Saturday, January 3, 2009

Kayani comes out of the closet

Rajinder Puri

At last, General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani has come out of the closet to vindicate an apparent truth that the world had refused to acknowledge. Namely, that it is Beijing and not Washington that calls the shots in Islamabad. America wields clout with the politicians. China has control over the army. The army controls the politicians. Ergo, China controls Pakistan.

Condoleezza Rice, John Negroponte, Richard Boucher and Admiral Mullen were at the head of a procession of US bigwigs who trooped into Islamabad to read the riot act to politicians and the army. There was no impact. Islamabad remained defiant. When politicians such as Nawaz Sharif did speak the truth they quickly retracted to toe the army's line. Worse, even in the comparatively outspoken media, with a few honourable exceptions, noted columnists endorsed Pakistan's farcical state of denial inspired by the army.

Well, China's vice foreign minister came to Islamabad and offered gentle advice to the politicians and the army. Whoosh! General Kayani deflated like a punctured balloon and somersaulted 180 degrees to promote de-escalation! Beijing therefore has left nobody in doubt about Pakistan's source of defiant strength. What lesson should India draw from this? Primarily that it should not be carried away by silly sentiment.

If China has pressured Pakistan now it is for the same reason that it reluctantly climbed down on the Indo-US nuclear deal. With America, Russia and Europe ranged against Islamabad's role in terrorism, China cannot afford to be bracketed with Pakistan which is increasingly perceived as a rogue state. So take with a bucket of salt China's newfound endeavour to restrain Pakistan. Focus instead on the fact that Pakistan's role against India during the last few decades in Kashmir and elsewhere was sustained and encouraged by Beijing.

Nothing has changed as yet. Witness the nitpicking shyster arguments parroted by Pakistani politicians and news columnists that the evidence presented by India on the Mumbai blast would not stand scrutiny in a court of law. What they need to effectively answer is whether the captured terrorist, Kasab, is Pakistani or not? Did the terrorists come by sea from Pakistan or not? The rest is irrelevant.

But Pakistan remains adamant on the core issue. General Kayani has a lot more to do than make a lame statement to restore confidence. India will smell change only after the civilian government in Pakistan visibly enforces its writ on the army. That most likely will be done only after the Communist government in Beijing succeeds in visibly enforcing its writ on China's People's Liberation Army.

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