The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, has once again described Kashmir as the most dangerous place in the world. Being out of office has made no change in his perceptions. Though the United States has been deeply involved in the Kashmir problem right since 1947, its interest had cooled somewhat after the Chinese aggression on India, and more noticeably, after the end of the cold war. Initially, it had been a vigorous champion of the right-to-self-determination of the Kashmir people, and had always supported the Pakistani contention on the issue in the United Nations. It showed a renewed and a more active interest in the issue after Mr. Clinton was elected president for the second term. In his first address to the United Nations just after his re-election, Mr. Clinton had compared Kashmir with global hot spots like Angola. His apprehensions about dangers to peace in South Asia found credence after India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests.
In an open and honest interview to the BBC, the former US president made the startling revelation that Pakistani withdrew its troops from Kargil because he had put his foot down. The pre-withdrawal diplomatic activity between Islamabad and Washington bears testimony to the fact that it was because of Mr. Clinton’s insistence that Pakistan prevailed upon mujahideen groups to return to the LOC, and withdrew its troops from the rugged heights they had occupied in the winter months. There is no reason not to believe the former US President that the pull-back from Kargil – a decision the army and the mujahideen groups had openly expressed themselves against – could be one of the reasons for the ouster of the then prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif.
Mr. Bill Clinton’s revelation has put the ruling Indian leadership in the dock. It has exposed the big lie about the Kargil victory that the ruling establishment has been trumpeting for the past many months. Instead of feeding lies to the nation it should have come out with the truth about the events that led to the Kargil fiasco. Instead of boasting about triumph in Kargil, it should have taken the nation into confidence about the laxities and weakness in the country’s defence. Instead of propagating lies about the military victory over Pakistan it could have told the truth about scoring against Pakistan on the diplomatic front. The revelations made by Mr. Clinton sufficiently suggest that he was favourably disposed towards India. The Indian leadership, unfortunately, has been in the habit of feeding lies to the nation on every vital issue. The complexity that the Kashmir problem has assumed over the past 53 years is more or less a result of this policy. Making use of the government controlled electronic media and the managed print media, it has been misleading the public about the real situation as prevailing in Kashmir during the past eleven years. The nation needs to be told the truth, howsoever bitter. People in India need to be told that the experiment of installing a government in Srinagar has failed to give the desired results. They need to be told that the ‘unilateral ceasefire’ – with militants rejecting it – was a flop. They need to know that the Pant exercise, too, has bombed. Telling the nation the truth will help the Indian leadership reach an agreement with Pakistan for a permanent solution of the fifty-three-year-old Kashmir problem. Bill Clinton’s revelations have a lesson for the leaderships in India and Pakistan: It was because of the intervention of a US president that a nuclear war was averted in the South Asian region. History tells us that bilateral talks between the two countries have been futile. History, therefore, teaches us that the two countries require a mediator for resolving their disputes, including that of Kashmir.
Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.