Thursday, Mar 07, 2002
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By Sudhanshu Ranade
Cynics have begun suggesting that it is not because it is amenable to reason, or worried about Muslim lives or sentiments, that the VHP has agreed to make a show of moderating its stance on Ayodhya; nor even out of fear of the backlash _ but merely because it sees some merit in the argument that widespread and prolonged tension between Hindus and Muslims at home will make it difficult for both our armed forces and our diplomats to keep themselves focussed on `teaching Pakistan a lesson'.
Notwithstanding ominous hints being dropped by senior Ministers like L.K. Advani and George Fernandes about the role of the ISI in the assault at Godhra, no immediate use of force against Pakistan is being contemplated. The finger of suspicion is being pointed at Pakistan merely to divert attention from the role played by the VHP (and indeed, in earlier times by Mr. L.K. Advani himself) in making Ayodhya such a fearful and terrifying prospect.
It is unfortunate that this need to distract public attention has kept both the VHP and Mr. Advani from admitting that it would be foolish of the ISI not to exploit the opportunities that are so thoughtfully created for it by the deliberately inflammatory stances of the VHP. But what is really scary is the possibility that in an effort to placate the VHP the Prime Minister may have given it some assurance of impending action against Pakistan; in the same way that he earlier boxed himself in with his behind-the-scenes assurance that he would clear the way for Ayodhya.
The determination of the Vajpayee Government to do away with the problem of cross-border terrorism `once and for all', by keeping the armed forces continuously positioned on the borders, poised to strike, has been greatly strengthened by the sort of advice it has been getting from some senior diplomats and fauzis. This has created a situation fraught with grave danger. Because these experts have failed to recognise honestly the rash and opportunistic way in which even the best-designed policies are subverted by the interplay of political factors; and because they have failed to recognise that this is precisely the weakest link that Pervez Musharraf will seek to exploit in order to further the `national interests' of Pakistan, now that terrorism can no longer be openly used for this purpose.
More brutal murders can, therefore, be expected in the months to come, as Pakistan continues its cold-blooded effort to provoke India into taking precisely the sorts of actions that India has been threatening to take.
In military terms, Pakistan cannot and does not hope to win the war that, it knows, will in any case be quickly terminated by the intervention of the U.S. before much damage is done.
But such a war, even if it is `lost', will make it possible for Pakistan to nullify at one stroke the huge gains that have fortuitously accrued to India since September 11, in respect of its position vis-a-vis Pakistan.
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