COMMENTARY
 
India says, ‘to hell with the Queen’!
The Nation
October 19 , 1997
Strange as it looks! While, on the one hand, on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to India, hundreds of Sikhs marched in the streets of Amritsar demanding that the Queen must apologize for the 1919 colonial British massacre in Jalianwala Bagh; on the other, the Indian leadership was busy criticizing British foreign secretary Robin Cook for his mediation offer on Kashmir. This is despite the fact that a part of Kashmir has been under illegal Indian occupation since Partition days and where the Indians have been committing unprecedented atrocities on the innocent Muslim population for the last decade.

Some reports appearing in the Western and Indian media would have us believe that this world has yet to give birth to as pacifist a leader as Inder Kumar Gujral, the present Indian prime minister, is. Actually, however, Gujral appears to be nothing short of a warmonger.

The Indian prime minister’s most recent policy statements on Kashmir are enough a proof of his arrogant and militant attitude. And that in fact is Gujral’s real face. So annoyed was he with Robin Cook’s offer to Pakistan for British mediation on Kashmir that Gujral went to such an extent which none of his predecessors could have even thought of going: Gujral termed Great Britain a “third-rate power.”

In her National Assembly address, the Queen had specifically urged India and Pakistan to bury the hatchet and live together peacefully fifty years after their creation. Pakistan has had no problem in welcoming Queen’s remarks. In fact, no peace-loving state in the world should have any objection to such a suggestion.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry finds trouble even in accepting a suggestion that India should make peace with Pakistan. In their separate talks with Robin Cook this week, both Gujral and K. Ragunath, the Indian foreign secretary, have made it a point that Britain’s Labour government should beware of making any mediation bid on Kashmir.

At the same time, prime minister Gujral has also reportedly written letters to his chief ministers telling them that when he recently met president Clinton, he had “cautioned” the American president that any effort on the part of the United States to “meddle” in the affairs of Kashmir would be a setback for the Indo-US relationship.

What an achievement, indeed! By urging world leaders to ignore the gory drama of death and destruction, rape and plunder, being played by hundreds of thousands of Indian troops and police, what does Gujral wish to prove? Establish his pacifist credentials before the international community so that, next year, it should consider him as a candidate for the Nobel peace prize?

Queen Elizabeth II had visited India and Pakistan with a good intention. Not to revive the memories of the colonial days of the two nations but to congratulate them on the achievements they have made in the last half century. This appeared to be the entire motive behind Her Majesty’s visit to the subcontinent.

Pakistanis proved that they were a people with an open mind and an open heart. We have a historical reason to behave so. Unlike India, Pakistan has been open to the world since Partition days, cooperating with the Western world, learning valid lessons from Western nations’ vital experiences with democracy and free market economic relationships.

The main tragedy with the Indians is that they have opened up to the democratic world only recently. Their post-Partition history is full of relationships that they made, nurtured and celebrated with closed economies and politics of the communist states. Naturally, therefore, India may take years to come to Pakistan’s level of global openness.

Most Pakistanis, for instance, would support the Indians, primarily Sikhs protesting the Jalianwala Bagh massacre. Had the site of that massacre been in Pakistan, we must have seen a similar procession, even though, unlike the Indians, our protestors might not have demanded that the visiting Queen must tender an apology for that massacre.

The Queen’s visit to the site to pay homage to the victims of the massacre would have been taken by our people as a gesture sufficient enough to wash the crimes that the colonial British committed early this century. Demanding an apology from the Queen for the tragic incident, as the Indians have done, amounts to dragging the matter too far.

For their part, Pakistanis were large-hearted that they did not utter even a single word about the British wrong-doings at the time of Partition. This is despite the fact that even a layman in this country knows as to how unjustly the subcontinent was partitioned before the British quit it, and that because of this very unjust partition, the issue of Kashmir still lingers on.

They did not complain because fifty years after Independence they do not wish to talk about ugly things of the past. They wish that bitter memories of the past should not in any way come in the way of any present movement towards peace in the region.

Perhaps that’s why prime minister Nawaz Sharif had resumed the peace dialogue with India immediately after coming to power last February. Since then, he has dealt with his two Indian counterparts, first Gowda and then Gujral. Both have been extreme disappointments. Gowda fell with the collapse of the coalition government last March. Gujral may fall, the moment he gets bold on Kashmir.

The intricacies of Indian politics are such that even if Gujral wishes to be pacifist, he can’t be so. India’s external outlook is determined not by its civilian leadership, but by a very strong Establishment consisting of the Indian army, its External Affairs Ministry called the South Bloc, and its premier intelligence agency, the RAW.