Subtle Polemics of Intervention
President Clintonís five-day visit to India beginning March 20 have entered
a bizarre phase. While high ranking officials on both sides are working
hard to iron out angularities, the visit is becoming more and more controversial.
Washington is obsessed with two contingencies
of the visit. One, it wants to push its own prescription for reducing tension
between India and Pakistan, and the other it also wants not to exclude
Pakistan from Presidentís visit.
Washington is not as much influenced by Indiaís
loud protestations against the President visiting Pakistan as by her own
so-called commitment to democratic dispensation. Neither Kargil incursion,
nor Pakistan sponsored hijacking of the Indian airliner would cut ice with
the Americans. Their problem is how to face the world opinion if the President
decides to visit a military man who deposed the elected government and
struck at the roots of democracy.
Few in India are able to explain why New Delhi
should be excited about the visit of an American President at a time when
he is coming to the fag end of his two-year term of presidency. A lackluster
visit can, at the best, be called an exciting excursion in stagnated diplomacy.
It also shows how immature the ruling party in New Delhi can be.
The bizarre game began with the US President offering
his personal services for reducing Indo-Pak tension to the new Pakistan
ambassador Maleeha Lodhi when she presented her credentials at the White
House. The Indian Prime Minister was quick to respond through a public
speech in Jalandhar that India would not accept mediation by a third party.
Unable to swallow the bitter truth, the Defence
Secretary Mr. Cohen indiscreetly threatened that the US had a right to
intervene in situations that jeopardize international peace. He was specific
in mentioning Kashmir as the flash - point. A statement immediately followed
this from American Secretary of State endorsing the views expressed by
the Defence Secretary Cohen. The duo wanted to impress upon New Delhi that
Washington could, if she liked, even take unilateral decision of laying
down some hard conditions for the two South Asian nuclear states.
Speculations are rife that Washington is preparing
a blue print for Indo-Pak dentate in the context of breaking the ground
for the two countries to sign CTBT. To this broad framework, the issue
of Kashmir appears to be an adjunct. The premise is that inclusion of Kashmir
would send a reassuring message to Pakistan, which, in turn, would exert
its influence in restraining the Islamic fundamentalists including Osama
now in the hands of Taliban in Afghanistan.
But more than Kashmir and restraining of fundamentalists,
Islamabad is concerned about a move on the international forum of considering
a seat for India in the Security Council. In order to dissuade Washington
from conceding leverage to India, General Musharraf paid hurried visits
to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the two countries that carry weight with the
State Department in framing major policy perceptions in the region.
Though out of tune, the Hurriyat leaders were
euphoric to state that President Clinton was coming with a prescription
to resolve Kashmir tangle. Recently Pakistan foreign office has also dropped
hints that Presidentís visit to South Asia has something to do with paving
the way for Indo-Pak summit.
Layer after layer, these polemics are unfolding.
The Indian foreign secretary, Lalit Man Singh said in Washington that there
were no conditions whatever attached to the visit of the American President
to India. He denied that neither CTBT, nor Kashmir nor Indo - Pak détente
were on the agenda of the President. He reaffirmed that it was only a process
of creating congenial atmosphere for a better understanding between the
Islamabad has been playing her cards very carefully.
Its message to the State Department is that exclusion of Pakistan from
the Presidentís itinerary would mean indirect boosting of terrorism in
Pakistan and the region. This is to convey as if Pakistan is victimized
by the rising crescendo of terrorism. But Americans may not need to be
educated on that issue because it has begun to touch their skin.
In these circumstances, when Washington has adopted
an ambivalent posture, what is very clear is that Clinton cannot exclude
Pakistan from his itinerary. Its announcement will come at the last moment
even if it is just a touch down at Karachi airport and a hug to the military
man. After all no civilian or military ruler can exist for a day in Pakistan
if he has not the goodwill of the Americans.
It appears unlikely that India will sign the CTBT
no matter if the question is linked to India's ícandidature for the membership
of the Security Council. The BJP government would not like to take cudgels
with its affiliates nor with the recalcitrant Congress, which has, very
unfortunately, given up the politics of principles and major issues facing
the country and resorted to personalizing of issues political or non-political.
New Delhi would also wait till there is a new incumbent in the White House
and would watch if there were any significant changes in the fundamental
of parity-seeking politics of the US for the subcontinent.