeches against the Hindus were delivered by several speakers, including officials. The fun of the whole show was that while the employees of the Secretariat went out of procession, the Chief Secretary of the East Bengal Government was holding a conference with his West Bengal counterpart in the same building to find out ways and means to stop communal disturbances in the two Bengals. 
The riot started at about 1 p.m. simultaneously all over the city. Arson, looting of Hindu shops and houses and killing of Hindus, wherever they were found, commenced in full swing in all parts of the city. I got evidence even from the Muslims that arson and looting were committed even in the presence of high police officials. Jewellery shops belonging to the Hindus were looted in the presence of police officers. They not only did not attempt to stop loot, but also helped the looters with advice and direction. Unfortunately for me, I reached Dacca at 5 o'clock in the afternoon on the same day, in February10, 1950. To my utter dismay, I had occasion to see and know things from close quarters. What I saw and learnt from firsthand information was simply staggering and heart-rending.
During my nine days' stay at Dacca, I visited most of the riot-affected areas of the city and suburbs. I visited Mirpur also under P.S. Tejgaon. The news of the killing of hundreds of innocent Hindus in trains, on railway lines between Dacca and Narayanganj, and Dacca and Chittagong gave me the rudest shock. On the second day of Dacca riot, I met the Chief Minister of East Bengal and requested him to issue immediate instructions to the District authorities to take all precautionary measures to prevent spreading of the riot in district towns and rural areas. On the 20th February 1950, I reached Barisal town and was astounded to know of the happenings in Barisal. In the District town, a number of Hindu houses were burnt and a large number of Hindus killed. I visited almost all riot-affected areas in the District. I was simply puzzled to find the havoc wrought by the Muslim rioters even at places like Kasipur, Madhabpasha and Lakutia which were within a radius of six miles from the District town and were connected with motorable roads. At the Madhabpasha Zamindar's house, about 200 people were killed and 40 injured. A place, called Muladi, witnessed a dreadful hell.  At Muladi Bandar alone, the number killed would total more than three hundred, as was reported to me by the local Muslims including some officers. I visited Muladi village also, where I found skeletons of dead bodies at some places. I found dogs and vultures eating corpses on he river-side. I got the information there that after the whole-scale killing of all adult males, all the young girls were distributed among the ringleaders of the miscreants. At a place called Kaibartakhali under P.S. Rajapur, 63 persons were killed. Hindu houses within a stone's throw distance from the said thana office were looted, burnt and inmates killed. All Hindu shops of Babuganj Bazar were looted and then burnt and a large number of Hindus were killed. From detailed information received, the conservative estimate of casualties was placed at 2,500 killed in the District of Barisal alone. Total casualties of Dacca and East Bengal riot were estimated to be in the neighbourhood of 10,000 killed. The lamentation of women and children who had lost their all including near and dear ones melted my heart. I only asked myself "What was coming to Pakistan in the name of Islam."
It was after this terrible assault on the Hindus of East Pakistan, aided by the government, Muslim League leaders, and the state machinery, that Hindus began to migrate from East Pakistan on a large scale (first such large-scale migration after the traumatic Partition). Radio Pakistan was used to propagate a lie that tens of thousands of Muslims had been killed in West Bengal. This was very reminiscent of how Jinnah's own newspaper, Dawn, was used to put pressure on the Hindus (except for the Harijan) to leave the Sind in c. 1948. The East Pakistan riots spread like a wildfire from Dacca to other districts such as Chittagong, Khulna and Barisal. The 1950 massacres were preceded by several attacks on Hindus throughout East Pakistan, though not on the same large scale, for several months. The February 1950 massacre of the Hindus in East Pakistan was a re-run of the massacre of the Hindus in Calcutta (now, Kolkatta) during the Direct Action Day of August 16, 1946 when the Chief Minister of Bengal, Huseyn Shahid Suhrawardy himself, incited the Muslim rioters and murderers with highly inflammatory and objectionable speech and continued to protect the criminals while blaming the victims for the incidents. After the East Pakistan massacres of c. 1950, there were fears that there could be retaliatory attacks on Muslims within India. The situation became explosive.

Nehru visited Calcutta on 6th and 16th March, 1950 to assess first hand the plight of the thousands of Hindu refugees from East Pakistan, His appeal to Liaquat Ali Khan elicited no response. Then, serious anti-Muslim riots broke out in Howrah by end of March. It was only then that Liaquat Ali Khan decided to travel to New Delhi.

Did the Nehru-Liaquat Pact serve the purpose for it to be taken as an example of what can be achieved when Prime Ministers meet ? The very first paragraph of that pact brings out its farcical nature. It says "The Prime Minister of Pakistan has pointed out that similar provision {for protection of minorities} exists in the Objectives Resolution adopted by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan". It speaks volumes for the brazenness of Pakistan to claim fraudulently that the Objectives Resolution protected the non-Muslim minorities and it speaks even more volumes for the gullibility of India to accept such a duplicitous claim and allow it to be even incorporated in a pact that was supposed to help protect the minorities. What a pathetic bunch of leaders have we got in India.

Let us see what the 'Objectives Resolution' entails. Under a growing intolerant Deobandi influence, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan helped the passage of the Objectives Resolution (known as 'Qarardad-e-Maqasid) in the Pakistani Constituent Assembly on March 12, 1949 within six months of the death of Quaid-e-Azam, Jinnah. All the ten non-Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly opposed it but the bill was eventually passed 21 to 10.  All the Muslim members voted for it except for the lone Communist member Mian Iftikharuddin who absented himself. It made clear the contours of the up-coming Constitution. It said, among other things:

Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty  alone and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust;

Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed;

It was this infamous Objectives Resolution that Nehru allowed Liaquat Ali Khan to include in the Pact as though it was a fount of law for the protection of non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan. He should have pointed out to Liaquat Ali Khan that all non-Muslim members (and also one Muslim member) of the Constituent Assembly opposed the formulation and a reference to that controversial resolution in the Pact would send the very opposite signal. He did not do that, one of the many blunders of Jawaharlal Nehru. The signing of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact led to serious rift within the Congress and two prominent ministers, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Neogi, both from West Bengal, resigned from the cabinet citing the pact as an appeasement of Pakistan. There was a very serious division between the Prime Minister and his Home Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel. When the Pact did not serve its purpose, Nehru is reported to have offered his resignation to President Rajendra Prasad. 

In a research study on life after Partition, Anusua Basu Raychaudhry has the following to say about the failure of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact 
It is worth mentioning that, the Nehru-Liaquat Pact, signed in April 1950, failed to provide the way for the return of the refugees to their homeland. Later on, when the passport system was introduced for travel from Pakistan to India on 15 October 1952, more people started to arrive. It was a now or never kind of situation, which scared many people during this phase. 
The Pact equated a state which was constitutionally, wilfully and systematically  discriminating against minorities and driving them out in thousands, with a declared secular state from which minorities did not flee due to persecution. One of the provisions of the Pact was that minority members must hold political or other offices and must be taken in the armed and police forces. The first Sikh was admitted in the Pakistani Army in c. 2005, a full 58 years after the creation of Pakistan and 55 years after the successful Nehru-Liaquat Pact was signed. There is as yet no Hindu in any branch of the armed forces in that country. The first Hindu foreign service officer, Gyan Chand, was appointed 62 years after Independence in c. 2009. Even today, it is difficult for Hindus to get their NADRA ID card, or passport or marriage registration. So much for the Nehru-Liaquat Pact.

To claim the Nehru-Liaquat Pact as a success that came about because of a meeting between the Prime Ministers of both the countries and therefore worth emulating now, is falsehood on two counts. One, the Pact itself was a failure even then and two the context of the situations is entirely different too. Over the years, the continued exodus of minorities from Pakistan to India never stopped. The latest surge in the exodus of Hindus from Pakistan is a continued reminder of the abject failure of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact. An analysis of the failure of the pact can only show two reasons; one, the unabashed militant Islamism in Pakistan, supported by the officials, judiciary and the society at large,  that wants the minorities to either convert or flee; two, the utter insincerity and duplicity of the Government of Pakistan in dealing with this issue.

To cite such a failed pact as a reference template for a new meeting between Indian and Pakistani prime ministers yet again, either shows a naivety of enormous proportions or a bankruptcy of thoughts or a combination of both.

(To be Continued ...)

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