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Thursday, October 24, 2019


Can India afford to trust Musharraf


A new peace plan is in the air. But is this it? The Sunday Indian takes a deep look at the pros and cons
TSI | Issue Dated: October 8, 2006
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Can India afford to trust Musharraf Experts in human behaviour say the effects of a broken heart will show for 70 years, such are the results of our actions. When nations feel betrayed, the consequences can last longer. Independent India and Pakistan haven’t quite existed that long, but there is just one word that has perpetually personified the ethos of both their characters: hurt! And acerbic to the very last emotion. Every time they try, to mend fences that is, the vitriolic serendipity of discovering newfound betrayal comes splurging in. And now, with plenty to mend, they’re trying again. At the sidelines of the mid-September 118-nation NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) summit in Havana, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf agreed to put an institutionalised mechanism in place to jointly investigate terrorism. They also spoke of other measures to raise confidence in each other. The announcement has set off fresh hope of renewed faith... and horror!

The first thing that baffles is the proposed joint mechanism on terror. What will it be? Who will it report to? When does it get formed? What will be its contours?... The debate has been endless already. It leads to the crunch question: Can India trust Musharraf? Is this the big step that’s been promised so often but barely delivered? “There is no trust between India and Pakistan,” upholds Brajesh Mishra, National Security Advisor in the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Delhi. Mishra says Musharraf doesn’t keep his word, citing as proof the famous statement in 2004 when the Pakistan president said he will not allow terrorist activity on Pakistani soil. That, of course, hasn’t happened. “So where is the question of trust?” snaps Mishra, “It is only a matter of what you can get. For us, that means putting an end to cross-border terrorism. We mustn’t proceed with the peace process till Musharraf fulfills his promise. Talks must be confined to stopping cross-border terrorism.”

This is the thought process that led Manmohan Singh’s predecessor, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to call the Havana agreement a conspiracy against India. Conspiracy is an old companion in the Indo-Pak context. Even when Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah had met, they couldn’t agree on anything. Jinnah wrote to Gandhi saying, “Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a 100 million. We have our distinctive outlook on life and of life.” Gandhi said India was one nation and that he saw in the Pakistan Resolution “nothing but ruin for the whole of India.” Gandhi offered a treaty of separation, within one nation, which would provide for “efficient and satisfactory administration” of foreign affairs, defense, internal communication, custom and the like which “must necessarily continue to be the matters of common interest” between the contracting countries. Jinnah differed and the talks failed. Can India afford to trust Musharraf That was 1944. In 2006, Manmohan Singh pushes, “There has been ‘trust deficit’ in our relations with Pakistan. But we cannot stand still,” and that the two countries have to find ways and means to tackle their problems, including terrorism. So has nothing changed in 62 years? Not really. Even 10 years ago, no one would have believed that Pakistan would agree to ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC). Yet, ever since Pakistan agreed to it in 2003, the LoC has been quiet. So it is possible if there’s enough desperation.

Three wars, almost a fourth, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the attack on the Indian Parliament and four terrorist attacks on India in the last one year – Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai and Malegaon – means we need to move on. Musharraf has seen both sides of the coin in India. He was with Vajpayee in Agra and with Manmohan Singh in Havana. In Agra, he left bitter. In his just-released autobiography In the Line of Fire, Musharraf says Vajpayee failed to grab the moment to create history, and that he (Musharraf) was livid. From Havana, both Singh and Musharraf left wary. If India and Pakistan have to make the big shift, they need to reconcile with their respective nationhood; which means Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan doesn’t recognise the LoC as the border. India will not allow redrawing of the borders. Can they work around this?

Musharraf has a few proposals on how to resolve the Kashmir issue in his book. He promotes 1) Divide the whole of Jammu and Kashmir into zones. The north zone and Azaad Kashmir in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), and Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh in India; 2) Demilitarise these zones and end all ‘freedom fighting activity’, a euphemism for militancy; 3) Allow self-rule in these five zones; 4) Have a joint administrative mechanism for these zones involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir. This, argues Musharraf, is an ‘out-of-the-box solution’ that will lead to peace. This is probably the basis for Musharraf’s claim that a workable solution to the Kashmir issue is within reach. India hasn’t reacted to any of these proposals yet, though they have been aired informally in Track I and Track II diplomatic circles. But any solution has to have the crucial ingredient: trust. In India, anything on J&K has to have the approval of almost every political school, the right-wing BJP being most important. The party’s Law Minister in the previous government, Arun Jaitley, says, “We have made our vision clear that we want to go forward with the peace process... But we have to stop eulogising Pakistan as a victim of terror.”

The language of terror has rapidly changed over the years. Post 9/11, India is baffled. It hasn’t been able to find evidence of a Pakistani hand in the recent blasts. So the new buzzword in Indian Intelligence is al Qaedaism, as opposed to al Qaeda. India feels that any division of J&K is premature. New Delhi is interpreting the joint mechanism on terror as a victory because it forces Pakistan to investigate acts of terror. But then terror is but one facet. If ever the twain has to meet, minds have to allow it. This takes us back to Gandhi & Jinnah. One option being considered is to make borders ‘soft’, that is, more people-to-people contact like train, bus & truck services. Gandhi wanted the two sides as one large entity – a soft border is the geographical equivalent. Musharraf might want to read more of Gandhi... and act on it instead.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017