Guns and Tulips-May 2007
Army should withdraw, but not now
By Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
Until Mufti Mohammed Sayeed made the determined clarion call for demilitarisation of Kashmir in February, India was smug with the progress on the peace process with Pakistan. Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf had been trying unsuccessfully since 18 April 2005, when he got himself invited to New Delhi on the pretext of witnessing the cricket match, to push the peace process on the twin track: conflict management through confidence building measures (CBMs), and conflict resolution. He wants an early resolution of the Kashmir issue, he has said this numerous times, and in his book, ‘In the Line of Fire’, he has mentioned demilitarisation as one of the four steps for Kashmir resolution. So what does Musharraf do? Four things: One, he has let India decide the pace of conflict management (India has offered 72 CBMs to date to Pakistan) taking care that trade is kept out of it. He knows well that bilateral trade may acquire dynamics of its own that he may not be able to control effectively. Two, he has made it clear to the US and, of course India, that his support to the freedom struggle (read, support to terrorists) in Kashmir would continue until the Kashmir issue is resolved. This has sent an unambiguous message to Syed Salahuddin (the Hizbul Mujahideen supremo based in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and the Jihadi terrorists like Laskhar and Jaish that they cannot do much without his support.

Three, taking full advantage of the peace process, he has met both India’s Kashmir separatists and state political party leaders on many occasions for a free exchange of ideas on how to resolve the Kashmir matter. And most importantly, he has pushed the pace of back-channel diplomacy between the two countries where his and India’s representative (S.K. Lambah who reports directly to the National Security Advisor) interact regularly away from the media glare. It is at this forum that he bounces off ideas that he discusses with Indian separatist leaders with the Indian government. Thus, instead of India talking to its own separatists, it is Musharraf who is talking to both the government of India and estranged Kashmiri leadership simultaneously. He has emerged as the bridge between New Delhi and Srinagar for the Kashmir resolution. Consequently, while New Delhi remains content with internal management of the Kashmir through the Prime Minister’s round table conferences, and somnolent to the political commotion among leaders in Srinagar and Islamabad, there is intense political activity apace in the border state. Mufti is credited with bringing this activity into the open. Why? Being a shrewd politician, he has grabbed the opportunity to broad-base his support in the Valley by seeking to bring militant leaders (read, terrorist) on his side. It will be incorrect to say that Mufti supports the Hizbul. What he is trying to do is to bring it to the negotiating table through his good office as the coalition partner in the state government.
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