Is India-Pakistan War Imminent?

by Farooq Tariq, General Secretary, Labour Party Pakistan (LPP)

This is an edited version of an article posted on December 23. The original may be viewed on the web site of the LPP. This article is followed by an update of December 26 announcing a peace rally in Lahore, Pakistan, scheduled for New Year’s.

Bush’s “war on terrorism” has taken a new turn. It is possible that a real war could erupt between the two nuclear powers, Pakistan and India. It is not going to be one-way traffic, as was the case with the American Afghanistan war. It is going to be a war full of blood on both sides, a kind not seen by the world for many years.  Minor border clashes have already taken place and the air forces of the both countries are on high alert. There have been reports of massive army presence on the borders on both sides.

The spokespersons of the governments of both countries are speaking the language of war. Initial steps have been taken, such as the recall of the Indian ambassador. Also, the Indian government has suspended the Friendship bus service and the train service that goes four times weekly between Delhi and Lahore.

In 1998, the governments then headed by Vajpai in India and Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan initiated the bus service as a token gesture of newly found friendship after they both met at Lahore. The bus service was not even suspended during the 28-day Kargil war between India and Pakistan during June 1998.

The actions of the Indian government are in response to a December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament by a group of armed men. In the attack 14 people were killed. The Indian government claimed that this was an attempt by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan to wipe out the whole political leadership of India. The Indian parliament was in session when the attack took place. As they were attempting to enter the parliament building, the attackers were intercepted outside the building by Indian guards. Six guards were killed on the spot, plus the five terrorists.

The Pakistan government and Pakistan media with their usual demagogy have tried to blame the Indian Intelligence service RAW, claiming that it had engineered a plot against Pakistan and that, using the excuse of this attack, India would call on the international community to declare Pakistan a state harboring terrorists. The military spokesman of Pakistan warned India of dire consequences if Pakistan was attacked militarily. The India government termed this attitude non-serious. There were hysterical calls by the Indian mainstream media for action to be taken, not just in words, but real action against the Pakistani state — to supposedly teach Pakistan a lesson.

The Pakistani newspapers reported on December 23 that the Indian government was also calling for the scrapping of the Indus Water Treaty and suspension of overflight permission for Pakistani civilian planes. The Indian home minister Advani had already spoken of crossing the borderlines, and Indian Prime Minister Vajpai declared that all options were open to his government. He spoke of taking diplomatic efforts first and then discussing the possibilities of other options open to India. In contrast, the Pakistani ruler, General Musharaf, who was on a five-day visit to China at the time, termed the Indian response arrogant and a knee-jerk reaction.

The Indus Water Treaty of 1960 governs the distribution of water from the Indus River and its tributaries between India and Pakistan. If this treaty were scrapped, it would not only starve the Punjab and Sind provinces of Pakistan but Pakistan as whole and Afghanistan. The two provinces are heavily dependent on the canal irrigation system drawn from these rivers. Because of the ongoing climate changes there have been drought conditions for the last many years in arid areas of Punjab. The food requirements of Pakistan are mainly met from the canal-irrigated areas of Punjab and Sind. The two provinces constitute over 80 percent of the total population of Pakistan.

The governments of both India and Pakistan are on a road to disaster. It is likely that the both governments will go further than economic and other sanctions against each other. These are the first steps on the road to a real war. Both countries have gone to war against each other several times in the past. The last limited war was in 1998.

The mad politicians of India and the military regime of Pakistan were on the same side with the “international community” during the American Afghan war. Now they both accuse each other of harboring terrorists in the form of armed religious fundamentalists fighting for control of Kashmir.

They want to take the American road to score their points. War is the only solution — that is the conclusion these mad rulers are drawing after the events of the last three months. The American war on Afghanistan has brought no peace and no relief from so-called terrorists. On the contrary, it has increased the danger to world peace. The world is closer to a nuclear war than ever before in its history.

With the threat of a new war between India and Pakistan, all the claims of U.S. imperialism have been proved false. They claimed that bombing Afghanistan and taking power out of the hands of the Taliban would help to curb the menace of terrorism. The attack on the Indian parliament, the failed attempt to blow up an airliner flying from Paris to Miami on December 23, the killing of the brother of Pakistan’s interior minister in Karachi on December 22, and the ongoing armed conflict in Palestine — all these events show that individual or small-group terrorism will not be stopped by state-sponsored terrorism.

The U.S. may believe it has “won” the war and may be very pleased by the Taliban departure from power, but the danger of terrorist attacks has not disappeared. In fact, U.S. action has promoted the philosophy of war and the politics of war. The departure of the Taliban is by no means the end of religious fanaticism. According to one survey, published today in the Pakistani press, despite the fact that the Taliban have not lived up to their vow to fight to the death, they still enjoy the support of 43 percent of the Pakistan population.

The other bitter reality is that none of the Taliban top leadership has been arrested or killed despite the rain of bombs on the main bases of the Talban. It has now emerged that the Taliban left power with the full consent of the American-supported leader, Hamid Karzai, on the promise that none of them would be arrested or killed. Karzai has so for lived up to his promise. The main reason could be the ethnic conflict within Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai may still want to use the support of the Pushtun Taliban in case he has problems with the nationalist leaders of other ethnic groups—Uzbek, Hazara, and Tajik.

The strategy of the Americans in Afghanistan could be compared with their strategy just after their victory in the Gulf War. U.S. imperialism helped the defeated Saddam Hussein to remain in power and helped him crush the popular uprising of Shia Muslims in southern Iraq. At the time, the Americans feared another popular uprising like the one in Iran. In Afghanistan, they have bowed down to similar internal conflicts and contradictions.

But this strategy has not helped to curb the religious fundamentalists.

Despite the fact that the Pakistan military regime has helped the Americans in their war efforts, it is still pursing the same old Kashmir policy. The religious fundamentalist groups are openly organizing their activities in Pakistan. None of the military training camps of the religious fundamentalists have been closed. They have not been banned from recruiting unemployed youth from working-class backgrounds. It is business as usual. But it cannot go on for very long.

The military regime has to change its policy toward these so-called Mujahedin organizations that are eager for an all-out war with the Indian government. The Indian government, in turn, rests on the social basis of Hindu chauvinism. It needs such excuses to whip up Hindu nationalism. And now it is doing precisely that.

It is not a question of “war on terrorism.” If the Indian government wanted to stop terrorism, it would stop indulging in gross violation of human rights in Kashmir. The people of Kashmir want independence. The religious fundamentalists want to turn Kashmir’s national struggle into a religious war. Part of the ISI of Pakistan is helping these religious fundamentalists to achieve this goal.

General Musharaf is in a particularly difficult position. He has publicly defended Pakistan’s Kashmir policy many times. He had to leave the much-publicized Agra Summit in August this year for this very reason. Indian Prime Minister Vajpai refused to accept the alleged centrality of the Kashmir issue at the time. Vajpai offered to open the borders, increase trade relations, and take other economic measures to bring the two countries closer to each other. But General Musharaf rejected all these offers and stated point-blank that until the Kashmir issue was resolved, there would be no long-lasting friendship.

The Indian ruling class under Vajpai would not accept any solution in Kashmir that would hurt their social basis. So they refused and the Agra Summit failed.

Only a month later, after September 11, General Musharaf took a U-turn and abandoned his its government’s former policy of supporting the Taliban. He decided to side with the Americans. This revealed a contradiction in the policies of the Musharaf regime. On the one hand, it was helping the Kashmir Mujahedin in their “holy war” against the Indian occupation of Kashmir. On the other, it was supporting the Americans against the “holy warriors” of the Taliban.

Who carried out the December 13 attack on the Indian parliament? India says it was Muslim fundamentalists from Lashkar Tayaba (Holy Army) and Jaish Mohammed (Prophet Mohammed’s Army). General Musharaf asks for proof of that. It is just like the Taliban asking for proof in response to the American demand that they hand over Osama bin Laden. After the war in Afghanistan, the morality of providing proofs of any incident has become irrelevant. It is more the interests and priorities of a certain country that guide its strategy than the need for any real proofs.

The working classes of Pakistan and India have to act and act decisively in the present situation. They have to act now. They have to reject the excuse of their rulers to go for war. There is no excuse to start a war. Workers must say no to war, and yes to peace. The need for a peace movement in the Indian subcontinent is far greater at present than at any other time in history.

The real losers in the war between India and Pakistan will be ordinary citizens of both countries. They will have to pay the price of the war. The rich and the capitalist will make money out of war, and the workers will pay not only dearly with cash but with their lives as well. They have no safe place or any money to leave the country.

The average standard of living in both the Indian and the Pakistani economies is no more than $400 dollars per capita. Together, the two countries have almost one-fifth of the world’s population. They have more than 70 percent of the world’s poor. The economic impact of this war will be disastrous for workers in both countries. The Pakistan economy is already on the verge of collapse despite all the claims of international help. The Afghan war has already helped ruin the Pakistan economy. A war between India and Pakistan will roll back the standard of living of the masses to an unprecedented level.

War between India and Pakistan has become a real possibility. It can only be avoided if General Musharaf takes another U-turn in his policy toward Kashmir. If he does not, he may lose power and his life as well. (It should be noted that no ruler of Pakistan has voluntarily left power.)

The Indian ruling class is all out for war. It could start with border clashes, but quickly spread beyond the borders. The American imperialists may not be in favor of such a war. But the circumstances may be out of their control. They have created a mess with their attack on Afghanistan. The Americans have taught the lesson that every problem should be solved by waging war.

A strong peace movement on both sides can have a decisive influence to change the war hysteria. Labour Party Pakistan will be in the forefront and will initiate this peace movement in Pakistan.   



Labour Party Pakistan

Sufi Mansion, 7 Egerton Road, Lahore, Pakistan

Tel/Fax: 92 42 6303808 


Peace Rally on New Year’s Night in Pakistan

Several organizations have decided to support a peace rally on New Year’s night in Lahore. The rally will start at 5 pm, leaving from the Lahore Press Club for the Wahga Border with India. This was decided today [December 25] in a meeting of the representatives of several organizations held here in Lahore. The organizations included the AGHS legal help, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Labour Party Pakistan, Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, and Youth Commission for Human Rights.

The Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights is meeting on December 27 to discuss this and other initiatives against the growing war fanaticism in Pakistan and India.

Asma Jahangir, former chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Shoaib Bhatti, chairman Labour Party Pakistan, and Cecil Choudry of the Justice and Peace Commission will address a press conference on December 28 at the Lahore Press Club to give the details of the peace rally that will be going to the Indian border.

Report by: Amir Suhail

Information secretary, Labour Party Pakistan, Lahore