The danger for India in Pakistan's weasel words

By Nirpal Dhaliwal (THE TIMES, 08/12/06):

The Times made a glib and reckless analogy when it urged India to listen to the overtures of General Musharraf and adopt the “Andorra solution” for the troubled border region of Kashmir. The President of Pakistan said this week that he was willing to drop his country’s demand for an independent Kashmir if the disputed region was given autonomy, with Delhi and Islamabad sharing sovereignty.

But France and Spain’s dual sovereignty over the tiny statelet of Andorra only works because both nations are responsible democracies that can be trusted to act in good faith. The same cannot be said of Pakistan.

It would be strategically dangerous and morally wrong for free and democratic India to cede control of its territory to a corrupt, despotic failing state that is infested with Islamofascism. How can Pakistan be trusted to help to govern Kashmir, when it has no record of good governance within its own borders?

Like Iran’s proclaimed solidarity with the Palestinians, Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir is odious and hypocritical. Both states support “freedom fighters” abroad (ie, they assist Islamic terrorist factions), while refusing to apply democracy and human rights at home.

India, like Israel, is in the unfortunate position of being the only genuine democracy in the region. It is surrounded by states that are either authoritarian or on the brink of collapse — China, Tibet, Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh and Nepal — and hence has problems on almost all of its borders. Since 1947 India has fought a succession of wars to protect her security and territorial integrity, as well as coping with Pakistani-assisted terrorist attacks within its main cities. Autonomy for Kashmir would only create another failing state for India to cope with, one radicalised and infiltrated by Pakistan: a dire prospect.

Without democratic neighbours, India’s regional disputes are intractable. Just as Israel has had to deal with the whims of ayatollahs and Baathist dictators, India has had to suffer the likes of Mao Zedong and General Zia ul-Haq. The instinct for dialogue and compromise that drives a democratic government is absent in the regimes that encircle both India and Israel, and have caused 60 years of conflict for both.

General Musharraf displayed spectacular gall saying he would drop Pakistan’s claim over Kashmir. No military junta has any legitimate or moral claim over the sovereign territory of a democratic state, and the Indian Government is right to ignore him. His public statement is just an admission that Pakistan cannot force India’s hand through terrorism or the threat of war.

In the absence of democratic neighbours, India must continue to build economic and military capital so that from a position of strength it can deter aggression and malign foreign interference in its affairs.