Pak up your border troubles
By R. Prasannan
Story Dated: Saturday, October 11, 2014 15:0 hrs IST
Nawaz Sharif is desperate. Despite his sari gifts, Narendra Modi has been undercutting him. Sharif has since been getting his army to fire on the border and talking Kashmir to all and sundry.
As THE WEEK reported four weeks ago, the current squabble started after Modi asked the UNMOGIP to pack up and go. Not after Modi cancelled the foreign secretaries' talks over envoy Abdul Basit's tea-chat with Hurriyat leaders.
For those who missed the issue, the UN Military Observers' Group in India and Pakistan was set up in 1948 to check ceasefire violations. Indira Gandhi withdrew recognition to it in 1972 after she and Bhutto agreed at Shimla to sort out all quarrels bilaterally. Bhutto, sly fox, went back on his word. He continued to recognise UNMOGIP.
We continued to give office space and visas, but never went whining to UNMOGIP over ceasefire breaches. We would instead fire back. Last month, Modi asked UNMOGIP to get lost. With it went Pakistan's last straw that linked the UN to Kashmir.
Sharif has since been doing all he can to get the UN gaze at Kashmir again. His army fired at Indian posts. When our troops fired back, he went to UNMOGIP. Then he went to the UN and damned India thrice.
Thrice? Yes, most of us heard only Sharif's plebiscite plea in the General Assembly. It impressed none. Next, away from our ears, he talked Kashmir to the secretary-general. Ban Ki-moon kept his counsel. Then his foreign affairs aide Sartaj Aziz raised it at an Islamic states' forum on the UN sidelines. Aziz claims that the Turks and the Sauds nodded their heads. Maybe to shake off sleep.
Pak rulers aren't getting the kind of attention they've been used to at the UN and in the US. Earlier, the moment they landed in New York and took in a bit of the autumn air in Manhattan, they would start punching above their weight, and build skyscrapers in the air. Washington's Beltway Brahmins, the men who think they rule the universe, would lift them in private or Pentagon jets to the White House, Camp David, Martha's Vineyard, or to a few rounds of golf.
US presidents used to seek the help of Pak rulers, especially the military types, to manage much of West, Central and South Asia. And used to fete them with such return gifts as Patton tanks, Sabre jets, Stinger missiles and F-16 fighters.
Come to think of it, Pakistan's brass-hat rulers have proved craftier in diplomacy than in the battlefield. Ayub Khan couldn't win the 1965 war against L.B. Shastri, but he was the keystone to the SEATO and CENTO arches that managed Central and South Asia for the US. Yahya lost the 1971 war to Indira, but he delivered the Dragon at the doors of Dick Nixon's White House. Yes, it was Yahya who arranged Kissinger's secret trip to Beijing which led to Nixon's famous visit and the building of a Sino-US axis. There began the decline of the Soviets. Zia delivered the KO punch to the Soviets in Afghanistan. My! How the last two changed the world!
Pakistan had its last strategic hurrah under Musharraf. Though he lost the 1999 Kargil war to India, he snatched Afghanistan from his Taliban allies, and delivered it to the US. Colin Powell feted him as his best non-NATO ally.
Rulers from Pakistan's civil street haven't been half as smart. All four—the Bhutto father, the Bhutto daughter, the Bhutto son-in-law and Nawaz Sharif—have all been cry-babies, catching CIA spies and opposing US drone attacks for the sake of votes. They have been rarely feted in the Rose Garden, toasted at White House banquets, or invited to join presidents on fishing weekends. They've been getting pulled up—as was Sharif by Clinton over Kargil.
Moral of the story: Pakistan's strategic value is diminishing. No amount of fretting, fuming or firing will raise firstname.lastname@example.org