Disguised blessings from Lahore

25 Jun, 1999    ·   213

Mallika Joseph A argues that the Lahore Declaration has been seen by political commentators as a tool of betrayal, and by strategists as a brilliant, yet deceptive, move that lulled the Indian military into complacency

The Kargil episode has brought to light many latent factors in the Indian scene. It has brought to light the Army’s preparedness despite an obvious intelligence failure and initial set backs. Amidst all predictions of a long ordeal in difficult terrain, the Army has reclaimed many strategic areas from the infiltrators. Secondly, and most importantly, the international reaction to the issue has been favourable to India . Commencing from the US reaction to the recent G-8 resolution, New Delhi has scored a major diplomatic victory over Islamabad . What is surprising is that India , which has bristled at the very mention of the ‘K’ word is celebrating the favourable international attention it is now getting.



Having insisted on bilateralism on the Kashmir issue, why is it tacitly  accepting internationalisation of the issue now? Why is it that India , which took extreme offence to South African leader Mandela mentioning Kashmir at the NAM summit, is nine months later welcoming the international support on Kargil? Simple. It has a war to fight and the tide is in its favour. With the end not yet in sight, it is riding the crest of goodwill generated. The moment India feels the tide is turning against it, it is sure to decry international attention to this issue. But the tide is unlikely to turn, at least for some time.



If India ’s reaction to the international attention is surprising, world reaction  is more surprising. While New Delhi had tried for long to convince the world about Islamabad ’s role in abetting terrorism within India , it had not achieved any tangible results. The most that the US has done is label  Lashkar-e-Toiba, an organisation based in Pakistan , as a terrorist outfit. The reaction of the US to the present crisis has been positive on account of  two developments.





• Firstly, the tapes of the conversation between Pakistan  Chief of Army Staff, General Pervez Musharrf and the Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen Mohammed Aziz, which were perhaps handed over to Indian Intelligence by the CIA. Whilst placing Pakistan ’s involvement in Kargil beyond the shadow of doubt, it has also accentuated global disenchantment with Pakistan .



• Secondly, and more importantly, the Lahore Declaration. Through the significant gesture of ‘bus-diplomacy’ the BJP government sent a signal to the world that it favours peace and was therefore taking the first step towards de-escalating tension between the two neighbours. With domestic reactions ranging from commendation to ridicule, Vajpayee went ahead with the trip only to return victorious his unusual diplomatic move.





That a Hindu hard-line party like the BJP could strive to do this was by itself remarkable for many western analysts. This laid the foundations for the current change in Western reactions. In the light of the present intrusion, the preparations for which must have commenced before the Lahore Declaration, many feel that Islamabad has betrayed New Delhi ’s trust. While the latter has been talking of peace, the former has been preparing for war. The killing of Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja in cold blood and the return of six mutilated bodies bearing evidence of torture while they were still alive has further blackened Pakistan ’s image.



The Lahore Declaration has been seen by political commentators as a tool of betrayal, and by strategists as a brilliant, yet deceptive, move that lulled the Indian military into complacency. However, the value of the Lahore Declaration needs to be seen in the light of the positive international response it has generated to the  Kargil crisis.



Basking in the glow of favourable world reaction, India has reiterated that Kashmir is a bilateral issue to be solved between India and Pakistan . The US has allayed its fears of international-attention-turning-into-intervention by stating that it was not going to mediate. Nevertheless, would it not be sensible to utilise this positive response to our advantage and convert the LoC into an international border, an idea that has been doing the rounds quietly since 1948? Or, is there any better way to resolve the Kashmir dispute?