Free India and Pakistan from the divisive roles of the agencies, read what the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi says.
By Raj Mohan Gandhi
– Daily DAWN, July 22, 2008
MANY in India have been troubled over the charge publicly levelled by a senior official that Pakistan’s agencies planned the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, and over suggestions that Indian agencies should consider retaliating in like fashion against locations in Pakistan where hits against Indian targets are allegedly planned.
If New Delhi had found evidence of the ISI’s role in the destructive act in Kabul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee should have confronted their Pakistani counterparts with it.
If the evidence was confirmed, the Indian premier should have solemnly presented it to the Pakistani and Indian peoples, and to the world.
Given the power and secrecy of the subcontinent’s intelligence agencies, anything, it is true, can occur. Yet if extremist pro-Taliban groups in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal areas have on numberless occasions targeted Pakistani leaders and its security forces for supporting the US-led war on terror, the Indian embassy in Kabul would also be a natural target for them.
Apart from the fact that Indian backing for the war against terror has been unambiguous and well known, India’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan’s infrastructure also invites the Taliban’s hostility.
Therefore assertions in New Delhi (or Kabul) that a Pakistani agency rather than one of Afghanistan’s Taliban-related extremist groups attacked the embassy have to be backed by solid evidence.
And if the ISI or sections of it are indeed in cahoots with the Taliban, it is the people of Pakistan who should worry the most and devise steps necessary to break the unholy alliance. In the struggle against the threats of extremism and terrorism, the people of Pakistan are the Indian people’s natural partners, and a key constituency for Indian leaders perturbed by the threats.In fact the Kabul incident should trigger a much-needed partnership between the people of Pakistan and the people of India.
Pakistanis should demand from Islamabad the truth about the charge that an intelligence agency was involved, and Indians should likewise ask New Delhi how its agencies quickly reached the conclusion that not pro-Taliban extremists but the ISI was responsible.People on both sides of the India-Pakistan border (and on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border) have the right to know the facts about the embassy bombing, for their security is at stake. And if security agencies are engaged in dirty work or in disinformation, then the peoples of Pakistan and India must jointly take up the daunting yet inescapable task of putting the agencies in their place.To take our countries back from the agencies may well be the need of the hour.
Ministers are our servants, and the agencies our servants’ mazdoors. Of course servants too are always entitled to respect, and to appreciation when they do their job well. I for one refuse to endorse the assessment of some of India’s Pakistan-watchers that elected leaders will prove worse than the military in dealing with extremism.
The late Bhutto’s powerfully articulated rejection of extremism is a strong legacy that is shared, as far as I can see, across the spectrum of mainline Pakistani politics, by PML and ANP leaders as by the PPP.
However, for figuring out effective ways of addressing grievances and defeating extremism and terrorism these politicians may need to consult more closely with one another across party, provincial and ethnic divides, and also with military and security experts.Perhaps intellectuals on both sides of the Pak-India border should prepare an updated manifesto for the subcontinent.
Some items on such a manifesto are obvious: mutual respect, including unreserved respect for the other nation’s independence; an equally unequivocal rejection of violence, whether direct or indirect, open or concealed, for solving internal, bilateral or international disputes; a clear rejection of the clash-of-civilisations theory; a solution for Kashmir acceptable to Kashmiris and to India and Pakistan; and a commitment to minority rights in both countries.
Also critical to such a manifesto, yet not so obvious in our dazzlingly globalised world, is a commitment to search for subcontinental and regional solutions instead of looking to global powers or a superpower for interventions.
The US and China are formidable countries, and both India and Pakistan have tried to build relationships with them. Given the history of India-Pakistan mistrust, such relationships have seemed attractive.Yet geography is stronger than history.
Oceans and mountains remain large impediments even in the 21st century. For years India and Pakistan have tried to involve distant powers in their dealings with each other, with poor results. It is time to put the subcontinent first. Whether we like it or not, geography mandates coexistence. We can decide to enjoy what cannot be helped and seek to profit from it.This does not mean that Pakistan should give up on its China links, or that India should turn its back on Afghanistan or on India-US relations.
What it does mean is that India-Afghanistan or India-US links should not grow at Pakistan’s expense, or Pakistan-China links at India’s cost. It also means that our peoples should be vigilant against inviting external conflicts to the soil of the subcontinent.We should acknowledge, in both India and Pakistan, not only the divisive roles of the agencies but also the hegemonic character of our societies.
The arrogance of the high-born, the high-placed and the man with the stick is known to both countries. While Pakistan may not formally accept caste hierarchies the way India continues to do (despite progressive laws and the emerging political power of the so-called lower or ‘untouchable’ castes), Pakistani society seems to tolerate armed elites and private jails.In India and Pakistan alike, muscle-power or gun-power is celebrated in posters and movies. In real-life interactions between the citizen and the policeman or the government functionary, the citizen usually comes off second best in both countries.
Correcting this equation, and honouring the listening policeman or politician rather than the macho one, has to be part of our subcontinental manifesto.
If despite disasters and misgovernance our economies have grown, the credit should above all go to the subcontinent’s hard-working and enterprising people. Our countries are on the move because of what our ‘common’ people grow, create, repair or remit, and the millions of vehicles they skilfully drive on hazardous roads.Should we be betting on the subcontinent’s civil society, on the sanity and energy of our peoples?
Though not permanent, hates and fears can after all continue for long, especially when politicians feed those fears and hates instead of working on education and healthcare. Still it may be a good idea to bet on our peoples and on their willingness to become partners. Better to bet thus and lose than concede that mutual destruction is the subcontinent’s destiny.