TOPICS > Politics

Conflict Between India and Pakistan

December 26, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT

TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: We get three views on the confrontation between India and Pakistan. Malik Zahoor Ahmad is a former Pakistan diplomat. His last post, before retiring in 1999, was minister of information at Pakistan’s embassy in Washington. Sumit Ganguly is a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s written extensively about the subcontinent, and was born in India. He’s now a U.S. citizen. And Dennis Kux is a retired State Department official who specialized in South Asian affairs. He’s now a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, a Washington research organization. Professor Ganguly, two wars have been fought over the fate of Kashmir. Are we on the verge a third?

SUMIT GANGULY: We could possibly be on the verge of a third, especially if the rhetoric from both sides keep ratcheting up. There is a real danger of miscalculation and misjudgment, and thereby war. However, that said, I think that the possibility of people deliberately going to war is somewhat small, because of the extraordinary physical costs and the material costs that are involved in going to war.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Ahmad, what’s your take on that?

MALIK ZAHOOR AHMAD: Well, I don’t think that there’s a danger of world war. But there’s certainly a danger of war between India and Pakistan.

Both sides now the rhetoric has gone up, but both sides say that we don’t want war. But when Pakistan says that we don’t want war, I agree and I understand because Pakistan is … it is not because Pakistan is a saint; it is because Pakistan now cannot afford a war, its hands are already full with Afghanistan and the situation in that part of the world.

But what Indians are doing, that surprises me, because this incident was not that serious an issue to do. What they have done, for example, they have –.

GWEN IFILL: Are you suggesting that what happened at the Indian parliament didn’t deserve this kind of response?

MALIK ZAHOOR AHMAD: Absolutely. Because it’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction.

This happened last time I think in 1965 and then again in 1971 — two extreme points in our history. This time, although I have sympathy for Indians, the attack on the parliament building, but that is not the only incident that has taken place there.

GWEN IFILL: Let me ask Professor Ganguly to respond to that. Are we taking about rhetoric and overreaction?

SUMIT GANGULY: I completely disagree that this is an overreaction. I think the reaction from India has actually been extraordinarily restrained. How would we feel here in the United States if terrorists came and tried to attack our national capital?

If terrorist, if a terrorist group based in a neighboring country were to come and attack our national capital and the two houses of Congress, I dare say our response would be somewhat more than what the Indians have done.

What the Indians have done by calling back the Indian ambassador, is actually a fairly anodyne movement as far as diplomatic relations go. They could take far tougher measures than they have thus far. I could give you an entirely any of measures they could consider resorting to.

GWEN IFILL: So Mr. Ahmad, where does that leave us right now? Is this a place where there’s a standoff in at least the rhetoric?

MALIK ZAHOOR AHMAD: Well, I think two things. One is what Pakistan has done is, they said okay, give us the leaders and India said no. Pakistan said okay let’s have a joint inquiry into it and India said no. Americans said you give Packistan some evidence, they said no. Americans said let FBI investigate the issue, they said no. Now, okay, no.

Then what you want to do, war? Go ahead with it. The point is that Pakistan is no Afghanistan. And India is no United States of America.

GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk about the United States of America’s role in this.

Mr. Kux, Washington has been watching nervously, Colin Powell is making phone calls today trying to decide what the role should be.

DENNIS KUX: The U.S. has already taken a role, the U.S. came out very strongly after these Dec. 13 attacks on the Indian parliament, condemning them, and last week the president put one of the organizations that the Indians believed carried out these attacks, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, on one of the terrorist lists.

The president then said he expected Pakistan would take action against these groups.

And today the — Secretary Powell announced that we were putting both of the organizations on really the top terrorist list, if you will, putting them in the al-Qaida category.

So in a sense we’re leaning on Pakistan, we’re leaning on Musharaff very hard to put the lid on these groups, which is really what India wants.

India, and here, with all respect, Malik, I disagree with you, I think this is not a trivial thing. Trying to blow up the nation’s capital and kill the leaders of the nation is something awful.

GWEN IFILL: But let me interrupt for a second. How much of the nervousness of the United States is centered around the nuclear capability of both of these countries and how much of it is centered around the fact that the U.S. in its war on Afghanistan so much needs peace in that region.

DENNIS KUX: It’s three factors, you have the war in Afghanistan, and obviously if India and Pakistan go to war it’s going to be very hard for Pakistan to continue its cooperation.

The second point is that India and Pakistan go to war, it could conceivably, even if they don’t wish it to, to escalate interest a nuclear conflict, it could happen – through inadvertence, just through circumstances.

Finally the U.S. is very interested, the Bush administration is very interested in improving relations with India over the long term, and it knows it has a double standard on terrorism, saying when we’re the target, we the United States are the target, then you can hit them back, but if India is the target, oh, no, you’ve got to be calm, you’ve got to be quiet.

You’re going to have problems in establishing a longer-term relationship with India.

GWEN IFILL: Professor Ganguly, how significant were the actions the United States has taken or that Pakistan has take then the arrests of the leaders of these two groups, of the freezing of the assets, even none of these groups seem to have U.S. assets — how significant is all of this?

SUMIT GANGULY: I agree with Dennis completely, that the most recent decision of today by Secretary of State Colin Powell to put the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed on the – FTO — Foreign Terrorist Organization, this will certainly give the foreign ministry in New Delhi an opportunity to go to the Indian people and say look, the United States is taking us seriously, they probably should have done this a lot earlier, but better late than never, this is a significant step.

Obviously the U.S. Is maintaining a degree of moral consistency in terms of the war on terrorism. Pakistan’s detention and this, by the way, is something very peculiar to India, Pakistan and certain countries which have inherited a British tradition, this notion of preventive detention where you detain somebody on suspicion of certain acts they may or may not have committed because they could contribute to public disorder, that such an act also exists in India.

And people are routinely detained under it. This really does not amount, as far as I’m concerned, to a hill of beans.

If Pakistan is really serious, they should hand over Masood Azhar, who had been languishing in an Indian prison and had been released as a consequence of certain terrorist demands – the demands that ensued when an Indian airliner was hijacked and Masood was released as part of the bargain, then Masood Azhar showed up in Pakistan and started to make speeches.

GWEN IFILL: Let me give Mr. Ahmad a chance to respond to what you said about Masood Azhar. How important is it that he is being detained?

MALIK ZAHOOR AHMAD: It’s very important to detain him, and right now this is the maximum any government could do. The problem with India is, and I’m very sorry with Professor Ganguly, I would expect professor to be more academic and more impartial, he’s more speaking as if he’s a representative of the Indian government.

I’m no longer with the government of Pakistan — I don’t… The point here is that India all of a sudden, unfortunately, all roads lead us to 9/11. The Sept. 11 has changed the course of international relations.

GWEN IFILL: Has it also changed the challenges for the President Mushareff and the relationship with the United States?

MALIK ZAHOOR AHMAD: It has changed everything, and the problem with India is, and this is what The New York Times said a couple of days ago, they said that India has been successful in, at that time with these Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed –their assets were frozen by the U.S. Government and The New York Times said that India has been able to accomplish…

GWEN IFILL: I know the point you’re trying to make about India, but I’m really curious about the challenges for Pakistan. Does Pakistan have unique challenges since Sept. 11 in this dispute, which is intractable and so many years old?

MALIK ZAHOOR AHMAD: Absolutely, this is what I was going to tell. That India is not trying to copy America. India wants Pakistan to treat her as other states in the region. That is probably not acceptable to Pakistan.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Kux?

DENNIS KUX: I don’t think — that’s true maybe in a broader sense of but I think that 9/11 has really presented a new situation for Pakistan, because Pakistan before 9/11 was heading down the road to fundamentalism if you will towards a theocratic state, and one of the reasons was what the government of Pakistan, because of its support of the Taliban, because of its support of proxy war in Kashmir against India, was giving a lot of space to these terrorist organizations.

Well, it, Mushareff first did a 180 against the Taliban, so he cut off that bit of fundamentalism. And now, and here I think India needs to be patient, India gives him time, I think he may well be able to do a 180 against these other terrorist groups. It’s not that he’s going to change the policy on Kashmir.

The rhetoric will remain. But he may change some of the actions. And it’s this use of terrorism that India has objected to.

GWEN IFILL: Professor Ganguly, how about that?

SUMIT GANGULY: I completely agree with Dennis. Obviously it would be unreasonable for India, for Pakistan to give up its support for Kashmir.

This is one thing that is a fix of Pakistan, the Pakistani elite remains absolutely fixated on Kashmir and despite the fact they have initiated four wars and have lost all four, they still simply cannot afford to give up on this issue.

This is one thing that unifies much of the Pakistani elite. That said, certainly support for terrorism is intolerable, and 9/11 if it hasn’t changed that, should change it in fairly short order.

Also I should remind Ambassador Malik that an ad-hominum attack does not enhance the matter of discourse – that merely attacking my persona does not do very much. Perhaps he could point out where I my err in terms of my information.

GWEN IFILL: That said we’re going to have to leave it there, because I don’t think we’re going to solve this, but we scratched the surface. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.