Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Don't forget, don't forgive

Don't forget, don't forgive
A Surya Prakash
The Pioneer
December 30, 2008

Of late, Mr Pranab Mukherjee has been adopting a tone and tenor worthy of the Foreign Minister of a great nation like India while dealing with a rogue state like Pakistan, which has made sponsorship of terrorism a key instrument of state policy. But if Mr Mukherjee is to take these threats to their logical conclusion and make our country terrorism-proof, he and the Union Government need to get an unambiguous signal from across the country that India will neither forget nor forgive Mumbai 26/11.

This can happen only if we shake off the tentativeness and confusion that has permeated national discourse in regard to Pakistan, and come face to face with reality. Though Pakistan was created on the premise that Muslims constitute a separate nation, it broke up into two within a quarter century of its birth and most South Asian experts predict a further disintegration of that country. Second, unlike India, which has become a vibrant democracy, Pakistan chose to become an Islamic state and this had a major social and political impact. For example, on the social side, Pakistan has virtually extinguished its Hindu population. The Hindus, who constituted 25 per cent of Pakistan's population at the time of its birth, are now reduced to just 1.64 per cent. On the political front, the absence of democracy has encouraged the Army to often take control and to display belligerence towards India to retain its hold on the Government.

Often, even when there is a civilian Government, the Pakistani Army has resorted to unilateral military action. It made the first attempt to grab Indian territory when it sent in infiltrators into Jammu & Kashmir in October 1947. Instead of following the advice of top class military men like Field Marshal Cariappa and Gen Thimmiah, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru foolishly rushed to the United Nations complaining about Pakistan's aggression. The UN promptly ordered a cease fire and India lost 30,000 square miles of territory to Pakistan.

Indians soon forgot what Pakistan had done. Worse, they even forgave Pakistan for this act of aggression. This suicidal Indian trait tempted Pakistan to do an encore in August 1965. The Indian Army pushed back the infiltrators and captured strategic positions in Haji Pir and Tithwal areas to effectively prevent further incursions. This clash resulted in a war, which concluded after the UN called for a cease fire. As the hostilities ended, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto swore in the Security Council that Pakistan would launch a 'thousand-year war' against India. When the Indian delegation walked out in protest, Bhutto said, "The Indian dogs are going home."

This may seem incredible, but soon after Mr Bhutto showered these abuses on us, we bartered away the key territorial acquisitions at the negotiating table at Tashkent. This encouraged Pakistan to attack India yet again in 1971 when the latter objected to the brutality unleashed by the Pakistani Army in what is now Bangladesh, leading to the influx of 20 million refugees into our country. This led to a full-scale war in which the Pakistani Army was disgraced. India captured 93,000 Prisoners of War and 5,000 square miles of territory.

But all this was returned to Pakistan by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Simla Summit without reclaiming even a part of the 30,000 square miles of territory that we lost in 1947. Everything was given back on a platter to Mr Bhutto, who by now had become Pakistan's Prime Minister. Why? Because we did not want to 'humiliate' this uncouth politician who had classified us as 'dogs'! We would never have suffered the embarrassment of 26/11 if only we were in the habit of reminding ourselves and every successive generation of Indians of Mr Bhutto's abuses and bravado.

Strangely, even those who appeared wise when they sat in the Opposition benches have made terrible compromises on national security. The prize for the best somersault by an Indian politician vis-à-vis Pakistan goes to Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He had opposed the policy of appeasement followed by the Governments of the day after the 1965 and 1971 wars and scoffed at then Foreign Minister Swaran Singh for saying that the Simla Accord was the 'first step' towards durable peace.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha on July 31, 1972, Mr Vajpayee had said: "In the last 25 years, we have always been taking the first step. We took the first step when Nehru met Liaquat Ali Khan, then yet again when Nehru met Ayub Khan. We again took the first step when Shastri met Ayub Khan at Tashkent. And now, again at Simla we are taking the first step. How many times do we keep taking the 'first step' towards durable peace with Pakistan?"

Twenty-seven years later, Mr Vajpayee became the Prime Minister. It was now his turn to forget and forgive. Succumbing to pressure, Mr Vajpayee started speaking the language of Swaran Singh. So he ventured on an ill-advised bus ride to Lahore that culminated in that spurious bear hug with Mr Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan returned the compliment by invading Kargil. We lost hundreds of brave soldiers while reclaiming our territory. Soon thereafter, Mr Vajpayee was again under pressure and he invited Gen Musharraf to Agra for an ill-fated summit. Pakistan gave us a return gift by way of the assault on our Parliament House on December 13, 2001. In a short span of three years, Pakistan betrayed Mr Vajpayee thrice.

Now that the Congress is back in power and is, as usual, under the influence of many resident non-Indians, those of us who wish to secure India for posterity need to remind the Government of the following: If we had not forgotten the loss of 30,000 square miles of territory in October 1947, August 1965 would not have happened; if we had been firm and unyielding in 1965, Pakistan would not have had the courage to wage war on us in 1971; if we had driven in the knife in 1971, when we had 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War and territory, Pakistan would never have had the nerve to intrude into Kargil in 1999; if we had not forgotten Kargil, December 13, 2001 would not have happened; if we had not forgiven Pakistan for the audacious attack on our Parliament House, India would not have suffered the humiliation it did on 26/11.

The terror attacks in Mumbai offers us yet another opportunity to get our act together to protect our unity and territorial integrity. But we cannot achieve this unless we shun the policy of forget and forgive when it comes to Pakistan.

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