On Kashmir Nuclear Flash-point
The term ' flash
point' is of American coinage like many other terms in the idiom of contemporary
international politics. There is no 'flash point 'on the globe unless one
is created. And once created, it is invested with all the attributes that
stimulate its relevance, essentially to regional and advisably to international
security dimensions. Thus more articulate groups and subgroups in the region
tend to exaggerate threat perceptions in order to pave the path for international
concern and intervention, as the situation demands. Thus while Kashmir
and Bosnia fall in the ' concern' category, Iraq falls in 'intervention'
category. The Palestinian question is outside this syndrome for historical
reasons. However, it is not a 'flash point' either for the Islamic world
or the US although Israel and not Palestine has nuclear capability.
The term 'flash point' is now qualified by prefixing
to it the 'nuclear' adjective. A text book definition of the term would
mean a flash point which would trigger off a nuclear war leading to annihilation
of the user and the used. Such a situation would demand positive pre-empting
of holocaust by the big powers not for any real love of local humanity
but for the perpetuation of their eco-political interests. That is precisely
what the connotation of Kashmir as the nuclear flash point would be. Because
India and Pakistan successfully conducted nuclear tests in May last, the
inference is that the two arch enemies would embark on a nuclear holocaust
and the trigger lies in Kashmir. As the attributes accumulate, the sole
super power and her cohorts would be inclined to take a unilateral
decision of addressing the essence of the issue. That would throw up the
compulsion for India to agree to third party role.
For these elements, the 'flash point' theory
has become their new political credo? In a recent seminar on Central and
South Asia, organized by the Jammu University, one or two speakers seemed
to be mechanically disposed to put forward this perception and legitimize
it by recalling universal aversion to nuclear option. This indirectly meant
reinforcing their strident demand for resolution of Kashmir conflict on
the basis of doing away with the status quo syndrome.
The crucial question is what constitutes the approach
to this perception. We are aware that 'flash point' dimension was inducted
into entire Kashmir problem soon after Pakistan exploded nuclear device.
Following her nuclear tests, Islamabad went on changing priorities of post
nuclear Pakistan. The first pronouncement was that she had attained parity
of nuclear muscle and restored the tilted balance of power in the South
Asian region. Then the shift was on the nuclear explosion being forced
upon her by India. And finally, appeared yet another shift and that was
of linking Kashmir with the entire nuclear issue in the subcontinent. It
was the Pakistani foreign minister who said in clear and rather undiplomatic
way that the nuclear issue was inseparably connected with Kashmir dispute.
The ideas of parity and restored balance of power
(virtually imaginary) being in their place, Islamabad was not
in a position to convince Washington and other western capitals that her
nuclear tests were dictated by the Indian factor. When under right
extremist pressures Nawaz Sharif rejected Washington's offer
of five billion dollar aid in addition to nuclear umbrella for desisting
from conducting the nuclear test, Pakistan lost the opportunity as well
as the effective lever placed in her hand by curious circumstances.
What then was the alternative use of the nuclear adventure? Finding the
escape route in ' nuclear flash point' theory, Islamabad bureaucracy and
political leadership thought they had the saleable commodity in their warehouse,
and that was of Kashmir as the nuclear flash point in the subcontinent.
Thereafter the main thrust of Pakistani diplomatic
initiative was to put words in the mouth of such American officials as
mattered in the State Department which could be interpreted in a way so
as to identify Kashmir as the 'flash - point' of South Asia. May
be some lower level functionaries in the State Department were bemused
by the idea, but at responsible levels, there did not appear any extraordinarily
aggressive reaction, notwithstanding their respective positions on CTBT.
However, Islamabad could generate some fervour
among sections of Kashmir ' freedom ' sympathizers and organizations within
the country and abroad (particularly among the pro-Pak POK Diaspora in
UK) and the militant separatist in Kashmir. Its reverberations are also
heard among the non committed secessionists within and outside the ruling
cadres. In the eyes of these sections, the ' flash point '' theory,
when publicly articulated, would be interpreted as reassurance of none
antagonistic posture vis-à-vis Kashmir militancy. At the same time, it
would, to some extent, iron out the angularities in the traditional political
party's behavioural pattern. But the crux of the matter is that of bailing
out the beleaguered Kashmirian community from a scenario of protracted
armed conflict gradually eating into the vitals of that society. This is
a negative approach and bound to be ineffective.
The ' flash point ' theory cannot withstand the
test of time. Three wars have been fought between the two countries in
the past but all in absence of a nuclear flash point. If Pakistan's survival
in economic terms has become debatable just by conducting the underground
test, what would be her picture after she begins a nuclear holocaust
with her neighbour who is also a nuclear power? The deterrence theory
has rather encapsulated Kashmir from another clash, not endangered
her. Islamabad regimes can survive only as long as it is able to stoke
Kashmir embers. Those who are harping on 'flash point ' theory, want to
bail her out in Kashmir where militancy is on the ebb. By not accepting
the no-first nuclear strike offer of India, Pakistan seeks to obtain
the lease of life. Her ' flash point ' theory sympathizers in Kashmir,
and particularly among its ruling circles, indirectly want to ensure their
own survival by holding on to the apron string of that theory. It
has to be noted that these sections of ruling party cadres and bureaucracy,
though vocal on ' flash -point' theory, are meticulously silent on Dr.
Farooq Abdullah's perception of LOAC as the international boundary between
the two countries. This also proves the existence of the non committed
separatists in the cadres of traditional political party in the State.
This speaks for Dr. Farooq's capability of accommodating divergent
views yet not losing the direction.