India’s Pakistan policy was founded on false hopes
Just what did those who substituted hope for policy think? That Pervez Musharraf would enjoy a political longevity that would extend into a long-lasting political legacy? And that Mr Musharraf would remain committed to the ‘peace process’ with India come what may? The wistfulness and the expressions of regret over “lost opportunities” to do deals with him while he was riding high confirm that such was the prevailing in and around the corridors of power in New Delhi.
Now, that it was necessary to deal with a dictator next door was never in question. But building the entire edifice on the basis of the good intentions and longevity of one person was folly. Not least when that person was the meretricious General Musharraf. No, you can’t charitably say that this is a conclusion we can draw from hindsight. It was entirely predictable, and The Acorn has been warning of the risks ever since Atal Bihari Vajpayee made his trip to Islamabad.
The real “lost opportunity” was not settling the Kashmir issue along one of General Musharraf’s numerous formulations of essentially the same idea. The real lost opportunity was failure to use the relatively peaceful environment to strengthen the foundations of the Indian economy through greater investment in infrastructure, education and power. The greater the disparity in the relative power between the two countries, the better equipped India will be to ensure stable relations with Pakistan. And specific to India’s relations with Pakistan, the lost—but one still available—opportunity was to deepen bilateral trade, even if this required unilateral liberalisation on India’s part.
Here’s the balance sheet of the peace process: The situation in Jammu & Kashmir is being compared to the late 1980s, the Pakistani army is firing across the Line of Control and the international border, and that country’s leaders are talking about “aspirations of the Kashmiri people”.
Manmohan Singh, the prime minister who shocked reasonable people by setting up a joint mechanism to fight terrorism with Pakistan, declared from the Red Fort, as if it were a striking new revelation, that if the “issue of terrorism is not addressed, all the good intentions that we have for our two peoples to live in peace and harmony will be negated.” They ran trains between across the border, but among those who used it were terrorists fleeing, to sanctuary in Pakistan.
If you think the situation is bad just imagine if any of those “joint management” formulas or pipelines had already been implemented.