February 20, 2020
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A Pyrrhic Victory

A bilateral solution seems distant. The US, wielding a stick over both nations, is the real winner.

A Pyrrhic Victory
It is a great diplomatic victory. For the first time there has been such clear-cut endorsement of the world on Kashmir,' says a senior government official deeply involved in the diplomatic exercise, referring to the international isolation of Pakistan on Kargil. 'The world has held Pakistan responsible for this violence and the threat to peace. It is coming to an important shift, now that the real problem is Pakistan and not Kashmir. The nature of the Pakistani state, the terror machine there is the source of the problem,' he adds.

'I think we have won from every point of view. We have managed to throw the Pakistanis out, and we have overwhelming international support for our position,' says senior bjp leader K.R. Malkani.

Former prime minister Chandra Shekhar rubbishes this. He does not buy this 'facile' argument. 'India has constantly and consistently opposed any third party intervention: now that has happened. So how can we call it a diplomatic or any other kind of victory?' he asks. 'In fact, it is no one's victory. It is a defeat for the entire subcontinent, because it is developing into an area of further strife and conflict. The Americans now have a stick.'

So the new line that the country is going to hear, now that the 'war' is over, is: India has pulled off a major diplomatic and military victory. But what about the hundreds of young soldiers killed or maimed because of the massive systemic, military and intelligence blunders? And the diplomatic costs that the country might have to pay for the world, and specifically, US support? Remember what Henry Kissinger said: 'You ask for American endorsement, you get an American plan'. American ious will soon start coming in. The Americans are already saying they are going to be facilitators and not mediators. Indians can quibble over the meanings of these words, but the intent behind them should be clear. But for the American intervention, it would have taken a long time to get rid of the Pakistanis, especially from Kaksar and Mushkoh, even Indian military officers admit. Therefore, it is a questionable victory. Besides, Kashmir, some analysts argue forcefully, has been internationalised like never before.

The government disagrees. Says the official: 'We would have been blamed if we hadn't gone out to explain to the world what Islamabad had done. Then you chaps in the press would have been the first to condemn the government and accuse it of not being active enough. We had to, basically, explain our position to the world. It does not mean we went to internationalise Kashmir.' He says if that is the kind of argument that is going to be used, then Kashmir was internationalised in 1948-49, it was internationalised in 1990 when the US House of Representatives held hearings on Kashmir and it was once again internationalised in 1990 when Robert Gates travelled between New Delhi and Islamabad to cool things down. Or when Pakistan took it aggressively to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva in the early '90s.

'In 1990, after the Gates mission, once the matter was sorted out, we told him (Gates) to go. The matter ended there. Where was the internationalisation? The crucial thing is that the national consensus on Pakistan must hold,' he states. He argues that Islamabad came round to a diplomatic solution simply because of the beating it was getting on the ground in Kargil. 'These guys accepted the inevitable. They would have gone, even if it was feet first. Though, admittedly, it would have taken longer if the Americans had done nothing,' says the official.

Malkani too chips in: 'As far as internationalisation is concerned, it is a yes-and-no situation. The fact that we took it to the UN made it an international issue, but we have always stood by our position that it is an issue that is best resolved bilaterally.'

But all this world support bothers Bharat Karnad of the Centre for Policy Research. 'If it is a diplomatic victory, it is transient, ephemeral. I am worried the US and the West may try to insinuate themselves into Kashmir as third party mediators. This is not because they really want to settle Kashmir, but with Sharif brandishing Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint, it gives the US a stick to beat the two nations with into signing the ctbt and the fmct. So it's a pyrrhic victory, which puts on us pressure which will be hard to resist.'

'It is an oversimplification of international relations to view any initiative by the US in terms of victory or defeat,' argues former prime minister I.K. Gujral. 'American policy-makers have their own objectives in the subcontinent. Stephen Cohen said sometime ago that the 'passage to India's de-nuclearisation passes through Kashmir'. This can be considered in all seriousness as one of the US policy objectives in the region. This could be correlated with the series of talks that Strobe Talbott had with Jaswant Singh for inducing India to sign the ctbt,' says Gujral.

Gujral feels India has to be focused on two points. 'Firstly, the future of the nuclear programme in this country, and secondly, the paradigms of India-Pakistan relations in the context of Kashmir. It is not unlikely that pressure on both these accounts may be visible soon,' says Gujral.

The pressures are bound to come, and soon. 'Let us see what the US expects from us. They are free to expect anything. They are aware of the strength of our feelings on third party mediation,' says the official. Privately, of course, there are other officials who are not so sanguine about the diplomatic outcome and fear that there are long-term costs in the Kargil imbroglio for India.

The US is already pressing for immediate resumption of talks between Pakistan and India. A senior official in the Clinton Administration confirmed that both countries had been advised to resume dialogue under the Lahore process once the fighting had ended. But he added that no pressure was being put on them. Asked why Washington would want to do this with a caretaker government in Delhi, the official responded: 'The ultimate decision is India's but there are probably useful things that could be discussed that don't require decisions by a fully-established government,' he said. 'There is no particular harm in talking to each other, is there?' Indian ambassador to the US, Naresh Chandra, denies the US is pressing for talks between India and Pakistan. He explains: 'There is no impatience on the US side... India must be assured Pakistan will dismantle its terrorist network and not violate the LoC again. The US is fully informed and appreciative of India's position,' says Chandra.

But India is in no mood for the talks now. Officials say no talks are possible until after the elections. Firstly because the fallout of Kargil will take time to be assessed and secondly because it's a caretaker government and 'Sartaj Aziz had himself said that talks were on hold till the Indian elections', reminds an Indian official. Foreign ministry officials feel that after the elections, the new government will have to review the whole process of talks. As it is, India has put three conditions on Pakistan to resume talks. One of which, to cease supporting militants in Kashmir, makes it virtually impossible for talks to resume any time soon.

Kargil has inflicted enormous damage to Indo-Pak ties. The erosion of trust and the hardening of national mood that it has brought about will stymie an early resumption of dialogue with Islamabad. Or at least a meaningful dialogue.

Karnad holds that the government can take certain measures to withstand world pressure. 'But it needs to have conviction in its beliefs, and the guts, gumption and resolution to see that it sticks to them. In a way, Kargil is a minor issue, with a foregone conclusion. India has set three conditions for talks... conditions that no government in Pakistan can meet without political suicide. In the last 50 years, all the positive incentives that we have offered to Pakistan, like enhanced trade and better cultural ties have not worked. We can talk all we want, but what use is it if it doesn't translate into enduring peace?' He proposes that India should take a proactive role and offer Islamabad 'negative incentives' like pushing the LoC towards Pakistan, thereby putting pressure on it.

'Bilateral talks will be difficult,' concurs Chandra Shekhar. 'After all the hype over the Lahore Declaration, with what face will we go for the talks now? I have always believed that the atom bomb has made us more vulnerable... sown further mutual discord. And I think Kargil has proved me right. Pakistan too is in a sadder situation. Nawaz Sharif is facing a very tough situation domestically. So where is the victory for either country?'

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