Thursday, April 21, 2005

The changed Musharraf

I hated Musharraf. He was the bad neighbour: a cheat of the worst order who sneaked into our territory on the sly, and murdered our people when we challenged him. We shouldn't be having anything to do with him.

But not after 9/11. Musharraf has been incredibly transformed. Whom should I thank I don't know: George Bush, or Osama bin Laden (!), or those guys who tried to attack Indian Parliament on Dec 13, 2001 (three months after 9/11). But, what matters to me is our neighbour has been reformed, at least there is every indication of that.

Bush got Musharraf to dismount Laden tiger, and it looks like he is dismounting the Kashmir tiger too.

Ever since 9/11, with a "we- told- you- so" refrain Indian political leadership has been educating the US administration on the need to reform the Pak general. Finally, the US learnt it, paying a heavy price. Reform-Musharraf has been a slow process over the last 3 to 4 years. The results are showing, slowly but surely. It's not yet time to celebrate, though.

The change was all too apparent during Musharraf's Apr 16-18 Delhi visit.

* He used to say solve Kashmir problem first then we will talk anything else. In fact his Kashmir-centric approach was one reason for Indo-Pak talks getting stalled time and again. Now, he agrees with the Indian view point that let Kashmir issue not hold people's lives to ransom. Let life go on.

* He used to talk of a plebiscite to ascertain whether Kashmiris want to be with India or Pakistan. Now he doesn't.

* He used to ask for American mediation. Now he doesn't.

* India wanted the border (the Line of Control - LoC) to be softened. He never agreed. Now he too talks of 'soft border', across which people- to- people interaction can take place.

* He was against bus and train services across divided Kashmir. Musharraf as Pakistan Army Chief engineered the Kargil invasion (in May 1999) a few months after Vajpayee travelled to Lahore from Delhi in a bus (in Feb 1999) for a much-hyped peace summit with then Pak PM Nawaz Sharif. The Kargil invasion was aimed at spiking the fledgling peace initiative. And, Musharraf succeeded. He followed Kargil with attack on J&K Assembly building and then attack on Indian Parliament. But in the meantime, 9/11 too happened. Today, the same Musharraf is a messenger of peace.

* He tacitly backed a military solution. Terrorism was nothing but low-intensity warfare backed by Pakistan army. He used to say terrorism will not stop until the legitimacy of the existence of Jammu & Kashmir was resolved. Now, he says Kashmir can't have a military solution. He even has abandoned what he used to call "active diplomacy" to resolve the issue!

* Today in Manila, he said Pakistan will never allow terrorists to attack India. Implicit in this is the admission that Pakistan did engineer terrorist attacks in India.

* Since Musharraf never recognised Jammu and Kashmir, he used to support Hurriyat Conference as the representaives of Kashmiris. And, he used to ask for trilateral (India, Pakistan and Kashmiris) talks. India never agreed. Now, in an interview with Pak journalists he says big problems like border issue should be left to national leaders, and local leaders, like Hurriyat, should join their respective national side.

Dramatic turnabout by the general. So far so good. Now, let us hope he will deliver too.

The world has seen many, many changes. For example, did anyone ever think that a giant like USSR (which gave the US the shivers) will disintegrate? There are so many more. So, let us not rule out a solution to Kashmir problem. If not today, may be tomorrow.

When the collapse of USSR was being plotted in US-Soviet summits in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, President Ronald Reagan referring to his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev, had said: Let's trust him, but let's also verify.

Same holds good here too.


  1. While admittedly I'm rather ignorant on the Pakistan/India situation, it was an annual topic at our mock United Nations conference that we had every year when I was in high school. I remember wondering then if there was ever going to be a solution. It didn't help when students went up and compared the issue to Israel/Palestine. To see progress, even to some ignorant kid in the States, is a wonderful thing.

  2. Mr.Musharraf and his Indian counterparts are playing the "camouflage" again. Now that both, India and Pakistan have become prospective clients for US military market, the politicians want to divert all attention from the arms deals to the usual "Lets make Peace" nonsense. These peace talks etc are a platform under construction for a bigger catastrophe; as always. Suddenly there is war, many more “Made in US” rockets and guns, Indian-Pakistani politicians get richer; all this a glimpse of the bigger picture. If there had to be a way out for India and Pak, it would not have been so delayed.

  3. Anoop,
    You are very right. The scepticism is bound to be there. And, quite rightly so. There is much more to International politics and diplomacy than we ever get to know. Like the vested interest in underdevelopment, there is a vested interest in conflict too. No denying that. But what we need to take note is today borders are getting irrelevant. And, India should never miss the global trend. You say, "If there had to be a way out for India and Pak, it would not have been so delayed." It's not that there was no way out, neither India nor Pak was willing to travel that way.

    Thanks for going thru my blog, jotting down a comment.