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Lacking horse sense

My mind is disturbed by the total absorption of India’s media and elites with ‘the deal’ and the blindness towards what is happening in Pakistan, laments Rajmohan Gandhi.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2008 21:16 IST

Like many others I have asked myself, “Are you for or against ‘the deal’?” Is ‘the deal’ desired, I ask, for meeting India’s galloping energy needs or for the sake of our nuclear weapons programme? “For both,” I am told in India, though in Washington only the first option is put forward. There it is quietly conveyed that ‘the deal’ would, in fact, contain our weapons programme.

If the aim is to satisfy our mounting energy hunger, nothing can help more, it seems to me, than our signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and getting Pakistan also to sign it. Uranium will then come flowing in. All suppliers will want to sell it to us, with Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd leading the bunch.

If for clear thinking I find it necessary to separate energy from weapons, I want also to separate ‘the deal’ from the India-America relationship. Much goes into the latter, including expanding trade, shared goals, India’s stake in the future of the US (which includes Indians living there), and the gigantic dimensions of India’s military purchases from America.

Whether or not the independence of India’s foreign policy is being compromised by the seemingly sudden, and not always noticed, expansion in the India-America relationship is a different question.

Another related if distinct issue, it seems to me, is what happens in Pakistan. Any major initiative by India has to take Pakistan into account, which is why I said that an identical Pakistani step must accompany any (not very likely) Indian step towards signing the NPT.

My mind is disturbed by the total absorption of India’s media and elites with ‘the deal’ (and with some other attractions) and the blindness, in consequence, towards (among other things) what is happening in Pakistan. The boldness of the Taliban along Pakistan’s western border and its daring interventions in Peshawar, and indeed deep inside Pakistan, require a response not only from Pakistanis but also, intellectually and ideologically, from Indians.

The world has long known that coping with insurgencies calls for guns and often also for deals. It has learnt, too, with generals and admirals underlining this wisdom, that there is no such thing as a military solution to insurgency. India has found this in Kashmir and parts of the North-east, the Americans in Iraq, the British in Northern Ireland, Israel in Palestine, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries in Afghanistan.

What seems in short supply is the ideological ‘gun’, without which cluster bombs, unmanned bombers and deals with militants have failed and must fail. Pakistanis have to articulate, firmly and clearly, an ideological opposition to Muslim radicalism, just as Indians have to spell out a firm rejection of both Hindu extremism and Islamic radicalism.

And no rejection or opposition will carry any appeal without an alternative being offered. ‘Religious’ hate and ‘religious’ violence have to be answered with religious as well as secular denunciation, and by presenting superior ways of tackling our problems — ways that are efficient and ethically superior.

Or, to put it differently, the ideology of rage has to be countered with an ideology of responsibility, requiring those in governance to address problems as soon as they appear on the horizon, and with the involvement of all parties involved.

Pakistan’s recently-restored democracy gave a pleasant thrill to India and much of the world. It also improved Pakistan’s prospects against terrorism. Yet, Pakistan will not be able to defeat resurgent Talibanism and defiant extremism if American bombs, Pakistani soldiers, and deals with militant or tribal leaders are to be its only weapons.

It seems plain that, resourceful as they are, the people of Pakistan are in desperate need of support and of ideological weapons in their fight against militant radicalism. Deterioration in Pakistan will sadden many Indians even if it were to leave India unscathed, but, in fact, it will not spare India either. The likely spread of radicalism in Pakistan is bound to hurt Hindu-Muslim relations in India.

India itself is not exactly free from other kinds of violence. Mushrooming malls, over-packed restaurants, the worshipful excitement over film and sports celebrities and dazzling TV scenes can lull only those willing to be deceived. ‘The deal’ may well be ‘a good thing’. I cannot tell. It seems to me, however, that more important than ‘the deal’ is a fresh effort to recognise where our country and subcontinent are headed. This is where I land up when I ask myself about ‘the deal’. Perhaps I am losing focus. Yet, I must be truthful: I am unable to remain riveted for long by ‘123’, or Hyde, or IAEA, or G8, or by Lok Sabha permutations.

My mind’s eye wants to travel to Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Peshawar and Baluchistan, to Jammu and Kashmir and the North-east, to Nepal and the chain of troubled districts southward from there all the way to Karnataka, and to streets across the land where temple bells ring and the azaan is called, but where fear, despair and anger also crouch nearby.

Rajmohan Gandhi is the author of Mohandas: A True Story Of A Man, His People And An Empire