ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
I believe that critics are unfairly targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for what they perceive are excessive foreign visits. They are envious of his reception by hosts everywhere, the crowds he attracts and their adulation of him, and of course his achievements from these well publicised visits. During the election campaign preceding his spectacular success at the polls, I had projected him as the most exalted planet in India's horoscope. The people's verdict proved my point and I felt proud that I had made some small contribution to his success, something I conveyed to him a little after, also adding that I sought nothing in return — nothing meaning literally nothing. I also recall expressing my favourite sentence about myself that "I am now living in the departure lounge of God's airport", and praying that he fulfils all the promises he made to the people.
Coming back to the PM's foreign visits, if we look at them objectively, we can only conclude that each one them has served a national purpose, which is of top priority for him, which he believes he must achieve urgently for the country. He has tried to place India's imprint in important countries of the world which can hasten India's economic progress, even those at the borders of distant hemispheres. As he commented in his typical caustic style, which has become his hallmark, that in spite of the great advancement in air travel, and reduction of travel time between Canada and India, it has taken 42 years for an Indian Prime Minister to visit Canada. (He was of course referring to bilateral visits, and not participation in the G20 conference that his predecessor had done in 2010.)
It is clear that the PM's first priority is to get India's growth rate to surge as high as possible, and he believes that "Make in India" is key for this. What "Make in India" really implies is simple, fundamental and essential. It implies accelerated and state of the art manufacturing and production. But this in turn needs requisite skills and technology, and assured supplies of energy, none of which we can claim as our core strengths today in the globalised world, thanks to their neglect by the decade long UPA regime. We should have during the last decade customised our skill creation and technology development plans to a serious needs assessment for our vision of India. But, sadly, we created no long term vision for India during the ten long years of UPA rule. Quite understandable, as their only priority was a long term vision for the plunder of India.
Only Make in India can provide employment to the aspiring "neo middle class" that has just emerged out of the poverty line through functional literacy and some access to capital; to the rural-urban migrants for whom income from agricultural activity is not enough aspiration for a decent quality of life. Make in India and resultant jobs is the promise that the PM has made to the people of India.
It is with great satisfaction that we read the IMF/World Bank forecast that India's economic growth for the next two years will overtake China at 7.5%, to become the world's fastest growing major economy, as against China's expected growth of about 7.1% this year No doubt, cheaper import of oil has been a boon, which has contributed to a rapid deceleration of inflation. But as Forbes puts it, India's economy is now firing on all four cylinders, for which credit must go to the government for creating a more enabling and efficient climate for investment.
So far so good, and hopefully, it should get better. The PM's visit to France was certainly a success in clinching the Rafale deal, purchasing 36 planes in flyaway condition, in a direct government-to-government deal. Our Air Force needed the planes badly, and the procurement was hanging fire for more than a decade. We are informed that there is every possibility that the off-the-shelf purchase of 36 planes by the government could be followed by France's Dassault Aviation jointly manufacturing the next batch of its Rafale fighters in India with an Indian partner, as a condition for securing the remaining contract. That would be a real high tech boost for "Make in India".
The PM's visit to Germany, again can only be termed as a great success. It was bonhomie from start to finish, and the joint statement between him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised strengthening our strategic partnership and encouraging "greater synergies between German engineering, experience in sustainable development, innovation and skills, and the new opportunities available in India and through 'Make in India', 'Clean India', 'Digital India' and other initiatives towards achieving economic growth and sustainable development". The PM's priority programmes all find place, apart from modernisation of railway infrastructure, cleaning rivers, improving urban habitats. But what is definitely interesting is the explicit hint of defence cooperation, with announcements of visits by the German Defence Minister to India and the Indian External Affairs Minister to Germany.
Side by side, an issue really germane to our internal affairs was also being played out in Germany. Prime Minister Modi met family members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Berlin and assured them that he would personally examine the case for the declassification of the Netaji files. The nation has been following the story of surveillance over the Bose family that has been revealed in some of the declassified files, and there is demand from the Bose family members to declassify all the files, to finally put at rest the controversies surrounding Netaji's disappearance.
The refusal to declassify the Netaji files has been the most heinous crime of the UPA regime and it is a pity that the present government inexplicably retained this position for some time. Indian democracy should have been treated with more respect.
However, despite its previous stand that release of the Netaji-related records may prejudicially affect "relations with a foreign country", true to his word, even while the PM was still in abroad, the government constituted a committee to examine the provisions of the Official Secrets Act (OSA), framed by the British in 1923, in the light of the Right to Information Act (RTI).
The Bose family are delighted. They had written to every Prime Minister from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, but to no avail. Narendra Modi acted within 24 hours of their meeting, and that too while he was not in India.
Declassification of the Bose files will be an important milestone in India's history. It would reveal the truth regarding one of our most revered and nationalist heroes, who met a tragic end, perhaps with the connivance of his erstwhile comrades, a story that has deliberately been suppressed so far. It will also shatter many myths and haloes, particularly of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Cantab blue-eyed boy of England, and who knows, perhaps even of the ruling party. There have been continuous media reports about the deposition of one Shamlal Jain, confidential steno of the INA Defence Committee, before the Khosla Commission, that Nehru wrote to the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, informing him that Subhas Chandra Bose, "your war criminal, has been allowed to enter Russian territory by Stalin. This is a clear treachery and betrayal of faith by the Russians. As Russia has been an ally of the British-Americans, it should not have been done. Please take note of it and do what you consider proper and fit." Well, if this deposition is indeed true, then I believe that the term "maut ka saudagar" has finally found its definition. Let us wait a little while longer for the declassification issue to unfold.
The Canada visit has created a new chapter in reviving our much neglected relations with it. Commercial cooperation in the civil nuclear energy sector will resume and on the first day itself, a deal to buy more than 3,000 tonnes of Saskatchewan uranium over the next five years for our power reactors was signed. India badly needs energy, for its economic growth and Make in India, and we must use every source of generating it.
Before I conclude, let me say that there is, however, a debit side to the PM's German visit which I will share with my readers someday not far off.
My pursuit of the stolen assets of the poor people of India is too well known. It is a decade old and I have been a lone fighter. Almost every lawyer and judge knows about it. The party rewarded me by a mean expulsion which has not been withdrawn despite numerous promises, reminding me of Shakespeare's famous lines:
Blow, blow thou winter wind,/Thou are not so unkind/As mans in ingratitude."
While this is something people in power will have to reflect upon sooner or later, I am certain that before I quit this planet my achhe din should soon send my betrayers scurrying for cover. But let me give Narendra Modi the credit for the remaining balance of my depleted stock, for his achievements.
The Great Game in international geopolitics currently being played is between Iran on one side, and the P5+1 — United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany — and the EU on the other side.
Henry Kissinger, with his characteristic acerbity has described it best. "For 20 years, three Presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years. Mixing shrewd diplomacy with defiance of UN resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on its head."
It was indeed convoluted rounds of negotiations circling back and forth, bargains between sanctions and nuclear rollbacks, toughness that has now changed to almost an appeasement, as deadlines for the settlement kept getting extended repeatedly, the latest being 1 July 2015. Several streams of information are pouring in, that appear quite contrary in content. First, that the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme is at the final stages of negotiation; that Iran has agreed tentatively to accept significant restrictions on its nuclear programme for at least a decade or longer; that it would submit to an increased intensity of international inspections under a framework deal, in return for decreased economic sanctions. Second, that the script has turned horribly wrong. What would one make of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei warning Iranian diplomats not to trust the United States, and that after "every round of talks they make public comments that they then tell us in private was meant to save face in their own country and to counter their opponents..."? Or Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accusing the Obama administration just hours after the US announcement of "a historic agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme", of misleading and lying to the American people and Congress on the fact sheet and details of a tentative framework? And lastly, we hear some odd ultimatums emerging from Tehran that Iran will sign a final nuclear agreement only if economic sanctions against the nation are removed on the first day of the deal's implementation. Sadly, and I hope wrongly, the deal is already being compared to Munich and not Reykjavik.
Reykjavik takes me back to the Reagan-Gorbachev years of the 1980s, when the words "glasnost" and "perestroika" were first introduced into the world's political lexicon, as the USSR collapsed and the Cold War ended. Regardless of various theories, including conspiracy theories, about these momentous events, or whether it was Reagan's diplomatic charm or a common realisation that the absurd nuclear race must end, the world owes an enormous debt to both leaders for their historic contribution towards world peace by agreeing to cut nuclear arsenals and end the Cold War in 1986.
Today's Great Game certainly provokes a question whether the Reagan-Gorbachev rapport can be likened to whatever Obama and Khamenei are trying to construct. Let me remind my readers of the turbulent history of Iran during the last three decades. Even as the Cold War was ending and the Berlin Wall was falling, many regimes were collapsing or changing towards the end of the last century, the most significant being the Iranian revolution of 1979, which deposed the Shah of Iran. Several factors were responsible for this, modernisation and fast industrialisation, the flipside of which is neglect of agriculture. By the 1970s, Iran was importing most of its food, and the oil boom produced only steep inflation and misery for the poor, a widening gap between rich and poor, between urban and rural areas, with flight of capital touching $30- $40 billion. The spark of the revolution was ignited by the organised and politically active Islamic clergy led by Ayatollah Khomeini. The army failed or refused to suppress the uprising, and on 16 January 1979, the Shah went into exile. The Islamic revolution had defeated the secular absolute monarchy. Iran was declared an Islamic Republic in December 1979, with the populist theocracy expressing its dedication to returning to the 7th century AD or the post Hijra era when the Holy Quran was being written. Democracy was dead, and for the next eight years, 1980-1988, Iran was involved in a bloody war with neighbouring Iraq, ruled by a Sunni minority over a Shia majority and a large Kurdish population.
The US has been involved in a cold war with Iran for more than 36 years. Religious rallies in streets regularly burn American and Israeli flags, a modern day manifestation of Iran's hostility to democracies, particularly Jewish and Christian, both of which have evolved from the gory past of their respective faiths into the predominance of secularism over religion and of reason over blind, archaic belief.
The world knows that Iran, with its own brand of terrorists, the Hezbollah, has been engaged in trying to make the nuclear bomb, which the western nations have for decades tried to prevent. Despite sanctions, which have caused great hardship to the common Iranian people, Iran has not abandoned its secret ambitions to succeed, and has shown resistance to any foolproof inspection by international observers. We learn that like North Korea, Iran has mastered the art of lying to international inspectors, because it clearly has something to hide about its nuclear programme, and that it is a proactive participant of terrorism to destabilise the region.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, predecessor of the present incumbent, on his election had pronounced that Israel should be wiped off the map of the world, but after a while, in a saner mood he said it must be shifted to portions of Europe. So far as the existence of Israel is concerned, Shia Iran is as hostile as the worst of Sunni Muslim states. I am firmly of the opinion that sanctions should not be withdrawn without a solemn and credible international undertaking by Iran that it fully recognises the de facto and de jure existence of the state of Israel and that there shall be no aggression or any hostile steps to exterminate or harm it in any way whatsoever. This is in accordance with the UN Resolution 181 of 1947, which I am sure even Barack Obama is aware of. It is as much his responsibility to guarantee this, in his freak negotiations with the Iranians, which are raising several questions about his raison d'être, with some commentators wondering that though it was Iran that had the most to lose from a failure of talks, the US seems to have become the greater supplicant.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has pressing reasons for seeing the nuclear process through. He is ageing and probably sick, as rumours have it, with prostate cancer. He may want to be remembered at home for more than the brutal crackdown, in 2009, on massive street protests in response to a presidential election widely considered to have been rigged. Though reports of his imminent demise are not new — he was said to be at death's door as long ago as 2006 — there is growing acceptance that a successor must be found. "The leader is not dying but he is old," says one regime insider. "He does not want to leave the next guide with problems and so he wants to close the nuclear file." It is said that he is a master at hedging his bets, whose every speech can be read in at least two ways.
I have visited Iran many times in my life, but never after 1980. I love the people, their hospitality, their good nature and the artist in many of them, particularly in music and painting. I have visited its holy places and museums and most certainly I have enjoyed its liberal atmosphere and entertainment. I earnestly wish them well and want their prosperity and contribution to world peace to grow. But let me ask, is honesty in international relations too much of a sacrifice for the Iranian government? Iran should set an example for all by allowing complete inspection to allay the fears of some that acquisition of nuclear equipment is either for war or terrorism. This is not what the ancient and glorious Iranian civilisation would approve of.
I can only hope that the P5 +1 will realise that the Reagan-Gorbachev method of trust and dependability is the only one to follow in advancing world peace and security; that Iran is a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty and should not be allowed to breach its obligations as it has done in the past; that Iran's promises and assurances cannot be trusted so long as it does not convince Israel and the Western powers that it does not contemplate the destruction of Israel and making the Jews stateless; that in the detailed provisions of the treaty to be worked out by 1 July, the terms must be foolproof in ensuring complete transparency and no clandestine preparation for use of nuclear arms either by Iran or its terrorist wing Hezbollah.
I am not being unduly cynical, but I cannot fail to ask: are we witnessing some dangerous strokes of the Great Game, with Obama and his supporters only anxious to increase US' leverage over the Saudis to ensure the supply of oil and the latter's need for US military protection? And how right are Henry Kissinger's ominous concerns, that this nuclear deal can start nuclear proliferation and a nuclear arms race among other highly volatile nations of West Asia?
Last Sunday, the International Council of Jurists held a seminar on international terrorism at the Convocation Hall of the University of Bombay. The seminar was well attended by several eminent judges, politicians, lawyers, teachers of law, students and members of the press corps. It was in every sense a very impressive gathering. Our most distinguished guest from outside India was the Honourable Chief Justice of Bangladesh, the respected Surendra Kumar Sinha. He initiated the discussion on the subject by his very lucid and memorable presentation, the full text of which is available on the internet. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to repeat some salient parts of it.
Chief Justice Sinha rightly pointed out that while condemnation of terrorist activities by the international community has been unanimous and unequivocal, the efforts taken so far to control or combat them have been marred by differences of approach and poor competence of the affected countries. It is no exaggeration that the horrific crimes of terrorism hold entire humanity as victims. Justice Sinha gave two sets of graphic and chilling illustrations of the day-to-day terrorism being witnessed in the world. First, the burning alive of Jordanian pilots, mass slaughter of Egyptian Christian workers, destruction of rare antiquities, and the terrorists' beastly practice of beheading, stoning, limb amputation and crucifixion of victims who fell under their control. His second illustration was of what happened in his own country on 17 August 2005. Five hundred bomb explosions occurred at 300 different locations, in 63 out of the total 64 districts of Bangladesh all within less than half-an-hour before midday. A terrorist organisation named Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) shamelessly claimed responsibility for the grotesque bombings and murders. The leaders of this bloody conspiracy were the two Rehman brothers, allegedly affiliated with Al Qaeda, along with another terrorist organisation, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islam. It is to the credit of the investigating agencies of Bangladesh that the perpetrators were apprehended by March 2006 and equally creditworthy for the Bangladesh judiciary to have completed the trial in early 2007. The perpetrators were found guilty, sentenced and executed in the same year.
The Hon'ble Chief Justice completely won over the delegates with his declaration that his country, Bangladesh, has zero tolerance for such terrorists and acts of terrorism. And he certainly increased our love and respect for his country when he justly claimed that Bangladesh is a moderate and tolerant Muslim majority state. We were overjoyed to hear that Bangladesh supports and will continue to support a global war against terrorism. He showed his obvious contempt for human groups amongst whom such crimes flourish, where blood and human life is cheaper than bread.
While it is true that practice of terrorism is not confined to any particular region, society or religion, it cannot be denied that today, the peace and security of India is threatened by those who claim to be adherents of "pure" Islam, who believe that any other religion or faith must be destroyed, and that Islam must dominate the world. I can only state with regret that such a belief can only be labelled as blasphemous to Islam and a hideous insult to the Prophet. Even he would be shocked to learn of the claims and interpretations made by his self-acclaimed followers. The main responsibility for creating such criminals is not of God or any divine force, but of false teachers, mullahs and maulanas, who corrupt young minds with this satanic teaching.
I would like to remind all Muslim intellectuals that included in the Hadith is a famous pronouncement made by the Prophet Muhammad on his return from the battle of Tabuk, which marked the end of his military campaign against the polytheists: "We have returned from the lesser jihad (jihad kabeer); to the greater jihad (jihad akbari), (i.e. the struggle against the evil of one's soul)." This division of jihad came to be interpreted in Islam as meaning that the outer and less important physical struggle for Islam was over and had given way to the more important inner, moral struggle. The tragedy is that all terrorist organisations are dishonestly concealing this very significant Hadith from their followers. They wish to trap them in their megalomaniac dreams of ruling the world through the false bogey of Islam, and use them as slaves and foot soldiers for their nefarious crimes, well illustrated by the distinguished Chief Justice of Bangladesh.
I do not wish to give an extensive list of such enemies of world peace, but the most prominent ones are Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab born in 1703 in the town of Udainah in the desert country of Nejd situated in the Arabian peninsula, and Ibn Taymiyyah, born in Harran in modern day Turkey in 1263. Their misinterpretation of two verses from the Holy Quran (Chapter 2 verse 193; and Chapter 8, verse 39) is deliberately fanatical and false, degrading their own faith. It should always be remembered that Ibn Taymiyya with literalist, dogmatic, intolerant ideology was rightly condemned in his own lifetime. He was frequently in trouble with the religious authorities, was imprisoned on several occasions and branded a heretic. His theology has never found place in the Sunni mainstream, but it continued to attract adherents, of whom the most famous — until recent times — was the Arab named Muhammad ibn Ahd al-Wahhab, mentioned earlier. It is well-known that Wahhab had openly declared that all Mushrikeen have forfeited their right to exist on this planet. His definition of Mushrikeen was all non-believers, including Jews, Christians, Hindus, and oddly enough, Shias, their own brethren, with whom they had a squabble about the succession of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet and martyr of Karbala, something that was a common feature in all medieval dynasties.
Here is an account of the Wahhabi treatment of the Shias, as reported by Charles Allen in God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad. "Way back in 1802, a Wahhabi raiding band led by the Saudi Emir's eldest son Saud ibn Saud attacked Karbala in modern-day Iraq, the most sacred shrine of the Shias, containing the tomb of their holiest saint, Hussain, grandson of the Prophet and son of Imam Ali. They pillaged the whole of it and plundered the Tomb of Hossein," wrote Lieutenant Francis Warden, "slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants. This event, which made a deep impression on the minds of the Turks, Arabs and Persians, was attributed to the guilty negligence of the Turkish Government, in failing to keep the Tomb of Hossein in a proper state of defence." Huge amounts of booty were seized, the emir-cum-imam taking the usual one-fifth for himself and sharing out the rest among his Wahhabi soldiery, a single share to every foot-soldier and a double share to every horseman.
Judging from the violent events exploding in the Muslim world — in Iraq, Syria, and now Yemen, with dangerous undercurrents from Iran and Saudi Arabia — clearly, this conflict is far from over. It appears to be spiralling more and more out of control, and no one seems to know how it will end.
India can only be proud that after having endured its own historical share of conquest, blood and bigotry, it opted to be a secular country, its secularism being a basic feature of its Constitution. I have explained and repeatedly written that India's secularism mandates a life wholly guided by reason and logic, but inspired wholly by love and compassion. Every scripture of any religion must debate rationally in the free market of ideas, with none claiming superiority of its scripture, merely because it is an article of absolute faith by them. No citizen of any religion can impose his faith or seek to justify it by what anyone may have said or done thousands of years ago, regardless of whether s/he happens to be a Hindu pandit, Jewish rabbi, Christian pontiff or a Muslim imam. Secularism is based on education and the scientific spirit. I have not known of any prophet in religious history, who was blessed with the knowledge that the earth revolved around the sun — they all believed the reverse. I don't think any prophet knew that disease is caused by germs and bacteria — they all believed that disease was caused by sin. Distinguished astronomers like Bruno were burnt by the inquisition court, and women with independent views were burnt at the stake, branded as witches. Darwin's theory of evolution of species could not be taught in many American schools up to the year 1925, because it was contrary to the Biblical version of creation, also accepted in Islam. I have written before and I wish to repeat that every scripture has two parts — the first, temporary, situated and relevant in the place and context of its origin, and the other eternal, immortal and universally applicable to humanity. I have written before and I wish to repeat that I am a great admirer of the Prophet of Islam, because he is the one Prophet who clearly told his followers, "When you walk in search of knowledge, you walk in the path of God; the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr." As long as his followers adhered to this teaching of their Prophet, they were masters of the civilised world. When they forsook his teachings, burnt all books and read only the Quran, and that too not in its entirety, they became slaves of those whom they had educated. Muslims must recall the Islam of pristine grandeur because its current Wahhabi version badly needs a Renaissance.
When rivers of blood were flowing elsewhere during Partition, not a single Hindu was killed by a Sindhi Muslim. We Hindus were compelled to leave only when external elements invaded peaceful Sindh, the cradle of Sufism. But our partings were heart rending, full of pathos and tears. It was after my brief stay in refugee camps near Bombay that I felt neither ill-will nor animosity towards Pakistan, but a lifelong conviction that unless India and Pakistan forget the sorry past and the tragedy of partition, and commit themselves to a peaceful and amicable relationship, both will perish. And economically, unless both countries share a common vested interest in each other's prosperity and in eliminating their appalling poverty, the price of partition would be a total waste without any return for Pakistan.
While India sensibly established a secular Constitution, Pakistan could not resist the installation of an Islamic polity. I have written abundantly in this newspaper about how through acts of commission and omission of all state and non-state actors of the time, Kashmir was converted into a permanent ulcer to perpetuate discord between our two countries, and sadly, it continues to remain so. But I personally believe that except for the sake of form, none in Pakistan seriously advances the thesis that India's legal title deeds to the state of Jammu and Kashmir are in any manner defective; or that the accession of J&K to India was induced either by force or by fraud. After dithering for a while, Maharaja Hari Singh voluntarily signed the Instrument of Accession with India, after Kashmir was attacked by Pakistan backed tribal raiders, and Srinagar was about to fall.
But when it comes to Kashmir, despite the wars with Pakistan, our leadership has, for some unknown reasons, never shown the necessary ability to protect national interest. When Indian forces recaptured Baramulla in 1948, and Muzaffarabad was within their grasp, Jawaharlal Nehru senselessly ordered a cease-fire, creating the stalemate which has dogged us ever since. Then he internationalised the issue by referring it to the UN, and allowed it to get mixed up with the exigencies of the cold war. As Pakistan's domestic dissensions grew, and democracy was defeated by martial law, it realised that the Kashmir dispute had become its strongest heart-lung machine for existence, and it was imperative that this must remain so.
The 1964 war with Pakistan, again over Kashmir, produced the Tashkent Declaration, in which both sides solemnly agreed not to change the status quo, and to "observe the cease-fire terms on the cease-fire line". The Tashkent Declaration was in national interest, Kashmir was off the dialogue table, and peace prevailed for a while.
The next conflict with Pakistan in 1971 was not over Kashmir, but over Bangladesh. At the end of that war, in the words of journalist-cum-politician M.J. Akbar, "Pakistan was a shattered nation, physically, emotionally, ideologically, its moral basis had crumbled and its confidence was brutally shaken. If ever India had control over the situation, it was in 1972. Such opportunities do not recur; neither do they last too long."
India was holding about 94,000 Pakistani prisoners of war in its custody, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's arrogance and hubris were at an all-time low. After almost begging India for discussion on the prisoners of war issue, it was finally agreed that the meeting would be held Simla in July 1972. M.J Akbar in his book Kashmir behind the Vale, 2002, describes how Indira Gandhi acted the perfect hostess, arriving a day earlier than Bhutto, and personally inspecting the accommodation being readied for the 85-member Pakistani delegation, scolding the ageing Chief Minister Y.S. Parmar for his garish taste, taking over the entire interior décor — from fabric to flowers and furniture — commandeering shops and seamster, all to ensure that Bhutto's Oxford-Sindh tastes were suitably indulged. India's victor had downgraded herself into a county hostess.
But when it came to the final outcome, the Simla Agreement, Bhutto appears to have outwitted her. He charmed her persuasively that Pakistan could never win a war against India, that Kashmir was lost, but he could not commit that on paper. "Bharosa kijiye, trust me", Bhutto pleaded. He obviously played this particular card beautifully, and succeeded in conning the victorious Iron Lady of India completely.
The Simla Agreement makes no mention of the Tashkent Declaration, but the following two paragraphs need to be reproduced: "That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them. Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organization, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations."
"In Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control resulting from the ceasefire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognised position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations. Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of this line."
So far, so good. However, Bhutto's deception and Indira's acquiescence were the addition in the last paragraph: "...the representatives of the two sides will meet to discuss further the modalities and arrangements for the establishment of durable peace and normalization of relations... (including) a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir..."
Bhutto was triumphant; he boasted publicly that he had outmanoeuvred Indira Gandhi and got Kashmir back on the dialogue table. History will never forgive Mrs Gandhi for this diplomatic blunder and betrayal of the people of India. We lost whatever we had gained by the Tashkent Declaration. But what prompted Indira Gandhi to do so is a mystery that I have never been able to solve.
I have also written earlier that even the United Nations today will have nothing to do with the plebiscite demand, which some call self-determination, after more than 60 years in a completely changed context. Internationally, the Supreme Court of Canada has negated the right to secede by provinces, something the legal establishment of Pakistan would be well aware of. It is the people of India whose concurrence will be necessary for secession, and not the people living in the Kashmir. I believe that only the five-point settlement openly arrived at with the Hurriyat leaders can make Kashmir work.
Now to the contemporary. My affectionate friend, His Excellency, Abdul Basit, High Commissioner of Pakistan, did well to invite a large and representative crowd to the Pakistan Day celebration on 23 March, the day when Pakistan gave itself its first Constitution. I am taken back to some very pleasant memories of yesteryear and my ideals yearning for Indo-Pak friendship. My readers are aware that before partition, I practised in the Sindh Courts, particularly Karachi High Court, with my partner, Allahbux Brohi, a glorious product of Bombay University, a rationalist with a Masters degree in Philosophy, specialising in Buddha and Kant (unusual for a devout Muslim) and an impressive public speaker. His practice surged after partition with the migration of practically all non-Muslim lawyers from Sind, and he soon became Law Minister and member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. It was on 23 March, 60 years ago, that the new Constitution of Pakistan, which he ably piloted, came into force. Brohi and I remained friends and had often discussed the provisions of the great document, the best that Pakistan has ever produced. It embodied the rational teachings of Jinnah Sahib and in many significant ways resembled our own Constitution. It is another matter that it did not last for long when Pakistan democracy was outlawed by the armed forces. I often tell my Pakistani friends that I have my fingerprints on their best Constitution ever.
Brohi himself became the leading lawyer of his century. Later, he successfully prosecuted Bhutto and secured his conviction and final execution. He was for some time appointed the High Commissioner for Pakistan in India, and our friendship was known to everyone on both sides of the border, just as my friendship with Basit is. I believe that as Pakistan's High Commissioner, Basit has a right to invite anyone to the Pakistan Day celebrations. I have personally attended, and I am happy that he invited our Minister of State, General V.K. Singh, who also attended, well with the blessings of those whose wishes he was bound to respect. He too has his freedom of speech and a right to express his reactions to the visit, though he may require a rethink about those whom he calls "separatists".
Yes, there were "separatists" in the years gone by, but most of them no longer deserve that epithet. Today, they are patriots, and I have publicly advised Mufti Saheb to include two of them in his Cabinet, to counter what sometimes appears as avoidable Pakistan intransigence, to involve them in governance, and to fortify peace and tranquility in the state. Yes, there are two persons, the elderly Syed Ali Shah Geelani and the young Yasin Malik — the former has not changed but is still my friend — that is change enough. The latter cannot attract any Kashmiri youth; every educated person prefers secular India to the rule of Hadis.
We must continue to speak with Pakistan's elected leaders. A time will come when Pakistan rediscovers its history and destiny; one day we shall succeed.
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2018.
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