Monday, January 18, 2016

Distortionists and Distorians ...... Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ January 17, 2016

Distortionists and Distorians Shouldn't be Allowed to Dictate Indo-Pak Diplomacy

Distortions and disinformation are the spicy ingredients, which define Indian diplomacy today. In the past, ideological conviction anointed with commercial interests would dictate the direction of diplomatic engagement. But now the two Ds of diplomacy—Distortionists and Distorians (DDs), sorry, I mean historians—have taken upon themselves to influence the Indo-Pak dialogue process. Last week, the DDs were conspicuous by their presence in the media, pleading for a resumption of the dialogue. Their prattling portfolio of Pak promotion was incorrect and incomplete news with a fabricated fantasia of history. The Pathankot airbase attack was a reason strong enough to give a temporary pause, if not abandon, the proposed foreign secretary-level talks. But the dialogue supari mafia was choreographing an act to give fresh impetus to the restoration of jaw-jaw. The action started in Pakistan with Geo TV flashing the detention of Masood Azhar and his colleagues. On cue, the DDs activated the Indian media to carry the footage prominently. For the next six hours, almost all Indian channels harpooned pro-dialogue peaceniks to build a case against the cancellation of talks. Even NaMo baiters joined the chorus to convince the PM that his Lahore mission had paid dividends and its benefits shouldn’t be diluted by the Pathankot incident. None of them bothered to check the facts from either Indian intelligence sources or their own Pak contacts. Only the external affairs ministry officials and National Security Agency were sceptical about the news of Azhar’s arrest. Even Pakistani agencies weren’t as confident as the Indian media about the “protective detention” of the most-wanted terrorist. Normally potential troublemakers are taken under preventive and not ‘protective’ custody. Sadly, 24 hours later, the phantasmagoria of falsehood, distortions and disinformation was exposed when the Pak Foreign Office stated that Azhar has not been arrested. As a natural reaction, India decided to postpone any further engagement with its nefarious neighbour until the nature of the action Pakistan had taken against the Pathankot perpetrators emerges from the fog of diplomatic smoke and mirrors.

Usually, it is the enraged Indian media that puts Pakistan on the mat over any terror attack, blasting the blubberers from the Pak establishment by questioning their ineffective insolence. The new game, however, that ensued last week showed the extent of Pak psychological penetration of the Indian media and its pet parakeets. For the first time, an attempt was made to influence the diplomatic narrative by planting incorrect stories on a gullible media, self-proclaimed opinion-makers and know-all experts on Indo-Pak relations. Undoubtedly, PM Modi has walked that extra mile to ensure peaceful co-existence between Pakistan and India. His overtures though have met with the same terror-torque contempt as Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s had, when he was PM. Then, India’s Pak policy was discussed around national interest and ideological justifications. Today, however, there is no shortage of professional prisoners of conviction lobbying for the continuation of dialogue irrespective of the number of terror attacks and Indian casualties. Many accept luxurious hospitality and junkets from across the border and then organise seminars and symposiums in India to promote Pakistan as a victim of terror, and terrorists as misguided mercenaries whose hearts bled copiously after the demolition of Babri Masjid and the 2002 Gujarat riots. The 2-Ds conveniently forget that the riots were also an unacceptable reaction to the burning of a train in which over 50 innocent pilgrims were reduced to cinders. As Modiplomacy takes some concrete shape, the PM will have to battle half-truths, blatant lies and distorted historical catechisms about India’s foreign relations, including J&K. 

Another diabolical design to shift the focus from the dismantling of terror camps is to confine the discourse to revolve around Azhar. Distorians are claiming that he turned to terrorism only after Babri Masjid fell. Some Distortionists even claim that he visited Faizabad before his arrest in Srinagar two months later. But web search doesn’t throw up a single reference to any Uttar Pradesh visit. Reports in the US and other Western media and think-tank websites reveal Azhar was fighting the US forces in Somalia and elsewhere at that time. Born in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, in 1968 as the third of 11 children of Allah Bakhsh Shabbir, a headmaster at a government-run school, Azhar studied at the Jamia Uloom-ul-Islamia in Banuri town, Karachi. It was during his stay here that he joined Harkat-ul-Ansar and participated in the Soviet-Afghan War.
According to various reports, he later became the general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar and visited Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, the UK and Albania. Reports say he came to India in early 1994 in the guise of a journalist travelling on a Portuguese passport. This visit had nothing to do with Babri Masjid as his only mission was to “liberate Kashmir”. His objective was to strengthen Harkat-ul-Ansar by sorting out tensions between its two feuding factions, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Indian intelligence agencies have enough evidence about his ISI connections. Pak state actors adopted Azhar soon after his release by India in 1999. Not only was he allowed to float Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) but also to roam around Pakistan and spew venom against India. Contrary to propaganda by Distorians and Distortionists, Azhar rarely mentioned Babri Masjid in his inflammatory speeches. He has always promoted jihad in Kashmir. Despite the US declaring JeM a terrorist organisation, Pakistan has taken little action against Azhar or his organisation. Since he is the most effective monster of mayhem in India and Afghanistan only, neither Pakistan nor the US bother to ensure his annihilation. Even after the 2001 Parliament attacks, he was detained for a year, but was soon travelling on the terror trail. Yet the 2-Ds treat him as a 3D aberration and are struggling to restore Pakistan’s credibility and prevent its international isolation.

Azhar is not the only blood and gore-covered irritant in the resolution of Indo-Pak disputes. He is the symbol of everything that is wrong with Pakistan’s DNA. Even after three wars and over 100 rounds of talks and summits, the situation on the ground hasn’t moved an inch. Yet, Indo-Pak diplomacy has always been influenced by glamorous adventurism. The past 14 Indian PMs have fallen into the trap of treating Pak as a respectable neighbour and not as a terrifying threat. Pressure is being mounted through distortions and disinformation on Modi, the 15th PM. He would, however, be well advised to deviate from the beaten path and chart his own course in history.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

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