Muslims say: Musharraf Went Back, Empty-Handed
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
Special to South Asia Tribune
DELHI, April 22: Diplomacy, as they say, is continuation of war
through other means. Pakistani President Musharraf, a full-fledged
General in his own right, tried this during 16-18 April without
any tangible results.
reason was simple. He leads a country which has lost all wars
it fought against India. Moreover, it has now lost even the indirect
war it imposed on India in the shape of the armed secessionist
movement in the Indian part of Kashmir for over one and a half
decades in which around 45,000 people lost their lives according
to Indian figures and twice as much according to Pakistani and
Kashmiri secessionist accounts.
seemed at times during this indirect confrontation that India
might give in and accept the Pakistani demands to cede territory
in Kashmir. But India unwaveringly faced the secessionist movement
on one hand and utilized the American war on "terrorism"
on the other to exert unbearable international pressure on Pakistan
until Islamabad had to announce that it does not support terrorists
and promised to stop what India called "cross-border"
Pakistan moved away from the Kashmiri secessionists though it
still supports them financially and diplomatically. India also
managed to erect a physical and electronic fence along the Line
of Control in Kashmir (740 kms) and thereby stopped infiltration
to a large extent. In the meanwhile India also managed to increase
control over its part of Kashmir to a point that it could hold
legislative assembly elections in October 2002 and municipal elections
This changed the atmosphere and the mood in Kashmir and blunted
international pressures to solve the issue on lines demanded by
Pakistan. India also benefited from the emerging situation in
the Valley of Kashmir where the ordinary Kashmiri is fed up with
war and violence and yearns to lead a normal life free from shackles
of security forces.
General Musharraf was quick to
read the new scenario and accordingly changed tack since the last
year when he started coming out with some new proposal every now
and then, saying that he is prepared to consider any proposal
to solve Kashmir, that UN resolutions may be overlooked, that
the Kashmiri people should be involved in any settlement (hitherto
both India and Pakistan held that Kashmir is a "bilateral"
issue to which the Kashmiri people were not a party).
his early days in power, General Musharraf used to insist that
Kashmir is Pakistan's only problem with India, that he would shed
his last drop of blood for Kashmir, that no normalization of relations
will take place without first solving this problem. Later he changed
his line and started saying that Kashmir is the "central
issue." Now he has started talking of "Kashmiris"
and their rights.
on the other hand, always held that Kashmir is one of the issues
between the two countries, that the two countries must engage
in a "comprehensive dialogue" to solve all the pending
issues including Kashmir and that normalization of trade and cultural
relations will help in the settlement of other issues.
Meanwhile, Kashmir's Hurriyat
Conference suffered a split in September 2003. Two groups emerged,
a "moderate" one led by Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and a "hardline"
one led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The latter enjoyed Pakistan's
support and approval.
this served the Indian strategy in Kashmir. New Delhi helped increase
the chasm between the two factions of Hurriyat by inviting the
"moderate" group to talks. Two rounds of talks were
held while the BJP-led government was still ruling the country
early last year. However, no concessions were offered to the "moderate"
faction. As a result, this faction lost its credibility.
General Musharraf, realizing that India remains unimpressed by
his changing positions, used the cricket matches between the Indian
and Pakistani national teams, and invited himself to watch a match
while his real intention was to use the occasion to hold talks
with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This is how General Musharraf
arrived in India. He spent one a half hours watching cricket in
Delhi early next day and thereafter held two-hours deliberations
with the Indian Prime Minister.
Even before the General could set foot on the Indian soil, New
Delhi had decided what to do with him: more CBMs (confidence-building
measures) like opening new outlets for the movement of people
and trade in Kashmir and elsewhere, setting free Pakistanis in
Indian jails, proposing a joint trade council and discussing the
proposed Iranian gas pipeline which will come to India through
Pakistan. It was clear that such steps did not require a summit
also decided to treat the General and his wife with utmost courtesy
and honor without giving him an inch of substance. So we saw the
Indian newspapers and TV channels focusing on the General and
his wife, their dress, food, body language, gifts they brought
and received and the like, while the Pakistan state television
simply continued its normal programs as if no big deal was taking
place in the neighborhood.
Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral had aptly described the Indian
strategy to cope with the General on the eve of the visit. Talking
to a TV station, he said: "We are civilized oriental people.
We do not offend our guests. We will attentively listen to what
the General has to repeat and we will also restate to him with
all respect our oft-stated positions."
Minister Natwar Singh too had said it publicly two days before
the visit that India is ready for anything with Pakistan except
change of borders. Prime Minister Singh repeated this line during
the maze of all the Indian courtesies and hospitality, the General
was lost. India did not offer him except vague assurances of solving
the Kashmir problem at some distant time in future. So the discussions,
which continue to take place since decades on the issue, will
continue in future too.
problem arose at the last minute about using the word "terrorism"
in the context of peace and cross-border problems. The same word
had earlier ruined the Agra summit in July 2001 when India insisted
on its inclusion in the joint statement. The general had balked
and walked away. But this time round he relented and told Indian
journalists that he had come "with a new heart" and
that "the circumstances have changed."
the joint statement which should have been issued the previous
evening, was finally issued at the last minute before the General's
departure to the Philippines on an official visit. The statement
said, "The two leaders pledged that they would not allow
terrorism to impede the peace process." The General would
not have accepted this kind of language only a few years back.
Musharraf's weakened position
was clear when he spent four hours with three groups of Kashmiri
separatists, talking separately to each group as they would not
sit together. He failed to convince them to join hands again in
a single outfit. SAS Geelani, leader of the hardline group, registered
his opposition to the new Pakistani line and said that solving
"minor" issues will harm the core issue.
General returned empty-handed but his cricket team had a big gift
to carry back home: it defeated India in these friendly matches
which continued for about four weeks in different parts of India
and ended in Delhi the day Musharraf was holding talks with the
writer is the Editor of Delhi-based The Milli Gazette, Indian
Muslims' leading English-language newspaper.