Two sides on the subcontinent
Published in abridged form on 6/23/02 at the Duke Chronicle
The current face-off between India and Pakistan has spawned a rash of commentaries predicated on the dishonest notion of moral equivalence between the antagonists. Deploying the audit of reality to dispel the ignorance shrouding this conflict demonstrate that naively balanced hand-wringing is not only foolish but counterproductive; attempts to equate India and Pakistan are as wrongheaded as those equating self-defense to suicide bombing and George Bush to Osama bin Laden. The currency of chic evenhandedness may be the coin of the realm of relativism, but trading in it in the real word is repugnant and intellectually bankrupt.
India has been counseled to restrain itself and to open diplomatic negotiations repeatedly. Prime Minister Vajpayee has made 2 summit initiatives in the last 3 years, the first (in 1999) rewarded by Pakistan’s invasion into Indian-held Kashmir orchestrated by none other than General Pervez Musharraf, and the second (last summer) rewarded by attacks on Kashmir's State Assembly and the Indian Parliament by terrorist groups that operate freely in Pakistan and have also perpetrated the murder of Daniel Pearl. The terrorists rounded-up by Musharraf in January were almost all released barely 2 months later (a revolving door that would make Arafat proud), just in time for the snow to melt in Kashmir; on May! 14, these forces butchered dozens of wives and children of soldiers. This recent history mirrors India's restraint in all 3 invasions by Pakistan into Kashmir (1948, 1965, 1999). While India committed to not crossing the Line of Control in 1999 and to just removing Pakistan’s invaders as well as a no-first-use of nuclear weapons to avoid a possibility of nuclear escalation, Pakistan now recklessly issues threats to use nuclear weapons. Pakistan's call for a plebiscite in Kashmir are ironic and meaningless: the right of Pakistanis to free and fair elections has been abrogated by a military junta through coups and sham referenda (tactics which Pakistan would export to Kashmir as it has terrorism), while India has been democratic since independence.
Pakistan's personality explains its behavior. Pakistan’s sharia laws state that a woman pressing rape charges must produce 4 upstanding male witnesses, otherwise she can be jailed for adultery (human rights organizations reports thousands of women in Pakistani jails on such charges), and religious minorities including the Shiite and Ahmadiya sects of Muslims are persecuted. Even when Pakistan has been democratic, minorities were not allowed the vote in general elections. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for most of its history, and in 1980, East Pakistani parties won Pakistan’s elections, but Pakistan’s military junta barred the victor from forming a government, kindling a movement for East Pakistani independence. Within 8 months in 1971, in a horror belying Pakistan’s pretense of Islamic fraternity, the Pakistani military perpetrated one of the greatest genocides since WWII, killing 800,000 East Pakistanis; 10 million refugees fled to India (quadruple the Taliban’s rate of murder & refugees!). India girded to intervene, but Pakistan struck first. In 2 weeks, East Pakistan was free (becoming Bangladesh) and India seized 5,100 sq. miles of West Pakistani territory and 90,000 Pakistani POWs, but relinquished it all for an empty promise to resolve future conflicts through negotiations.
Restraint and diplomacy with terrorists and their sponsors and harborers is farcical and suicidal beyond a point that has long been crossed. Whether Musharraf is unable or unwilling to stop the terrorists is moot; the former renders him irrelevant, the latter an imminent threat. More than likely he is but an Arafat in suit-and-tie, conveniently masking radical Islamic fundamentalists bent on India's break-up. The bottom line is that Pakistan is a state crucible of terrorism, long supplying arms, supplies, training, money, and logistical support to terrorists to kill Indians and to coordinate with its attempts to break the Indian Union. Pakistan's so-called support to the US in the war on terror is overrated at best and a betrayal at worst: Pakistan supplied weapons to its creation, the Taliban, even after the US started bombing in October, airlifted out hundreds of fighters from a besieged Kunduz last November, and may have given shelter and dialysis to Osama bin Laden. The Bush doctrine should apply for India as well as the US: those who harbor, arm, and export terrorists are terrorists and should be eliminated. The US should assist in countering the threat that this sponsor of terror known as Pakistan poses, preferably by neutralizing its nuclear weapons whose number and hazards will only grow if ignored. Continued inaction at nukepoint will only embolden other terrorist nations to aspire to nuclear blackmail of the US. Expediency should not override principle, for terrorism anywhere threatens freedom everywhere, a lesson borne of the bitter tears of 9/11.