Bottomline | Musharraf’s Volleys

Once again India responds with a knee-jerk reaction

Pravin SawhneyPravin Sawhney

Let’s face the truth: it is difficult for New Delhi to beat General Pervez Musharraf because we underplay his personality. Contrary to what we may desire, Musharraf is irrepressibly offensive, a glib liar, cannot and should not be trusted because he is our key adversary, and unless providence intervenes will remain the army chief beyond 2007 elections in Pakistan. His position within his army and by extension Pakistan remains unquestionable because he constantly delivers on Kashmir, Afghanistan and the United States. Take Kashmir first. He has extracted three concessions from the Manmohan Singh government: One, by the 18 April 2005 joint statement, ‘the two leaders pledged that they would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.’ Two, he has encouraged and goaded Singh to believe in ‘out of the box’ thinking on Kashmir that started the conflict resolution process alongside the confidence building measures meant for conflict management.We pretend that the conflict resolution ideas are Singh’s brainchild overlooking the reality that he is a nominated Prime Minister, there is little understanding between the Congress and BJP on Kashmir resolution, and insurgency in Kashmir continues unabated. And three, even as Musharraf has refused to deliver on his repeated promises to stop cross border terrorism by making the unambiguous distinction between terrorists (that he is fighting in his country) and freedom fighters (terrorists that he wholeheartedly supports in Kashmir), Singh has hastily agreed to the joint anti-terror institutional mechanism with him. Just as India is wondering what it is all about, Musharraf has made it known that this will help Pakistan address its concerns about India’s interference in Balochistan. This is not all. The ISI that is firmly under the control of General Headquarters in Rawalpindi has all Pakistani and Pakistan occupied Kashmir terrorists operating in India under its firm grip. Moreover, the ISI is providing finances, weapons, training, shelter, and importantly, support to start terrorist modules in other Indian states that has led to blasts in Delhi, Varanasi and Mumbai. More will follow. All Musharraf has to do is to stay ahead of other world leaders in condemning the next terrorist attack in India. By this ingenuous plan, he has achieved two objectives: he has expanded his area of terrorist activity in India outside Jammu and Kashmir (his present focus is to support rising Naxalism), and he is using the ceasefire on the Line of Control to help various Kashmiri political parties and groups to assist his initiated conflict resolution with India.

On Afghanistan, he has achieved a similar feat. By the September 5 agreement with tribal leaders in north Waziristan, he has ensured that they understand the distinction between freedom fighters and terrorists; those Taliban who are with him will continue to increase their influence in southern Afghanistan, while those still aligned with al Qaeda thinking, labelled terrorists, will not be allowed to operate in Afghanistan by the tribal leaders. In return, Musharraf has stopped all military activities against tribal leaders who were undecided between Musharraf and al Qaeda/Taliban whose senior leadership, Mullah Omar for instance, continues to live in their area. This arrangement helps both Musharraf and the tribal leaders. President Hamid Karzai and the US are the losers. Unfortunately, the Bush administration can do little in the matter. It is dependent on Musharraf for a semblance of stability in Afghanistan, for non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and for Pakistan’s nukes not falling into the hands of fundamentalists. Knowing all this too well, Musharraf has extracted massive financial assistance from the US, will soon get the F-16s with the asked for technology, and will ensure that Washington keeps Karzai’s protests and India’s influence in Afghanistan in check, continue nudging India on the peace process, and support his style of democracy. With his army fully backing him (he has recently got a clean heath card from a US hospital to establish his physical fitness to continue as the chief of army staff), and the US (grudgingly) supporting him, Musharraf has little to worry about mullahs and forces of democracy in Pakistan. So what should India do?

First and foremost, we should have respect for our adversary’s abilities. Instead of encouraging analysts who instantly condemn whatever Musharraf does, we need equally clever people who can predict his moves. Next, we should make clear to the US that the peace process cannot continue unless Pakistan stops its support to terrorism in India. Meanwhile, we should consult our military leadership to find out what military options below the nuclear threshold are available to us after the thoughtless Operation Parakram, which will be remembered as the only military initiative taken by India since 1947. Internally, we should do two things: move faster to bring acceptable political succour to Jammu and Kashmir. The least this requires is that all political parties treat Kashmir as a national issue as not as a partisan matter to score brownie points. And two, we need to deal with terrorism firmly, both in policy-making and its execution. This, amongst other things, requires that our intelligence agencies become as competent as the ISI.


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