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US backs India on Kashmir plebiscite, but BJP is still unhappy

New Delhi: America's give-some take-some policy has not pleased the Indian policy establishment. US Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca's submission on July 19, before the House International Relations Subcommittee that the US does not support Pakistan's persistent demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir was music to Indian ears.

The new US position is particularly pleasant to India because so far the US has been backing an early UN resolution for a plebiscite in Kashmir. India, over the decades, backed away from the plebiscite commitment because Pakistan never fulfilled a primary requirement of the UN resolution -- withdrawal from J&K areas it captured in 1947 and calls Free Kashmir (to Indians, Pak-Occupied Kashmir). Later, Pakistan parceled off some of the territory to China following a border agreement.

Rocca's assertion that the US favours the bilateral format for resolving all disputes between the two countries as stipulated in the Simla Agreement signed by India's then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Pakistani counterpart Zulfiaar Ali Bhutto in 1972. Rocca's statement is very much in tune with India's stand, which insists on a bilateral format.

However, it does not suit Pakistan, although it was signatory to the agreement. Pakistan feels that some nudging from an outside power, preferably the United States, would get India to the negotiating table.

Despite the favourable turn in the US stance, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leading the coalition government at Centre expressed disappointment with the United States for what it called refusal to declare Pakistan a "terrorist state". Earlier in the week the hawkish Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani had told Parliament that Pakistan would have curbed terrorism if only the US had threatened to declare it a terrorist state.

For quite some time now, BJP has been hoping that the US would declare Pakistan a terrorist state. The hope grew in the wake of September 11 attacks, only to be rudely dashed with Pakistan's co-option by the US as a frontline ally in its campaign against militant Islam. BJP leaders objected to the US stance saying Pakistan could never be an ally in the global campaign against terrorism, because it was "part of the problem."

BJP is incensed over the US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher's statement on on July 17, that "Pakistan is a very stalwart ally in the fight against terrorism."

Boucher stated that infiltration of militants across the Line of Control (LoC) was down since President Pervez Musharraf pledged to curb it. However, more action had to be taken to completely stop it. 

India believes that Musharraf has of late gone back on his word. Pakistan has proposed deployment of international monitors at the LoC to monitor violation of the pledge. India does not favour this arrangement and wants Pakistan to take the onus.

The Pakistani reply is that if India's 7,00,000 troops amassed on the LoC are not able to stop infiltration, it is not realistic for Pakistan to do that with smaller number of personnel. BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said in New Delhi on July 19, that the United States had two different yardsticks for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan the US was fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda, but it turned a blind eye to Pak-inspired terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan calls it an "indigenous" freedom movement.

BJP's disappointment is understandable. In the wake of September 11 it had seen its dream of Islam and Muslims crushed worldwide coming true as a result of the global anti-terror campaign. BJP's sister organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had openly been talking about an imminent Muslim-Christian armageddon. "We would be on Christian side," declared Ashok Singhal of VHP.

Now that no such thing is happening, a certain amount of disappointment is visible. VHP's stance is contradictory in an important way -- it has declared support to a future Christian war against Muslims worldwide, yet it has been viciously attacking Christians at home. Indian Christian religious bodies have frequently accused it of murder of Christian priests, rape of nuns and arson attacks on churches.

BJP has been unhappy with both the United States and Britain for the same reasons -- not declaring Pakistan a pariah state. India expressed its concern over continuing infiltration of militants from across the LoC to the visiting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who visited Delhi on July 19-20. It was Straw’s third visit to the Sub-continent in the last six months. 

From here he went to Pakistan. The area has been frequently visited by high American officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield, in a bid to prevent India and Pakistan from coming to blows.

The Pakistani side has complained that they had been sincerely fighting terrorism and trying their best to stop infiltration across the LoC, but the US and British assurance of getting India to the negotiating table has not been fulfilled. Pakistan's military spokesman Brigadier General Rashid Qureishi said Friday, July 19, in Islamabad that Pakistan had delivered on its promise. "It is now up to them to bring India to the negotiating table," he said.

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