February 22, 2020
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Thank You, George

Thank You, George
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Once upon a time when I used to meet Atal Behari Vajpayee at Race Course Road—now I only see him at Rashtrapati Bhawan banquets—he used to tell me: "Only a bjp prime minister can make peace with Pakistan", and then he would note how it took a hardline Republican (Richard Nixon) to normalise Sino-US relations. The PM during his volatile tenure has made many unsuccessful overt and covert peace attempts, some scuttled by our "ancient enemy" and some by Vajpayee’s close party colleagues. What Atalji had possibly forgotten was one simple but incontrovertible fact: Pakistan for the bjp is not so much a foreign policy issue as a domestic one. And given the PM’s inclination to avoid political risks, and given his ideological fragility in a party where many believe the only thing we should offer Pakistan is live shells from a Bofors gun, his efforts have yielded only failure and charges of betrayal. The elusive Nobel Prize remains elusive as does his tryst with history.

Could Dubya help rewrite Atalji’s favourite script? The prime minister himself is understood to be traumatised by the invasion of Iraq, a trauma he publicly articulated in a statement in Srinagar, which, surprisingly, has been under-reported. He said the invasion should serve as a "warning" to both India and Pakistan. Mr Vajpayee was quick to grasp the huge public anger over Iraq and when he saw that even the rss had denounced Operation Shock and Awe he was able to convince his colleagues that no opportunity should be given to the trigger-happy Bushies to meddle in Indo-Pak affairs.

Happily, a similar recognition prevails in Islamabad. While President Musharraf will court US pressure on Kashmir, he and other sober Pakistanis (yes, there are still a few left!) know that the pernicious doctrine of pre-emptive strike could quite easily target them. Actually, Pakistan is infinitely more vulnerable than India with unprotected nuclear assets providing the perfect excuse for a US hit.

Bush and his neocons deserve our heartfelt gratitude. By their warmongering they have forced one democracy and one partial democracy, locked in a historic conflict, to sue for peace.

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