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30th August 1998

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Will Indo-Pak ice melt at NAM?

By our India Correspondent

There will be a re-run of what happened in Colombo when the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee meets his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement's Summit in Durban, South Africa, which began on Saturday (August 29).

It is unlikely that the ice, which was all too evident even at the warm and salubrious Taj-Exotica in Bentota, will be broken at Durban. Neither side has moved an inch from its stated, un-reconcilable, position on the key issue of Kashmir, which bedevils the relationship between them.

VajpayeePakistan's "non-paper" which set out its basic demands on Kashmir, is still there. It had been rejected outright by India at Colombo itself. Primarily, it sought the withdrawal of Indian troops from Kashmir. But the Indians know from experience, that conceding this is tantamount to inviting Pakistan to occupy Kashmir. Sensing a vacuum following the British withdrawal from the sub-continent, Pakistani army led tribesmen invaded Kashmir in 1948 to force the Hindu Maharajah, Hari Singh, to accede to Pakistan and not to India or remain independent. There was another Pakistani invasion in 1965. Both invasions, especially the former, were checkmated by India by the skin of its teeth.

On both occasions, Pakistan expected a popular uprising to erupt in the politically sensitive Kashmir valley to aid the "liberating" army. But to its dismay, on both occasions, this did not happen. The hope now is that the All Party Hurriyat Conference (or simply, Hurriyat) will do Pakistan's bidding. One of the demands in Pakistan's "non-paper" was that India should recognise the "Hurriyat" as the sole representative of the Kashmir people.

Indeed, the "Hurriyat", an umbrella organisation of more than 20 pro-Pakistan and separatist groups, was once a major force in the Indian part of Kashmir. But today it is virtually defunct, doing little political work. There is little or no sign of any uprising in Kashmir now, except for stray cases of terrorism. As a matter of fact, trade is booming and the tourist houseboats on the picturesque Dal Lake in Srinagar are full. Bollywood has re-started location shooting in the vale of Kashmir. In this context, it is unlikely that India would be under any compulsion to oblige Pakistan on the "Hurriyat" or any other matter.

All that India is willing to give is its claim over a third of Kashmir which Pakistan annexed in 1948, the so-called Azad (Free) Kashmir or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). The Indians had told the Pakistanis in Colombo that the Line of Control (the de facto, military border) should be converted into the international border. But Pakistan will have none of this as accepting this is tantamount to giving up the claim over the rest of Kashmir.

Slightly egged on by the United States, Pakistan is trying to get a third party "facilitator" to engage India. But India will have none of that. India's stated position is that as per the Shimla Agreement of 1972, all Indo-Pak disputes would be discussed and resolved bilaterally. The then Pakistan Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, had signed it because Pakistan was defeated in the 1971 war. For Pakistanis now, the Shimla Pact is a dead letter, and they get irritated when India brandishes it.

But Pakistan can do little but protest and cry for help as it is weaker now than ever before, as a result of the crippling US sanctions following the May nuclear tests. Its position got weakend further in August when its relations with the US received a fresh jolt.

The US had sent missiles to kill Pakistan's protege, the Saudi terrorist, Osama bin-Laden, in neighbouring Afghanistan, without so much as observing the minimum courtesy of informing the Pakistanis over 1,000 kms of whose territory the missiles had flown.

Osama bin LadenFor his part, Bin Laden embarrassed Pakistan by calling for a jehad against the Americans, when Islamabad was trying hard to get the US to lift the sanctions as a quid pro quo for signing the CTBT.

The Bin Laden affair has another aspect which worries Pakistan.

It gave India another stick to beat Pakistan with. Bin Laden was funding and training terrorists in Kashmir and according to "The Times of India", New Delhi had given Washington a list of 27 training camps in Afghanistan in which Pakistan's ISI was training "foreign mercenaries" for deployment in Kashmir. At least two of them were hit by US cruise missiles. One camp was in Jalalabad and the other, the Zhawar Killi at Badr camp near Khost on the Pakistan border, was Bin Laden's headquarters.

One of the Kashmiri terrorist groups Harkat-ul-Ansar now renamed Harkat Mujhahideen, has been receiving money and training in Afghanistan from Osama bin-Laden.

Harkat-ul-Mujhahideen, which had killed US and other white tourists in Kashmir, was banned by the US last year.

But despite its growing difficulties, Pakistan is unlikely to give up its bid to secure Kashmir through third party facilitation or more crudely by fomenting terrorism with the help of Afghans and outsiders like Osama bin-Laden. This is because Kashmir is vital for the very existence of Pakistan.

It came into being in 1947 on the principle that all Muslim majority areas should come together to form a single Islamic state. The theory was that Muslims and Hindus were two different nations, each entitled to a separate sovereign state.

But India, which is a multi-ethnic, secular state, did not and does not subscribe to this theory. Therefore, whether the venue is Colombo or Durban, it is doubtful if the twain, India and Pakistan, shall ever meet.

NAM can still play a meaningful role

By Ameen Izzadeen

With the cold war over long ago, how relevant is non-alignment today will be the main topic on the unwritten agenda in Durban where 113 countries will meet on Wednesday and Thursday, trying to work out a common economic and political platform.

Non-alignment, during the time of superpower rivalry had some meaning as far as security and economy of the third world were concerned. Though it was formed on the premise that neither east nor west but the middle path was the best, it was essentially security and economic concerns of the third world states that bound the group together. States of the Non-Aligned Movement, formed in 1961, felt that their security concerns were best served by being non-aligned rather than being aligned with either of the defence blocs - the US-led alliances such as NATO, SEATO, ANZUS and CENTO and the Soviet-led group WARSAW Pact.

Sri Lanka, for instance, had been an ardent advocate of non-alignment, long before the movement was born as it felt being non-aligned would serve its security and economic interests best. Even at independence - soon after the second world war - Sri Lanka was treading a middle path in its international relations. Some critics might argue that Sri Lanka was aligned with the west through Britain with which the country had signed a defence pact. But it must be noted that the defence pact with Britain was not signed in the light of cold war realities.

It was signed to ward off any threat from its giant neighbour India whose hawkish leaders had entertained ideas about incorporating Sri Lanka into India's defence perimeters. Moreover, the pact included clauses which empowered Sri Lanka to unilaterally revoke it.

However, Sri Lanka's non-aligned foreign policy was largely latent in the early post-independence era because the UNP governments followed a capitalist economic strategy. Prime Minister John Kotelawela's outburst at the pre-NAM Bandung Afro-Asian summit in 1955 was more an attempt to woo western economic aid than anti-Communist virulence.

D. S. Senanayake, independent Sri Lanka's first prime minister, said in the House of Representatives that his government's foreign policy was based on the principle of friendship with all and enmity towards none.

Its membership in the UN being blocked by the Soviet bloc till 1955, Sri Lanka depended on the Commonwealth to air its foreign policy and security concerns, especially those involving India. In those early periods, it was at Commonwealth forums that Sri Lanka could raise issues with powers like Britain, India and others on an equal basis. Hence, the country's pro-Commonwealth approach could not be construed as pro-western.

The policy of non-alignment was clearly seen only after S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike assumed office. His was a policy that indeed tried to charter a middle course. But his foreign policy was erroneously seen as pro-Soviet because of the government's pro-socialist economic strategies and the establishing of relations with Communist countries.

Mr. Bandaranaike's pro-active foreign policy - as opposed to the UNP's low-key approach in the sphere of foreign policy-saw the country taking a bold and independent stance on both the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Anglo-French-Israeli assault on Suez in 1956.

Mr. Bandaranaike followed what was described as positive neutralism - a high profile foreign policy approach - and gave the Commonwealth its due significance as his UNP predecessors did.

It is also worth looking at Sri Lanka's contribution to NAM and its role as a leading proponent of non-alignment.

Sirima : Indian ocean peace zonePrime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike's initiative in making peace between India and China during the border conflict essentially stemmed from her commitment to non-alignment. Along with other leading NAM nations, Sri Lanka led missions to Beijing and New Delhi in bringing about some settlement to the Sino-Indian crisis.

At the 1970 Lusaka summit, Ms. Bandaranaike also proposed that the Indian Ocean be made a zone of peace. This was high on the agenda when NAM leaders met in Colombo in 1976. Real politics, however, made Sri Lanka abandon the pursuance of this goal later as it felt an Indian Ocean without superpower presence would only strengthen India as a regional bully.

All credit should go to Ms. Bandaranaike for hosting the summit here, but one cannot brush aside J. R. Jayewardene's contribution to the world through the movement.

It was he who first proposed through his foreign minister A. C. S. Hameed at a special non-aligned ministerial conference in Belgrade in 1978 that a world disarmament body be formed to achieve world peace. His initiative, though seen as a counter proposal to Ms. Bandaranaike's peace zone move, still remains unsung or forgotten. Not even a line mentioning it was made when the UN set up an agency for disarmament recently under veteran Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala.

JR : initiated disarmamentMr. Jayewardene sent letters to all NAM members before the Belgrade meeting. Where Foreign Minister Hameed said: the establishment of a world disarmament authority which would function as a permanent institution of the UN system could contribute towards realising the objective of general and complete disarmament.

Words of a political prophet apart, let us see now how relevant the NAM today is when its leaders in Durban are also thinking the same.

India, one of the pioneers of NAM said last week that the group was still relevant despite the disappearance of Cold War alignments.

The Durban summit is expected to discuss how to ensure the group's voice is heard in world economic and political affairs.

"This questioning has led to a situation in the last few years that, at multilateral conferences, the position of the Non-Aligned Movement has disintegrated. A group of 113 countries which in all logic should be able to have a decisive say on the economic and political agenda has not been able to do so," an Indian foreign ministry official told journalists last week.

It should be mentioned here that the now defunct United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) provided an ideal forum for a common third world economic voice.

This UN body was to ensure a reasonable price for third world commodities in the world market, thus ensuring an equitable distribution of world wealth. But opposition from the United States and other developed countries made UNCTAD abandon many of its progressive and pro-third world economic objectives and its chairman Dr. Gamani Corea left it in frustration.

Later the formation of the Group of 77 tried to project a common third world economic voice, but lack of unity and commitment among members kept this voice very much on a low tone.

It is in this void that NAM can play a significant role.

But this was the theme when NAM leaders last met in Cartagena, Columbia three years ago.

They met, they discussed but little did they produce. To cap it all, the 37-year-old group does not even have a secretariat or a building. But one should not write off the group as an abstract body. Politically too it can play a big role. Yet its efforts on this front wither away in the face of pressure from the economically powerful west.

In spite of lack of progress on the political front, this week's summit seeks to tackle comprehensive global nuclear disarmament, UN reforms, Afghanistan, international cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights and terrorism.

While India is expected to push for a NAM resolution on comprehensive nuclear disarmament, urging all nuclear powers to destroy their arsenals, Sri Lanka could present a case for NAM cooperation against terrorism. President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who missed the Cartagena summit in favour of the UN 50-year celebrations three years ago is going to Durban with this aim in mind. She is expected to raise the issue of terrorism when she meets President Nelson Mandela of South Africa where a strong LTTE lobby is said to be in operation.

With South Africa itself getting a bitter taste of global terrorism in the Cape Town car bombing in the aftermath of US embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, a common NAM stand on the issue is very much on the cards.

Let us hope these resolutions would give some meaning to the organisation which by holding the summit in South Africa is basking in its past glory, reminiscing on its struggle against apartheid.

World News Analysis

Would President Clinton stay or would he go?

By Jonathan Power

If you want to win a lot of money in a three way political bet, then gamble that by the end of the autumn that Bill Clinton, Helmut Kohl and Goran Persson will all be still firmly in office.

No one should underestimate how fine grind the wheels of the American legal system. But, in the end, whether Clinton goes or stays is a political matter. No Congress of the United States would want to go down in history as the one that stripped a president of office for breaking his marital vows and lying to cover this up. Even if the stock market should plummet and Clinton's poll ratings drop precipitously, nothing can change this very basic political fact.

In Germany Helmut Kohl, after 16 non-stop years in the Chancellor's chair, looks set for defeat in next month's general election. But don't believe it until you see it. He was written off before the last election but then, as he is now, made a remarkably strong finish. Events today are playing into Kohl's hands. Not just the healthy performance of the German economy, but the political instability in Russia. The grand accomplishments of his tenure, the reunification of Germany and the introduction of the European single currency, cannot be matched by any promises of the Social Democratic opposition. There is no equal great idea on their horizon. High unemployment remains a bugbear and the Social Democrats believe they have some policies that may well bring it down. But not everyone is convinced, and in another term of office it would have to be Kohl's priority too. And always, even if it is in parenthesis, it has to be said again and again, that it is a statistical illusion that continental European unemployment rates are so much higher than that of the U.S.—America just locks up a large part of its unemployed, mainly young blacks convicted of small time drug offences.It is in Sweden, however, that the conventional political wisdom is likely to face its severest come-uppance—and this must surely be the most interesting political happening in the western world in the second half of 1998. The Social Democrats may not be riding very high but they are doing better than any of their rivals and look poised to propel their leader Goran Persson back into the prime minister's office.

Victory will demonstrate once more to those who usually prefer not to know that sophisticated capitalism can comfortably function in a society that works to redistribute its wealth to the poor, aged, sick and unemployed.

For decades now, Sweden has been knocked, by usually rather ignorant commentators in the U.S. and Britain, often taking their cue from Sweden's own vociferous right wing that wields a disproportionate influence in the local press. Right now, after an awful recession by Swedish standards, with the budgets of schools and hospitals being painfully pared, the economy is bouncing back under Mr Persson's clever stewardship. Eschewing all the gimmicks of the anglo-saxons, large scale labour deregulation, tax cuts and the rest (although it pioneered privatisation), Sweden today is steadily increasing its GNP growth, lowering its unemployment and announcing government spending plans to repair the damage caused by six years of cut-backs.

The myths about Sweden are legion and none are more profoundly wrong than those about Swedish sexual habits—which, since this column began with an opinion on the consequences of Clinton's sex life, is worth a word or two. Yes, a male might be excused, if one walks around Stockholm, feasting on one blonde after another, that this country is some kind of sexual nirvana. But such lustful thoughts are more likely to remain unfulfilled than satisfied.

(This column is syndicated to and appears today also in Bangkok Post, Boston Globe, Dawn, Japan Times, Los Angeles Times, Manila Chronicle, New Straits Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Statesman, Toronto Star and many other leading newspapers of the world.)

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