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Volume 3, No. 1 - June 2003

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The New Peace Plan
Dr. Subodh Atal

Vajpayee surprised South Asians, and perhaps himself, by talking about peace days after the latest massacre of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani terrorists. Many in South Asia, as well as the "international community", jumped on the bandwagon. Pakistanis from Musharraf down were exhilarated. They were doubtless expecting some strong words from
India, instead they got the most recent version of Vajpayee's "hand of friendship".

Was this a planned strategy? If it was, it certainly was kept under covers until the last moment. Indian cabinet members were talking about putting Pakistan in the same pre-emptive dock that Iraq had landed in recently. Intelligence reports and the ground situation do not offer any evidence of Pakistan finally shaking off its terrorist mantle, before or
after the hand of friendship move. If the strategy was pre-planned, it has already been a failure, unless we can consider the platitudes from the "international community", or a few potential cricket matches as the measure of success.

The other possibility is that the peace plan was a spur of the moment decision by a Prime Minister who is unable to make the tough decisions about making Pakistan pay for its misdeeds. This would mean that Vajpayee is undependable as the leader of a nation of 1 billion people under grave terrorist and nuclear threat. Perhaps the BJP inching towards giving more prominence to L. K. Advani prior to upcoming elections is a reflection of this reality.

Given the current realities, the best outcome may indeed consist of Advani taking over the party and the government after the elections, assuming BJP comes back to power at the center, and seeing Vajpayee off to a comfortable retirement where he can spend more time on what he seems to be best at: writing poetry.

History is replete with instances of misguided leaders believing they were statesmen and entering into parleys and talks with intractable and cunning enemies. Woodrow Wilson imagined that the United States could maintain a state of 'armed neutrality' even as German submarines and U-boats kept sinking one American ship after the other in the Atlantic ocean. Wilson took too long to realize that his 'peace with honor' was a chimera when the opponent in question was a dishonorable and militaristic Germany. The US entered World War 1 at the fag end of the conflict in 1917, by which time the terrible human toll had mounted to humongous proportions. Just to decades later, Neville Chamberlain regurgitated the 'peace with honor' formula with Hitler and made England and the rest of the world pay a heavy price during the early years of World War II. Vapayee obviously falls into the category of vain opportunists and escapists like Wilson and Chamberlain. His dishonorable Lahore Accord with a double-meaning Nawaz Sharif and legitimization of General Musharraf's dictatorship at Agra have backfired like boomerangs. As credible intelligence, both foreign and Indian, indicate, this latest 'peace offensive' is already doomed to failure and ignominy because the basic power structures in Pakistan which threw the Frisbee back at Vajpayee twice are very much present this time too. The basic terror structures that have mutilated Kashmir from across the border are present this time too. The basic naiveté of Vajpayee is, of course, present this time too.

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