Friday, 30 May 2008

Who won-Musharaf or Vajpayee?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 19 January 2003

Very recently General Musharaf boasted that he has ‘defeated the enemy without going to war’. Before taking his decision to partially withdraw his forces from the Pakistani borders, Mr Vajpayee also claimed that he has ‘won’ the war without fighting a ‘war’, and that he has achieved his aims of the war.

After the war of 1965, similar claim was made by military ruler of that time, General Ayub Khan,that he had ‘won’ the war; and Pakistani nation and Kashmiri, especially on the Pakistani side of the divide, were led to believe that Pakistan had won that war.

A journalist asked Indian Prime Minister of the time, Indira Gandhi that Ayub Khan is claiming of winning the war; and wanted to know her views on this. She smiled and said, you decide who has won. Pakistan started this war in order to get Jammu and Kashmir, area under the control of India. We did not start the war to get the areas which are under the control of Pakistan. In order to see who has won the war you got to see who controls the areas which Pakistan wanted to get? If Pakistan has taken Jammu and Kashmir then Ayub Khan has won, but if those areas are still under our control then of course India has won.

So victory and defeat has to be judged by the war aims; in any case the concept of war has changed over the time. War doesn’t have to be a full-scale war where all available forces march against each other, and endeavour to kill and destroy everything. War is going on between India and Pakistan in Siachin, and mode and method of this war is determined by local situation which doesn’t require a full-scale military clash against each other.

Similarly there is a war going on between the both countries over the control of State of Jammu and Kashmir since 1947, and this war has its own pace, its own requirements and its own weapons and method. This war has many dimensions and, at times, has attracted interference from outside. Strangely many names have been attached to this war spread over many decades, and some of the names are as follows: Freedom struggle, territorial war, proxy war, war for Pakistan’s survival, accession to Pakistan war, Holy Jihad, Fundamentalist war, terrorist war, Communal war, Mercenary’s war, state terrorism etc.

All these titles not only confused the international community but also confused the people of Kashmir; and seriously harmed the independence movement. To the ordinary people of Kashmir their struggle was related to their inalienable right of self –determination, and for their honour and dignity; but there are those with power and interest who claim that they are ‘fighting Pakistan’s war’, and that they are ‘Pakistan’s unpaid soldiers’.

Both India and Pakistan have their own ‘unpaid soldiers’, and these ‘unpaid soldiers’ , who receive with both hands and at times get more than the generals in uniform, have stabbed the Kashmiri cause. It is because of ‘deeds’ of these ‘unpaid soldiers’ that India and Pakistan have managed to keep the status –quo in Kashmir where ordinary people are suffering and these ‘unpaid soldiers’ are living lives like ‘Princes’.

It is the ordinary people who thought that the struggle was for their independence and suffered, and continue to suffer, whereas ‘unpaid soldiers’ on the both sides of the forcibly imposed LOC are living luxurious lives. They have big mansions to live in, expensive cars to drive, money to spend and ready available audience to listen to their sermons about the struggle and sacrifices that struggle demands; whereas their own children are studying in universities, and in some cases abroad.

Coming back to the issue of war, both countries fight diplomatic and economic wars at different levels and at different places, and this war has no borders and every international forum is a battleground. At times Kashmir is also subject of their debates and ‘verbal fights’, but as said earlier, it is the local situation or ground reality which determines what weapons are to be used in the war, and unlike the war on Line Of Control, in this war no guns are used because the ground situation does not allow that.

As far as ‘win’ in the present situation is concerned one has to look at the aims of this ‘near war situation’ and army build up. Long before the 11 September, India claimed that Pakistan was responsible for the situation in Kashmir and that Pakistan must stop helping and supporting Jihadi groups. This was termed as a ‘proxy war’ and ‘cross border terrorism’, and India declared that until and unless Pakistan stops this, there could be no dialogue with Pakistan.

Pakistan on the other hand showed desperation in starting a dialogue and requested everyone to persuade India to begin talks with Pakistan. Because of military rule in Pakistan, General Musharaf was on a very weak wicket, and he faced pressure from many countries including America, yet he refused to take any action against Jihadi groups or against those who were crossing the LOC.

Then came the unfortunate incident of 11 September, which changed many things in the world including fortune of General Musharaf and Jihadi groups. At one time no country wanted to send their senior officials to Pakistan for any serious business, but overnight situation changed and every important leader wanted to visit Islamabad. That no doubt increased the personal profile of General Musharaf, but at the same time he encountered many challenges.

At a time when General Musharaf was surrounded by many serious problems, and America was too involved in Afghanistan and the ‘war on terrorism’, some unfortunate incidents provided India with an excuse to muster forces on the LOC and Pakistani borders. India made many demands and declared that if Pakistan failed to take the required action then India would take appropriate measures to safeguard its interests.

The war between these two nuclear rivals looked imminent, and alarm bells rang in many capitals of the world. This increased tension was called ‘eye ball to eye ball’ situation, and attempts were made to diffuse the tension. At this stage we need to analyse India’s ‘war aims’. Did India seriously want to invade Pakistan or move across the LOC, knowing full well that Pakistan also has sophisticated weapons and a finger on the nuclear button?

What America did in Afghanistan was a beginning of a new era where new rules of engagement were written, and according to these rules India, in ‘self defence’, could have attacked a much weaker country like Nepal or Sri Lanka, but could not take a similar action against strong Pakistan. Pakistani leaders rightly said that India is not America and Pakistan is not Afghanistan, and that they would use every weapon in their arsenal if India crossed the LOC or International border.

In view of this it looks that India’s war aim was not to cross the border to invade Pakistan or take over Azad Kashmir, but to put tremendous pressure that Pakistan is forced to take measures which would be unpopular among the Kashmiris and the Pakistani people. It looks that from this troops build up India wanted to achieve the following important gains:
Appropriate action against the Jihadi groups in Azad Kshmir and Pakistan;
Stop people crossing the LOC, what was termed as ‘cross border terrorism’;
Continue this pressure until elections in Jammu and Kashmir are held and ‘certified’ by the ‘International Community’;
Weaken Pakistan economically that Pakistan could not benefit from the ‘bounty’ it got as a result of its co-operation in the ‘war against terrorism’. Troops build up on the borders has cost Pakistan and India in many millions; India with a stronger economy and large financial reserves was in a better position to afford it. It is partly because of this troops build up that Pakistani economy is still in chaos and cost of living has increased over the years and people have become poorer.

If we view the outcome of this troops build up in the light of above aims list, then it is not difficult to see who has won? We all know what Musharaf has done to crush the Jihadi groups in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, and what actions he has taken to control border crossing. His speech of 20 January 2002 left no doubts that he was willing to comply, and later Americans and Indians confirmed that they have witnessed clear changes. Then question is why risk a nuclear war by crossing the border when Musharaf has done more than asked to crush the Jihadi groups?

Despite the above analyses, it is debatable who has won, as it is a matter of opinion, but to me it is immaterial because both have made some gains at the expense of the Kashmiri people. We certainly know who the losers are in this conflict, and that surely are the people of Kashmir. Both Musharaf and Vajpayee are winners, as both have Kashmiri territory under their control, and it is the people of Kashmir who are divided and subjugated. Each round of confrontation brings more victims and more frustration; and it looks that this cycle of confrontations will continue until out of deep frustration Kashmiris themselves might say we accept the status quo. In view of this both have gained something although it looks that Vajpayee has scored more points in this round.

Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir. Email:

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