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Sunday, November 29, 2020

A dangerously long election

At the best of times it is a bad idea to allow bureaucrats to run a country.

Written by Tavleen Singh | April 26, 2009 11:31:03 pm

At the best of times it is a bad idea to allow bureaucrats to run a country. And,here we are in very bad times with the Election Commission ruling India for yet another month. In Sri Lanka the civil war is reaching a horrific climax. As we are in limbo between governments,the Indian response has been confused and unbecoming of a country that likes to think of itself as the regional power.

We needed to make it clear that we were not on the side of the LTTE. We did not. How can we forget that more than a thousand Indian soldiers died at the hands of Velupillai Pirabakaran’s guerrillas?

If the ghastly Pirabakaran meets a violent end the one country that should be pleased is India. He is wanted here for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi and personally I believed that Sonia Gandhi would have stepped in to restrain our Foreign Secretary from rushing off to Colombo to interfere in the endgame. Remember that she brought a government down in 1996 because she felt it had not done enough to investigate the murder of her husband. Either time has healed old wounds or she has been too busy electioneering to notice even that the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu,her friend and ally,announced on national television that Pirabakaran was his ‘good friend.’ He tried to make amends the next day but TV cameras make the ‘misquoted’ defence untenable. It’s one thing to feel sympathy for Tamil civilians trapped in the war but to express friendship for Pirabakaran is treason.

Meanwhile,Pakistan is once more up to its old duplicities and deceptions. Last week came the first sign that Barack Obama’s policy in South Asia could be different to his predecessor’s when Hilary Clinton warned the Pakistani government to focus on the real Taliban threat rather than the supposed threat from India. This shows that the United States could start demanding some returns on the billions of dollars it has poured into Pakistan to help it fight Islamist terrorism. President Obama said there would be no ‘blank cheques’ but so far all we have got is promises of more money for Pakistan and an Af-Pak policy that seems to exclude India.

Mrs Clinton’s remarks were the first sign of reassuring change but no sooner did she make them than Pakistan resorted to deceptions. The Pakistani Prime Minister’s adviser on security,Rehman Malik,called a special meeting of Pakistani senators to show them ‘documentary proof’ of India’s role in funding Pakistani terrorist groups. My Pakistani friends have been telling me for some time of India’s ‘involvement in Baluchistan’ and I have pointed out that if we were involved we would have bumped off monsters like Baitullah Mehsud and Sufi Mohammed. Not promoted them. How can it be in India’s interest to promote Islamist lunatics who should have been packed off a long time ago to those 72 virgins who await them?

If we had a real government we would have taken this chance to show the Americans how Pakistan’s responses are always duplicitous. After Mumbai was attacked and Kasab lived to tell the tale the immediate response from Islamabad was denial. The denials came from Pakistan’s civilian government as much as from the Generals.

Then when the evidence became overwhelming and increasingly evident that it was serving army officers on the telephone to the terrorists in Mumbai guiding their every move the denials became louder and more hysterical. Finally,due to pressure from Washington,there was reluctant acknowledgement that there could be Pakistanis involved.

With Swat now in the hands of the Taliban,things have got much worse in Pakistan but the terrorism that country faces has to do with its own policies. The Pakistani army’s links with jihadi groups is so deep and complex that it is sometimes hard to separate the two. This is directly because of the policies of General Pervez Musharraf who fooled the American government into believing that he was their best ally in the war on terrorism.

It is vital that India not allow a democratic government in Pakistan to succeed in fooling the Americans again. But,what can we do when the Government of India is in suspended animation? If there is one lesson that can be learned from this very long drawn out campaign it is that we must not allow such a long election again.

The stated reason for the Election Commission to stretch the election out was security. They feared attacks from jihadi terrorists and Naxalites so not only did we have to stretch the election out we even had to drive away the IPL. How ironic that this very long election has served mostly to enhance the threat to national security and not reduce it.

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