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Expired Medicine?

 

Editorial. Cecil Victor. VI VIII. XIV

 

RETURNING TO LAHORE

 

 


Cecil Victor-fnbworld By Cecil Victor



Nawaz
Sharif-Narendra Modi-fnbworld 

Hafiz Sayeed-fnbworld


Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided at their meeting in New Delhi soon after the swearing-in ceremony that they would return to the Lahore Declaration of 21 February 1999 as the basis for peace and friendship between the two nations. The Lahore Declaration came about when India and Pakistan were suffering the hangover of the competitive nuclear tests in May, 1998 and that is what explained the shortlived nature of that agreement.

 

Described as “Bus Diplomacy” Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee arrived in Lahore with the cream of Indian achievers and votaries of Indo-Pak rapprochement but the military in Pakistan, boosted by the euphoria of the successful nuclear tests, was waiting for an appropriate moment to unfurl a foreign policy posture based on an overt and aggressive  “nuclear flashpoint” theory. Nawaz Sharif was very aware of the opposition from the Pakistan military establishment because the top brass had boycotted the reception to the Indian Prime Minister. It was during his regime that the “nuclear flashpoint” theory became the bedrock of Pakistani foreign policy vis-à-vis India.


 Bus Diplomacy-fnbworldIt was because of the ascendancy of this line of thought in both the political and military circles in Pakistan that Kargil happened so soon after the series of nuclear tests. Bluntly stated it meant that India would be nuked if it dared to respond too strongly to any provocation by Pakistan; that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was on hair-trigger alert and a flashpoint could occur at very short notice.

 

When Narendra Modi talks about carrying forward the legacy of Atal Behari Vajpayee, he too will have to contend with a Nawaz Sharif who is a prisoner of a military (he had to get GHQ permission for attending Modi’s swearing-in ceremony) that is nuclear inebriated. The “flashpoint’ now is based on the  new Nasr short-range missiles. During and in the runup to the elections Indian security reactions were tested by a series of ceasefire violations not just along the Line of Control but also along the international border and several terrorist attacks inside Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did score a point by raising the issue of terrorism and legal retribution for prime terror handlers Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Lashkar-e-Toiba boss Hafiz Saeed who roams about belching fire and brimstone against India in Nawaz Sharif’s hometown, Lahore. He should not be surprised if the Pakistani courts let both of them off for supposed lack of evidence in their involvement in the terrorist attack on Mumbai on 26 November 2008. After all Lakhvi’s voiceprint has not been submitted as evidence and Hafiz Saeed is too cosy with the military to be sentenced to even a day’s imprisonment. For the time being Nawaz Sharif has taken shelter behind the well-known subcontinental phenomenon of delayed justice and he is turning a blind eye to the summary trial and execution of Ajmal Qasab the one sole surviving member of that murderous group that was being encouraged by these two suspects.

 

Terrorism apart, the other issues on which progress can be made by an act of willpower are trade and people-to-people relations. On trade, Nawaz Sharif has a dubious record. He is scared stiff over giving India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment and has been looking for synonyms to camouflage improved trade contacts between the two countries. His absolute inertia during the disruption of trade contacts between the two portions of Jammu and Kashmir underscored his failure to convince the military and the civilian jihadis (Hafiz Saeed) who just do not want any commercial contact with India let alone giving India access to Afghanistan and beyond over Pakistani territory.

 

Going back to the Lahore Declaration could well mean ‘the medicine as before’. It could be another kind of Kargil or it could be a repeat of Mumbai 26/11 or even something similar to the attack on Parliament all of which Atal Behari Vajpayee had to contend with after the failure of his “Bus Diplomacy”. To underscore a point terrorist attacks were concentrated in and around Mumbai in 2003, the penultimate year of the first BJP-led NDA government.

 

Narendra Modi should know that no amount of goodwill on India’s part (and Atal Behari Vajpayee’s was a very ‘dil se’ gesture) will move a Pakistani military establishment that places great worth on the flash and bang of its nuclear arsenal. Vajpayee was lucky he had Bill Clinton in the White House. Narendra Modi has an Obama willing to trade hardcore jihadis for an Army deserter.

 

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