The world around India has changed.

India the dismemberment of Pakistan and the pain of punishment
Voices Geopolitics Friday, May 05, 2017 - 16:23

Throughout this week, news has been coming in that India has read Pakistan the riot act, that Pakistan has crossed a line and that New Delhi should walk out of the Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) treaty with Pakistan. The week began with news that in return for Islamabad mutilating two Indian soldiers, New Delhi should send ten back and pay Islamabad with the same currency. The social media is on an overdrive swinging between bloodthirsty tweets and candlelight marches, between dialogue and sending out the jets, between stupidity, caution and a plan of action. We have been citing chapter and verse from the United Nations (UN), the Geneva Conventions (which oversee comportment of soldiers and armies during times of war and peace) and rules of engagement – we’ve been around the block with all of the above for a while.

But, something seems to have changed now, or has it? I am hearing about the ‘dismemberment of Pakistan’ and voices from Baluchistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Sind. I have interacted with the Baloch leadership in Geneva, in particular their government in exile. While many of these provinces in Pakistan welcome India’s support, they do not live in delusion that India will solve their problems for the simple reason that they know countries use each other for private gains. The world around India has changed.

Our neighbours think differently and this is a welcome sign. During a televised debate on NewsX on Tuesday, former diplomat S Mukherjee said something that also caught my attention. He alluded to this fact and I will come to that in a minute. 

I have covered the Indo-Pakistan altercations at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva for over 15 years. The UN’s human rights body is also based in Geneva. Once every year, the Line of Control (LOC) shifts to what is aptly (though inadvertently) called the Serpentine Bar – a sinuous and oddly shaped lounge where the real negotiations take place while all the formality plays out in strict meeting rooms. It is in this lounge, year after year, that governments and civil society groups interact. Had things not been so serious, the lounge is a running comedy. In my 1997 best-selling book ‘India is for Sale’, I have a chapter on Save Kashmir in Geneva where I write about how India salvaged an anti-India resolution on Kashmir via the Serpentine Bar. Here are some excerpts.

“…Pakistan’s ISI had unleashed a barrage of papers and photographs showing Indian atrocities in Kashmir and tortured bodies. Indian spies did one better. They produced photographs of headless bodies claiming they were victims of Pakistani brutalities.”

From both sides, the Serpentine Bar was full of raped Kashmiris, beaten Kashmiris, tortured Kashmiris, homeless Kashmiris and American Kashmiris.

“Iranians, Albanians, Moroccans, Libyans and Saudi Arabians lectured to India about the need to respect human rights…The European Union (EU) comprising the original colonisers sent ambassadors to New Delhi and India bent itself backwards to ensure that they were well received. In other words, the India of 900 million people was on its knees in front of not just the Western, Eastern and Southern world, but also Togo.”

The last was a country which held a critical vote in passing or scuttling the resolution. 

I raise this point from 1977 now for the following reason. Kashmir is Pakistan’s one point foreign policy. Unfortunately, India has played into that frame. For diplomats, it has served as a career path, for bleeding hearts in the media and civil society, it has served as a route to fame and pelf packed with stupidity and an alarming failure to see what the reality is. For Pakistan, India is an Asset Under Management (AUM). Read my piece on this aspect here.

So, twenty years later when I hear about the ‘dismemberment of Pakistan’ and the ‘pain of punishment’, I stop and listen. When I hear that not all people from Pakistan are Punjabis – the ones we see very often on India television from the other side – I learn more. I compare notes with other Pakistanis I have met - people who see Pakistan as a terror state independent of Kashmir.

There is a time for peace and there is a time for war. There is an undeclared war against India in Kashmir and it is about time we go beyond loud and ridiculous television debates. There is too much pain and suffering on the ground with no end in sight. As the diplomat said, we have to look at a longer period – 20 years – to find a way forward. Till such time nothing short of punishment will work. Think about it. A small dictatorship is needling the world’s largest democracy in drips and drops and we jump at every provocation. A tin-pot dictatorship has achieved parity with India in the eyes of the world diplomatically. Much as we say India will not allow the Kashmir issue to be internationalised, that has already happened. India needs new thinking on this, but not one that is dictated to it from outside. India needs to prove to Indians first that it means business in Kashmir. I am a firm believer that economic opportunities and jobs are good antidotes for war. It will take time, but in the long run this pain will payoff for India. In the short and long run, the punishment for Pakistan must continue so India can build in peace.

I do not claim to be an expert on strategy and diplomacy but as a journalist who has covered a war and many peace negotiations, and I have my own views on the strengths and limits of both. What I see from India is not reassuring. Platitudes and placation are inadequate responses when we are faced with nothing short of a war from across our borders. All Indian governments have contributed to this terribly dark situation. Maybe there is change in the air. I for one hope we’ll bite the bullet instead of being bled bit by bit. Punishment and pain are co-travellers.

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