Method In Musharraf’s Madness
Pervez Musharraf set the cat among the pigeons by his interview to German news weekly Der Spiegal. Already red faced Pakistani officials are strenuously denying what he said. Consider first what Musharraf said. Then try to understand why he said what he did.
Musharraf said that the Pakistan army trained militants and sent them across the border in Kashmir to spread insurgency. He said that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif turned a blind eye to the army’s actions during the Kargil invasion that scuttled the Indo-Pak peace process. Musharraf justified the army’s action because he said that Pakistan wanted to compel India to discuss Kashmir which is Pakistan’s core issue. He said that Pakistan could not forgive India for having divided it to create Bangladesh.
Why has Musharraf for the first time for any Pakistani leader confirmed what India has been alleging for decades? Readers might recall that when Musharraf formally launched his new political party from London last week this scribe had predicted that with tacit US support Musharraf would attempr to replace President Zardari who could conceivably be ousted from office mid-October by a court ruling that nuiifies protection for his past corruption cases. It was also predicted that General Kayani might not derail democracy by consenting to a consitutional role for the army in the government’s decision making as Musharraf had proposed during the launching of his party. And it was speculated that this entire exercise might be welcomed by Washington because Musharraf was expected to renew the peace process with India over Kashmir which had progressed farthest when he was President. A visible forward movement in Kashmir peace would not only help the US compel a positive performance from Pakistan in Afghanistan, it might also help president Obama in the US Congressional elections in early November.
Well then, why has Musharraf accepted Pakistan’s role in spreading cross border terrorism in Kashmir? There is media speculation that he wanted to embarrass the present government in Pakistan. This is not convincing. This may partially help Musharraf but the Pakistan government is already held in very low esteem by the public. Nor would it help Musharraf to embarrass General Kayani or the Pakistan army which continues to foment cross border terrorism. Musharraf would be depending on Kayani and the Pakistan army if he returned to office. It could be that Musharraf’s revelations were intended to set the basis of the future peace process that he might resume.
The most significant aspect of Musharraf’s candid confession to the German news weekly is that he spoke the truth. He has admitted that Pakistan did what India claimed and he explained why Pakistan did what it did. This is straight talk. It is an admission of what is considered unacceptable but is justified by Pakistani perceptions. There is nothing more effective than exchange of truth between negotiators if one wants to reduce the trust deficit. One is led to believe that if Musharraf does succeed in resuming peace talks with India as Pakistan’s President the dialogue this time around might be more purposeful and rewarding. In the event that would also depend on whether the Indian government is equally candid and truthful about what it did and why it did it.
Pakistan’s deepest resentment flows from the liberation of Bangladesh. It is undeniable that the Indian government helped break up Pakistan. When Bhutto trampled over legitimate East Pakistan grievances and the Punjabi dominated Pakistan army started military action in Dhaka a veritable river of refugees started flowing into India. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi saw the opportunity to break up Pakistan. The Indian army trained Bangladesh’s Mukti Bahini. Indian army personnel out of uniform led the Mukti Bahini. But the end result did not serve India. We had succeeded in creating two hostile Islamist nations instead of one. And both were heavily influenced by Beijing which sought to destabilize us for decades.
India had the choice at that time to play big brother and help Pakistan remain intact as a genuine federation giving East Pakistan full autonomy. Pakistan’s land access to Bangladesh is only through India. That would have helped India create a stable South Asia. Federations within India and Pakistan and a confederation within South Asia was what might have been achieved. Substantially the same arrangement can still be achieved except that Bangladesh is now an independent sovereign nation.
Instead Indira Gandhi acting like a big power puppet could not even consolidate the Indian army’s victory in Bangladesh to end the Kashmir dispute once and for all. With Pakistan on its knees and 90,000 of its soldiers held prisoners of war she signed the Simla Agreement that provided no tangible gain to India in order to help Bhutto retain power in Pakistan. This is not being written by hindsight. If one cares to search the archives of the now defunct Illustrated Weekly of India in which I wrote a weekly column during the months before the Bangladesh war one would note that all this had been expressed then. It is only the pathetic poodles of India’s leading dynasty dominating the media and burueacracy who continue to sing paens of praise for arguably India’s most disastrous Prime Minister.
In the event of Musharraf replacing President Zardari and the peace process being resumed under him New Delhi would do well to prepare its brief in advance. This is the time for bold thinking. There is an enormous gap between India’s potential and India’s performance. There is a huge disconnect between political priorities and popular aspiration. Never has the need for burying once and for all the perennial problems besetting the nation for the past many decades been more compelling. There is the prospect of a paradigm change in India and in South Asia. The government should dare to make that change reality. The government could begin with Kashmir and Pakistan.
By Rajinder Puri