India/Pakistan: 'Peace initiative' prepares new wars

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In the middle of 2002 there were intensive war preparations in the Indian subcontinent. Both the Indian and the Pakistani ruling cliques were on the verge of open war. Both these imperialist states resorted to an unprecedented mobilisation of arms, ammunition and soldiers on the international borders between the two countries. Both sides mobilised one million soldiers armed to the teeth with all sorts of lethal weapons. Threatening statements about using nuclear weapons were issued by some sections of the political authorities in both countries. The Indian bourgeoisie proved to be much more aggressive and seemed to be bent on going towards open war in response to the more hidden war through terrorist activities sponsored by the bourgeoisie of Pakistan. But the pressure of the 'international community', particularly the US, compelled the Indian bourgeoisie to call a temporary halt to the march to war.

Since May - June 2003 we have seen new 'peace' initiatives in the subcontinent, culminating in the current cease-fire declared by Pakistan and welcomed by India. The Indian Prime minister has been extending the 'hand of friendship' to his Pakistani counterpart. The Pakistani bourgeoisie and the state authority have been responding favourably to the peace overtures. 'Confidence-building' measures are being taken by both sides. Both sides have released some prisoners. Talks are going on to re-establish air, road, railway and sea links. Road links have already started functioning on a limited scale. Ambassadors have already returned, a year after they left or were compelled to leave the capital of the other country. In January the Indian Prime minister Vajpayee is due to visit Islamabad for the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, although so far New Delhi has ruled out any bilateral talks with Pakistan's leaders on the margins of the summit. Most recently, in November 2003, a cease-fire was declared that has so far held along the entire frontier of the disputed Kashmir region. So apparently the 'peace' initiative is gaining momentum in a border conflict which has left tens of thousands dead.

Can there be any real peace between these two imperialist states, whose very birth was from the womb of intensifying imperialist conflict - the epoch of capitalist decadence? Can there be any real peaceful and harmonious relations between any two capitalist states, all of whom are bound to be imperialist in this phase of the life of world capital? A loud NO is the only answer. War and 'peace', in decadent capitalist society are two inseparable aspects of the same imperialist strategy. 'Peace' in this epoch is nothing but a particular moment between two phases of open war. It is used by the warring imperialist states for the political and military preparation of a new, more dreadful and devastating war. 'Peace' and 'peace initiatives' are nothing but the continuation of war in a different form and are a very important part of the overall diplomatic offensive of one side against the other. There cannot be any real, permanent peace in dying capitalism.

In the Indian subcontinent 'peace' was always followed by outbreaks of open war. The Kargil war was preceded by the Lahore 'peace'. The Agra 'peace' was followed by the near war situation in January and June of 2002. The Tashkent 'peace' was followed by the bloody war of 1971, which resulted in the dismemberment of the eastern part of Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh. Bangladesh was born as the product of the intensifying conflict between the two factions of the Pakistani bourgeoisie, of the imperialist conflict between the Indian and the Pakistani bourgeoisies, and the global battle between the US and Russian imperialist blocs. So war and 'peace' efforts are nothing but the two sides of the same imperialist coin. The needs of US imperialism

The latest 'peace' initiative cannot be any different. It is nothing but a cover for the intensifying imperialist conflict. It is inseparably linked with the ceaselessly intensifying diplomatic offensive of each against the other, aimed at enhancing the political standing of each in the eyes of the 'international community', particularly of the US super-boss after its spectacular and unilateral show of military muscle in the war in Iraq. These are nothing but complementary steps for furthering the cause of the future war. In June 2002, when war initiatives in the subcontinent were reaching a climax, the US left no stone unturned to prevent the outbreak of war and to maintain 'peace' in the region. 'Peace' in this part of the world is necessary for America's current global imperialist strategy. Its aim is to consolidate its strategic position in Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of central Asia. The situation in Iraq and Afghanistan - with the extension and strengthening of armed attacks against the US-led forces of occupation - has further reinforced the USA's need for 'peace' in the subcontinent. So this imperialist juggernaut has to wear the robes of a peacemaker and resort to peace initiatives in certain strategic areas, in order to increase its ability to launch its military adventures elsewhere, and to intensify its offensive against its most dangerous potential rivals - Germany, France and other major powers.

It's much the same with other imperialist powers, whether large or small. We have seen the 'peace-mongering' role of the French, German, Russian and Chinese bourgeoisies in the last Iraq war, just as we have seen the more open war-mongering of the same major powers in other wars. In any case, the conflict between the lesser powers and the sole super-power, whether hidden or open, is bound to increase. The political authorities in India often speak of the double standards of the US when it comes to the struggle against international terrorism. The Indian bourgeoisie can neither totally support the imperialist policies of the US nor can it totally oppose them. But it is compelled to maintain relations with this military and economic giant, and the recent 'peace' initiative is very intimately linked with the strategy that Indian capitalism has to adopt in its relations with the US.

The audacious aggressiveness of the Indian bourgeoisie, with its insistence on open military confrontation with the Pakistani bourgeoisie, and the efforts of the latter to avoid open war with its Indian counterpart, have led to some diplomatic isolation of the Indian state in the 'international community'. The Indian ruling clique was not very successful in convincing the 'world community' with its endless claims that Pakistan is the sole source of terrorism, not only in Kashmir but also in other parts of India and abroad.

India is not the US. It has to bother a lot about the attitude of the 'international community'. The first and second Iraq wars and the current situation of the US have pushed the Indian state to take the 'peace' initiative. The Indian bourgeoisie has realised that it will have to pay very dearly for any open aggression against the Pakistani state without the consent of the 'international community', and of the US in particular. On top of this, the role of the Indian bourgeoisie in the Iraq war did not satisfy Washington. So the imperialist interests of the Indian bourgeoisie have obliged it to resort to the 'peace' initiative as the best bet in the present situation. This initiative got a sudden boost just before the visit to the subcontinent of Richard Armitage, the deputy US Secretary of State and a very important person in the Bush administration.

The Pakistani state also needs to please the US boss following the role it played during the Iraq war. Pakistan has indeed been identified internationally as a state which harbours Islamic terrorists and there have long been rumours of connections between the Pakistani secret services and gangs like al-Qaida. Moreover, the Pakistani bourgeoisie has learnt the bitter lessons from its past open wars against India. Hence the blossoming of 'peace' initiatives by both imperialist twins at the present moment. These initiatives also got a boost just after the return of the Indian defence minister from China following a "very successful and cordial trip". This minister has now made a series of statements that make him one of the most China-friendly politicians in the ruling clique. In the present international balance of forces, China is also encouraging both Pakistan and India to make 'peace', rather than reiterating its classic policy of playing Pakistan off against India. Growing tensions

But the undercurrent of inevitable imperialist tension, mutual suspicion and confrontation is gathering momentum just beneath the thin cover of peace initiatives. The Indian Prime Minister said in Switzerland on June 2, 2003, "Earlier we used to be asked to talk to Pakistan. Now the world is telling them to stop cross border terrorism". According to Brajesh Mishra, the national security adviser of India, "a core consisting of democratic societies has to gradually emerge from within our existing coalition, which can take on international terrorism in a holistic and focussed manner". The Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, said in an interview on 16th June 2003, "the problem with India is they are too conscious of their larger size and they believe in coercing their neighbours. They want to dictate terms to us, they want to dictate their version of a solution. We will not take that � let them not treat us like any small country around. We are a powerful nation". According to the political resolution of the BJP, the dominant political party in the ruling coalition of India, the basis for any dialogue with the Pakistani authority will be to get back that part of Kashmir that they call POK i.e. Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. According to a report in The Telegraph of 19th June 2003, India has blocked the entry of Pakistan into the high-profile Asean Regional Forum and the Indian foreign minister has played a crucial role in this. Mr Yashwant Sinha, from the ministry of external affairs of India, said in front of top armed forces officers and diplomats on 19th October 2003: "Who is friend and foe in this battle against terrorism is a critical question �if foes were allowed to masquerade as friends, the forces of global terrorism will never yield". He further added, "the penchant of some to deal with authoritarian regimes for short term gains will also remain short lived." The implications are quite clear. In the same meeting the Prime Minister of India spewed venom against the Pakistani bourgeoisie: "Does Pakistan have a democracy? Does it have an elected government? Those who rule at gun point are talking of rights of self-determination [in Kashmir]". The Statesman, a sophisticated newspaper of the Indian bourgeoisie, highlighted a news item with the title "Rocca blow for Islamabad". It is reported here that the US assistant secretary of state, Ms Christina Rocca, has said that India is a victim of terrorism and Pakistan should "redouble" its efforts to curb cross border infiltration.

As for the cease-fire, it has been timed as a propaganda exercise to coincide with Vajpayee's visit to Islamabad. Ershad Mahmud of the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad says "it is more symbolic than substantive". A member of the Kashmiri militant groups in Muzzafarabad voiced his suspicion of the cease-fire: "Pakistan may get some political benefit from the cease-fire because it initiated the move, but the real beneficiary is India, which will strengthen its positions and improve its bunkers" (Yahoo! News, 26.11.03). Once again imperialist peace paves the way to imperialist war.

Above all, the nuclear threat has by no means been removed. The Pakistani president Pervez Musarraf said in Seoul in South Korea on 7th November, 2003: "I think we are fully justified in developing our nuclear and missile capability because there was an external threat and if ever that threat arises in any other area�we will again respond to it in a similar manner in future also." The Indian Prime Minister said in London on 7th November: "it is a matter of concern for us as this programme (Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme) is unambiguously directed only against India". From all these glimpses, the reality of the 'peace initiative' is very clear.

Communist Internationalist, November 2003.