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Can India, Pakistan learn from Trump-Kim summit?
Talks are the flavour of the moment. But till Pakistan is subject to the sway of its Army, militant Islamists and China, Indo-Pak dialogue will not be fruitful
Both showmen, US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, have met at Singapore and according to Trump, created history in abandoning the path of mutual annihilation and agreeing on the outline of a negotiated formulation of their relationship to the great relief of other nations of the world.
Of course what Kim could do at the most is to attempt to hit the United States with at best one or two missiles with nuclear weapons that too if they manage to evade the missile shield America will deploy if Kim’s push comes to a shove. But no one doubted Trump’s capacity to totally annihilate all of North Korea given the “Big Button” the US President always carried with him that would set a thousand nuclear-tipped missiles into pre-planned action against the enemy.
Then, overnight, the two met in Singapore and in three meetings created history. Kim has signed a document pledging de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula, whatever it means. Trump says he will end the seven decades of hostility and diplomatic isolation of the US from North Korea, whatever that means.
The world, taken by surprise by the quick turn of events, watched the developments in Singapore in awe and disbelief. Kim can be brash (only such a dictator can threaten the mightiest power on earth) and unpredictable while Trump can be firm at any cost and determined to implement his election pledges like he did in withdrawing from the Iranian deal despite all his allies opposing the withdrawal.
Considering the level of hostility that Kim of North Korea displayed against America and the annihilation he threatened American allies South Korea and Japan with — he even demonstrated his nuclear and missile capabilities — the hawk turning into a dove transformation at Singapore is certainly historic.
But many analysts who have studied the type of uncompromising dictatorship the Kim family has subjected North Korea to will say that Kim only wanted to be seen by the world at the same level with the US President mainly to satisfy his image of himself. This cannot be easily dismissed as speculation.
When this Kim’s grandfather consolidated power in North Korea with Soviet and Chinese help in the 1940s Kim Il Sung compelled every Korean to believe that all books whether in science or humanities published by the North Korean regime were written by him. Grandfather Kim spent money in many countries building up his image as the world leader respected by every nation that bowed to his authority and greatness.
In India, for instance, hundreds of newspapers, including many with little circulation as well as the large ones, used to carry two or three pages of advertisements praising the ‘world leader’ — all paid for in cash. The game only stopped when the Government here got to know the flow of cash behind it and put a stop to cash payments and with it the ads also stopped.
Interestingly these ads used to be relayed in North Korean dailies to tell the people under the Communist dictatorship how the great newspapers of the world were praising Kim Sung as the world’s greatest leader. We may here wonder how an entire people could be fooled. But in a dictatorship where no other than official publication was allowed this was possible. So, no wonder that grandson Kim wanted to demonstrate how he was so great as to make the US President eager to meet him and arrive at a deal with him.
Most reports from inside North Korea reveal a picture of poverty and deprivation of people held together by a ruthless dictatorship of a family now three generations in power which does not allow any challenge to it. The question that arises for New Delhi regarding what went down in Singapore between the US and North Korea is: Can India and Pakistan come together, shedding the hostility between the two over seven decades, and take a forward step for mutual benefit? The argument for such a detente have been played out so many times that by now we in India are familiar with it. The first step was taken by the BJP-led NDA Government under the Prime Ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Soon after, however, the Pakistan Army launched infiltration in Kargil and created a war-like situation but Atalji did not lose his bearing.
The leading powers of the world like the US and China to whom the Pakistan Prime Minister turned for support tersely told him to work with India. This led to a humiliating defeat for the Army in that country and to save its face the Army under General Pervez Musharraf exiled Nawaz Sharif and took control of the country. The previous occasion when the Army in Pakistan took control of the country was after the Bangladesh War in which the country was divided and the Bengali-speaking eastern wing was freed from the dominance of the Urdu-speaking, Punjabi-dominated western part.
The brief civilian regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was removed by General Zia ul Haq who was at the head of the longest period of army rule when the Constitution was changed and the foundation was laid for Islamic fundamentalism and the subsequent rise of armed militant Islam which, with the Army, has become a third force in determining Pakistan Government policies, especially towards India.
That the elected civilian Pakistan Government does not speak for the state is well known in all informed circles that keep a close watch on the state. Nawaz Sharif, after his recent loss of power, has revealed that the basic weakness of Pakistan is this dominance of non-elected actors.
Next month, Pakistan will go to polls and the result will reveal how far the Government can speak for the state. Though Nawaz Sharif’s party PML-N has welcomed a Indo-Pak dialogue in the present context, Government of India has been circumspect. It cannot afford to ignore the present fluid situation in the governance of Pakistan and welcome just any talks with it.
Secondly, Pakistan has had a long relationship with Kim Jong Un’s regime and got missile and nuclear technology from it. With its surrender to China by transferring a part of occupied Kashmir to build the railway connecting the Indian Ocean to South China through the Gwadar-Xinjiang railway, Islamabad is also obliged to submit to Chinese interests as already demonstrated in various critical areas.
All this, in addition to what the Pakistan Army on the one hand and the militant Islamists on the other want. As long as this situation remains, any resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue can hardly be expected to yield worthwhile results.
(The writer is a political commentator and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP)
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