Saturday, July 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak experts fear N-holocaust
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 7 — Defence strategists and analysts in Pakistan warned that a debilitating nuclear confrontation was staring South Asia in the face in the absence of any diplomatic engagement with India.

These experts in Islamabad and Lahore said that the exercise on both sides to match missile for missile and other weapons of mass destruction held the dangerous portend “of something going wrong. God forbid but if that happens we are all dead in the long run.” This despite the fact that the present military regime in Islamabad has put in place a nuclear command authority.

Emphasising time and again that they held no brief for Pakistan’s chief executive Gen Pervez Musharraf, these strategists regretted that a great opportunity thrown up by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s bus yatra to Lahore in February last year has been nullified by the Kargil conflict.

The element of frustration among these experts was apparent. They made a laboured attempt to explain that Gen Musharraf’s military regime in Islamabad was far more responsible compared to the previous martial law administrations in Pakistan.

They contended that Gen Musharraf had not made a single irresponsible statement against India. On the contrary he has made certain overtures and New Delhi had not responded to them. They pointed out that in several television interviews Pakistan’s chief executive has suggested forward movement by putting Kargil on the backburner. “In Pakistan the military is much more responsible now than ever before,” these defence analysts claimed.

At a press conference during the concluding session of the South Asia media conference in Islamabad on July 2, Gen Musharraf said he would be the last man to say that Kargil was a mistake. He also pooh-poohed Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore in February 1999 as the core issue of Kashmir was relegated to the background.

These defence experts did not brush aside summarily New Delhi’s concerns that Pakistan had always stabbed India in the back when it has taken the initiative and extended its hand of friendship for normalising ties with Pakistan. They were at a loss in countering India’s argument that New Delhi would resume the stalled dialogue provided Pakistan stopped cross-border terrorism.

It was contended that India was emboldened in toughening its stand towards Pakistan by the “US tilt towards New Delhi” especially after the visit of President Bill Clinton to the Indian subcontinent in March. The U S recognition of India as a pre-eminent power in South Asia was another aspect which has bruised Pakistan’s ego.

Dr Rifat Hussain, Chairman of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam university, Islamabad, firmly believed that India should yet again extend its hand of friendship and return to the negotiating table.

He was acutely aware that efforts to resume the stalled Indo-Pak dialogue could not be undertaken unilaterally either by Islamabad or New Delhi. Reciprocity was the key. Simultaneously, he felt some confidence-building measures (CBMs) had to be put in place like ceasefire zones along the line of control (LOC) which had to be “monitored and rectified constantly.”

Dr Hussain said Indian strategists were talking of a nuclear war in the absence of any diplomatic engagement between the two countries. What he found alarming and disturbing was that an all-horizon nuclear force was emerging in the subcontinent.

A wide cross section of opinion in Pakistan said there was no denying that their country was inexorably caught in its own machinations of encouraging “jehadis”. In private conversation they maintain that Islamabad has created a Frankenstein monster which was beginning to eat into its vitals. They stressed that the figure of these foreign mercenaries and jehadis was close to the six figure mark.


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