Sunday, October 18, 1998
By Manohar Malgonkar
MS BENAZIR BHUTTO must be altogether unique in that she is an extraordinarily beautiful woman who has taken to politics as her chosen career. While it would be exceptional in even the most advanced western democracies, the fact that the people of a self-professed Islamic nation should have twice accepted her as Prime Minister seems almost beyond belief.
There is nothing feminine about her in her public life though and she makes a stern leader; no one can point a finger at her for tenderness or tolerance. So when, in late May this year, India carried out a nuclear test, Ms Bhuttos first reaction was altogether predictable: A thundering call for a pre-emptive nuclear strike against India.
Which suggests, that, had she still been Pakistans Prime Minister, she would have done just that unhesitatingly obliterated Delhi or did she have some other cities too, targeted for destruction?
But wait! Barely three months later, when Time magazine invited her to contribute an article refuting the allegations of corruption and bribery on a horrendous scale, Ms Bhutto came out with some startlingly sober advice to her successor in office, Mian Nawaz Sharif. "As the nation nears the 21st century, the answer to our problems with India, including Kashmir, are likely to lie only in diplomacy, not in aggression and sabre-rattling."
Nor, presumably, in a pre-emptive nuclear attack.
For most ordinary citizens such as myself, the astounding U-turn in Benazir Bhuttos stance towards India is no more than a source of puzzlement, to be dismissed with a shrug and a clicking of the tongue about the mood changes on a Dr Jackyl Mr Hyde range.
But what about the unfortunate people who have to base their responses on such contradictory pronouncements? To built shelters for a nuclear holocaust or to order the biryani to play host to a negotiating team? Clearly, they have to look for some sort of pointers; other straws in the wind which would indicate Pakistans long-term policy towards India.
Here is one such straw; absolutely reliable because it comes from the horses mouth, as it were. A writer of the New Yorker Mary Anne Weaver, travelled extensively through Pakistan in the early nineties on a sort of fact-finding mission and interviewed many people in the countrys public life. Here is what General Babar, of the Pakistani army who, after retirement had held high offices in Ms Bhuttos first government, (he was for a time the Governor of the North-West Frontier Province and later Ms Bhuttos adviser on military matters.) had to say about Pakistans strategic plans as drawn up by the Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI:
"We, (Benazirs Government) had no control over these people. They were like a Government unto themselves ... they had been running the show for so long that they simply didnt want to give it up. They got so carried away with the jihad that, unwittingly or not, they got involved with all these fundamentalist movements across the Islamic world. They thought that once they got Afghanistan, theyd go across to the Soviet central republics and into Kashmir."
How accurately does this agenda conform with the subsequent course of Pakistans military adventurism? The Taliban, recruited from Afghan refugee camps and trained, equipped and, every now and then buttressed by Pakistani regulars, were hard-core fundamentalists. Were told that in Afghanistan, they were engaged in a jihad a holy war. But a holy war against whom? Were the other factions engaged in a struggle for supremacy in Afghanistan infidels then? They, too, were Muslims, and the irony is that they, for their part also made it out that, what they were fighting was a jihad.
Anyhow, the Talibans jihad has ended in a resounding victory. Theyre now engaged in what the military describes as "mop-up operations." After that, according to the I.S.I.s agenda, jihad is to be pursued into central Asia and Kashmir.
It is to deter Pakistan from pushing a Taliban-type force into Kashmir that India sought to make a demonstration of its nuclear capability. Whether even a nuclear deterrent will dampen the war fever of a nation held together by a faith and increasingly dominated by its fundamentalists who wish to see Kashmir put under a Taliban-type rule, only the future will reveal. What is of immediate concern to us is the bizarre nature of the reactions from the charter members of the nuclear club. They went positively pop-eyed with rage.
In the America media, even Monica Lewinsky had to cede precedence to Indias nuclear test. Australia recalled its Ambassador from India. And President Bill Clinton could hardly contain his anger. He imposed immediate sanctions on us as punishment.
And in the process drew attention to the glaring contradictions, inconsistencies and anomalies of Americas attitudes, policies and, unbelievably, double standards of crime and punishments.
So the dark secret is out. The whole world knows, and the Nuclear Club is outraged: India possesses, say, a score or so, of short and medium range nuclear rockets of altogether unproven efficacy. OK, what India has may not quite form a payload of a B-52. Still, she has broken the barricades of the Nuclear Clubs apartheid.
That B-52 I spoke of. It has been around for years, but it is still a formidable aircraft. A mega-plane which measure sixty yards from wingtip to wingtip and capable of carrying "a nuclear payload equal in destructive power to all the bombs dropped by all the sides in all the wars of this century."
What a terrifying statistic! But then what a bomber carries is, after all, bombs, not missiles, of which there are the short-range, the medium-range, and the intercontinental range, humming in their underground caves in mid-continental America.
And then there are those fringe weapons such as napalm to scorch the earth wherever they fall and a more sinister tool of war called Agent Orange designed to destroy all the vegetation of their target area.
O.K. even leaving this kid-stuff aside, how many of the jumbo nukes does the U.S. possess?
No one knows. What is known is that in the proposed treaty between the U.S. and Russia to reduce nuclear missiles to a mutually acceptable number, each side is restricted to only 3000 nuclear missiles.
These negotiations have gone on and on, with neither side doing much voluntary destruction of the nuclear stockpile. At that when, sometime in the future, both sides really get down to implementing it, between them they will still possess some 6000 nukes.
Which means that, between them the U.S. and Russia can pulverise the planet three times over, and this, common sense tells us, is a graveside absurdity if only because after the first onrush of hostilities, there will be no one left to use up the rest of the arsenal unless of course one of those B-52 pilots has been assigned just that job, to let off those missiles from a godlike height.
That B-52 flier gives me a handle to round off this story by exposing a flaw in the U.S.s legal system as applicable to military personnel. So meet Kelly Finn, attractive, brilliant, twenty-six year old lady, the first woman ever to be permitted to fly a B-52. Kelly Finn was a Lieutenant in the U.A. Air Force.
Last year, Kelly Finn resigned her commission as an alternative to having to face a trial by court martial. The charge, adultery and also, telling lies to investigators.
But wait. Isnt there someone else vaguely connected with the U.S. military hierarchy who has actually admitted to having committed both the offences that Lieutenant Finn was charged of?
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