Saturday, January 04, 2003
The 30 year rule - 4th January 2003, 8.55

Many documents held at the Public Record Office in London are released after thirty years to panting hordes of historians and the initial interest of hacks desperate to fill the post-holiday papers. This year proved no different with the (not so) astounding revelation that Edward Heath 'considered' redrawing the borders of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Eire during the worst period of the Troubles.

More pertinent to contemporary concerns was the United States and United Kingdom summit that took place in Bermuda 1971 whilst Pakistan and India waged their third war. These papers indicate that elements of the Indian cabinet were pressurising Indira Ghandi into dismembering both East and West Pakistan whilst seizing further territory for themselves. Such war aims were never formally adopted. The papers demonstrate that, although the party in power at that time was the more secular and stable Congress, Pakistan was right to consider the Republic of India as an enemy that could threaten its very existence. Such an act of dismemberment was not considered after the US 7th Fleet sailed to the region and took up a "threatening posture".

Links to newspapers in both Pakistan and India show that the basic narrative appears to be correct.

When the current nuclear relationship between India and Pakistan is examined in light of these records, any Pakistani government would remain suspicious of the contemporary ramshackle coalition comprised of the BJP and the smaller parties. For, whilst Pakistan has the limited aims of seizing Kashmir, India still harbours the notion of removing its neighbour and the destabilisation of its errant province will only have hardened these perceptions. That is why Pakistan has not adopted a 'no first use' doctrine unlike its neighbour due to insecurities that stem back to partition.

The 'nuclear rhetoric' of Musharraf tends to destabilisation of the subcontinent's flashpoint, Kashmir, and strengthens the possibility of a war. With two border skirmishes between US and Pakistani troops in the last week, and greater co-operation between India and the US, Pakistan will begin to fear 'encirclement' and steps need to be taken to defuse such perceptions. The United States should proceed cautiously in its relationship with India and prevent itself being drawn into support for India's own impractical policy of replacing Pakistan with pliant successor states, a policy that would dissolve into chaos.


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