Monday, July 20, 2009


President Pervez Musharraf has not lost any of the sting that made him stage the Kargil fiasco in 1999. Nor has he lost sight of what many believe is the long term objective of Pakistan with respect to India. This is something that emerges as clear as light at noon from the recent interview that he gave to Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN, despite the cleverest efforts of the latter to paint him in a light that even he can never see himself in.

The interview was long and covered extensive ground, with Musharraf making quite a few very significant statements, some of which should have seriously disturbed India and Indians. But the headlines said something else entirely. To cap it, writing in the Hindustan Times, Thapar spoke glowingly of Musharraf as someone whose "toughness and belligerence has yielded to a smiling and, surprisingly, soft spoken manner...commando recklessness..replaced by a more considered approach...a new truthfulness...he sounds more acceptable than offensive, more analytical than polemic".

Watch the interview on CNN-IBN and see if you can spot the new and improved Musharraf and even faintly deduce that the "partisan passion of the former President is spent", as Karan Thapar would like readers of HT to believe. I have no doubt that at the end of it, you will be alarmed by what Musharraf said and appalled, even horrified, at Thapar's inability to hear it and respond to it.

The dangerous Kashmir deal that never was

The transcript of the Musharraf interview on CNN-IBN carries the headline: "India, Pak were close to Kashmir Deal". Were they really anywhere close to it? Was the clever deal which Musharraf was aggressively pushing for really in India's interest and would it actually have been accepted by the Indian government and its people?
As per Musharraf, there were three main components of the proposed deal: demilitarisation, self governance and joint mechanism.
  • Demilitarisation. Demilitarisation along the LOC and within Kashmir on both sides was proposed. Musharraf also wanted the Indian Army to move out of two or three cities like Srinagar, Baramulla etc. As to India's response to this proposal, this is what Musharraf told Thapar: I wouldn't say that it was hundred per cent positive or that they had given assurances or understanding. We did not move forward on that. We did not have any schedules. We had an agreement in principle on general demilitarisation.
  • Self governance. This involved giving "maximum governance" to people on both sides of the LOC. But there was no common understanding about what it meant. Well, we had to work out those nitty-gritty, the details. This was what the General had to say about the real progress made on this principle.
  • Joint Mechanism. A body comprising Kashmiris on both sides and Indians and Pakistanis was proposed by Musharraf to oversee self-governance and other related issues. On being queried whether there was any agreement or understanding on whether this body would have been appointed or elected, Musharraf was forced to admit: Frankly, again, we did not go into such details of what exactly that body would be.
As is evident, India and Pakistan were far, far away from reaching any deal that would have solved Kashmir. Translating broad principles into a comprehensive agreement is a daunting task even in much simpler cases. In this almost intractable imbroglio, the specifics had not even been touched by both sides in any concrete manner.
What has emerged from the interview is that Musharraf was trying the classic camel-in-the-tent trick to get India to shed its exclusive control over its part of Kashmir and give Pakistan an entry that could then be enlarged gradually by it subsequently through "popular support", terrorism etc till it wrested complete control.
As anyone who understands the demographic dynamics of Kashmir knows, any joint control/demilitarisation/maximum governance in POK would not have resulted in India getting any stake there whatsoever. It would have effectively been a completely one sided deal in Pakistan's favour. The parallels with Europe were totally misplaced and illogical. I shudder to think that India's leaders were even open to such an idea. At any rate, the deal was nowhere close to being finalised, and I suspect that it was due to the efforts of a small minority in the Indian establishment that does not wear magic glasses that transform reality into fantasy. Given a chance, there are a number of rootless 'stars' who would have surely sold India a number of times over by now.
To resolve terror, India must talk Indian Muslims with Pak.
It is simply shocking that no one in India has picked up and highlighted the very dangerous and paradigm changing statements made by Musharraf regarding Pakistan's interest and stake not just in Kashmir because it is a Muslim majority state being fought over since 1947, but in the rest of India too. As many as four times during the interview, the General openly linked terror and its eradication with the state of Muslims in India. Not once did Thapar respond. On the contrary, he stuck to Kashmir and pretended as if these words had not even been uttered, so fixated was he on projecting Musharraf in good light and pretending that the long term danger that India faces from Pakistani sponsored or, if you like, encouraged terrorism is needlessly exaggerated.
Thapar asked Musharraf about Obama's Af-Pak policy. That was enough for the latter to talk of tackling terror holistically to include Kashmir and, yes, India's alienated Muslim minority, particularly the youth. These were his words in response to four separate Thapar questions:
"I don't agree with this Af-Pak solution at all... I may add that there is an Indian connection there too in terrorism and extremism. There is extremism within India in the Muslim youth and it is developing linkages with others - the Kashmir issue too. Therefore if we want to finally deal with terrorism and extremism and solve it in its short-term and long-term perspective, we have to look at events in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan."
"Now if we were to only resolve Pakistan, Afghanistan and the borders and frontiers then it makes no sense because what you are talking about, these Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, they are all there because of Kashmir. And now they have sympathies with the Muslim youth because they think they are being alienated, they are under-privileged etc. So how does this get solved? As far as Pakistan is concerned, the same extremist organisations will have a lot to continue on the path that they are following. Therefore India has to be brought in. I am sorry to be saying this to you, but India has to be brought into the fold."
"Why do organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad exist? How can we pull the carpet from under their feet? Basically they are there because of Kashmir and now also because of the situation with the Muslim minority in India. These things need to be resolved".

"...we have to bring India into the focus, what is happening to India and how is it creating negative effects in Pakistan. Now that happens to be Kashmir and also what is happening with the Muslim minorities."
Did you not notice how openly Musharraf articulated that the state of Muslims in India is a bilateral issue, in which Pakistan has a stake and that India has to resolve with it? Did you not realise how blatantly he appropriated for Pakistan the role of spokesman of and arbiter for Indian Muslims? Did you not sit up alarmed at the manner in which he all but threatened India that Pakistani terrorist organisations like the LeT and JeM "will have a lot to continue on the path they are following", even if Kashmir is resolved, for and on behalf of Indian Muslims?

Conspiratorial silence?
In December 2007, Karan Thapar had virtually given a call for the elimination of Modi, so righteously wronged he had then felt about the latter's victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections, because of his alleged involvement in the riots of 2002: "Only the sudden removal of Narendra Modi can change this. For he is the agent forcing this change. And whilst he is with us, he will do just that. I have no doubts Indian politics after Sunday the 23rd is another country".

This is the tragedy of India. There are many Indians like Thapar who readily lose their pen and balance, and expose their disturbing aggression when it comes to Indian political leaders who do not belong to their political camp. But when it comes to Pakistani leaders, they turn blindly believing and readily forgiving. Musharraf, for example, has not only been totally forgiven for Kargil but is now even being exalted as a truthful man who honestly wants peace with India.

That Kashmir deal which has been used by Thapar to sell Musharraf to Indians was going to be nothing short of a sell out for India. In addition, is Pakistan or Musharraf ever going to be satisfied with Kashmir alone? To those who have been following real events and not fake cross-border friendships, there has never been any doubt that Pakistan has at no stage given up its fundamental objective of bleeding India to death through a thousand cuts. Musharraf reiterated that as plainly as an ex-President can to Thapar by giving it a contemporary and communal twist. But the latter was not listening then and is not speaking now.

Why have Musharraf's efforts to speak on behalf of Indian Muslims and his threat that terrorist organisations will continue to flourish in Pakistan, unless India discusses and resolves the issue of alienation of its Muslim citizens with Pakistan, gone completely unchallenged? While Thapar's silence can be attributed to his limited personal agenda and a weakness that flows from personal equations, praise and more, what has happened to the rest of the media and other analysts? Does India's unexpected and needless capitulation at Sharm el-Sheikh have something to do with it? Should Indians be prepared for more shocks and a big time sellout in the garb of "peace" soon?
Readers may also read:
1. India to Pak: you keep shooting, we'll keep talking
2. Understanding and defeating the psychology of terror
3. India and Pakistan are not victims of the same terror
4. Kashmir and Afghanistan are two sides of the same coin
5. Secular Indian Mujahideen