Was General Musharraf really a man of peace or was he a schemer and a manipulator who was determined to obtain his objectives on Kashmir by hook or by crook? On his death a Congress leader commented that Musharraf had become a real force for peace from 2002 to 2007 and was clear in his strategic thinking.
Editorials and articles have appeared liberally in our press which while acknowledging the dubious part of his record in dealing with India, especially in initiating the Kargil conflict, accept that we were close to peace with Pakistan with a “non-territorial” solution to the Kashmir issue but for Musharraf getting embroiled in political controversies at home that did not give him political space anymore to carry forward the peace process with India.
If Musharraf was a “real force for peace”, how to explain that during his tenure we were subjected to a series of terrorist attacks on our soil, not only in Kashmir but all across India. Before he became a “convert to peace”, Musharraf presided over terrorist attacks on the Red Fort (2000), Charar-e-Sharief mosque (2001), J&K Legislative Assembly (2001),the Indian parliament(2001), Akshardam Temple in Gujarat (2002), Mumbai bombing (2003), Nadimarg massacre (2003),Delhi bombings (between 2005 to 2008), Indian Institute of Science (2005), Varanasi bombings (2006),Mumbai train bombings (2006),Samjhuata Express (2007), Jaipur (2008), Ahmedabad (2008). Though the horrific Mumbai attacks occurred two months after he left office they were obviously under preparation while he was in position.
Musharraf is on record to say that until the Kashmir issue remained unresolved the terrorist attacks could not but continue, implying that the cause of the attacks was not Pakistan but a ground reaction to India’s unwillingness to find a solution. It is important to understand that the ecosystem of terrorism in Pakistan precedes the taking over of power by Musharraf. Pakistan has been using the arm of terrorism since the mid-1980s in Punjab and from 1990 onwards in J&K, which also saw the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus.
The Pakistan army has been nurturing jihadi groups in the country and using them as an instrument of terror against India. These groups themselves are a product of the Islamisation of Pakistan polity and society more pronouncedly under President Zia ul Haq, though the very creation of Pakistan was a production of Islamic extremist thinking. Unless a process of de-radicalisation of Pakistani society takes place genuine and lasting peace or reconciliation with India will not be possible. This was true in Musharraf’s time and is true even today.
The Four Point peace formula proposed by Musharraf to India for a resolution of the Kashmir issue, the back-channel negotiations on it conducted by special emissaries on both sides, and the impression created that the basic design for a peaceful solution had been reached accounts for the narrative that Musharraf was a “force for peace”. Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri has propagated the notion through his book and his visits to India to sell it that a peace agreement had effectively been reached under Musharraf and that its threads needed to be taken up by the two sides after his departure. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged in an interview with India Today some years ago that progress was made during these back channel discussions without reaching any finality.
This Four Point formula was less the brainchild of Musharraf and more of the US Institute of Peace in Washington DC with the support of the State Department and the Kashmiri origin US businessman Farooq Kathwari who has today a hall carrying his name in the Institute. The exact details of the formula have never been made public but enough has appeared in the media in broad terms.
The central objective of the exercise was to reopen the issue of India’s sovereignty over Kashmir, give Pakistan a locus standi in the state recognised by India, accept the notion of a united Kashmiri people, allow free movement across the LoC, loosen India’s control over the state, open the doors to more Islamisation of our part of Kashmir by strengthening links with an increasingly radicalised Pakistan, and make the Hindus in Jammu more insecure and vulnerable by increasing the weight of the combined Muslim population of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC. Once India’s grip was loosened, to recover control would become virtually impossible without serious internal, bilateral with Pakistan and international ramifications.
The most objectionable part of this formula for peace was this notion supported by Shri Manmohan Singh of not changing borders but making them irrelevant. The obvious question that arises is that if there is no recognised border how can it be made irrelevant? Moreover, how can a non-existent border be made irrelevant in J&K without the existing border between India and Pakistan from Punjab to Gujarat being made “irrelevant” too? It is not possible to conceive of an open border in an area of India claimed by Pakistan without the overall relations between India and Pakistan reaching a state of normality that allowed similar free movement across their international border too. This would include movement of people and goods as well as transit rights. Was Pakistan ready for that?
Demilitarisation in J&K in stages could not realistically take place without demilitarisation across the international border too. Would this have required a reduction in the size of the armed forces of the two countries eventually? Was how this would affect the role and power of the Pakistan army in the country’s political system analysed sufficiently by our side?
The scope for mutual reduction of armed forces between India and Pakistan on an equal basis has always been limited because while for Pakistan India is the enemy, for us both Pakistan and China are, and therefore there can be no symmetry in reduction of forces.
We were entertaining the notion of Kashmir without a border when J&K was in turmoil, we were not in control of the situation on the ground fully and Pakistan-abetted terrorism in India was a continuing reality, This is not surprising when seen in the context of our readiness at the political level to seriously considering withdrawing from Siachen and converting the area into a Peace Park.
It is not even clear if the agreement reached when announced would have received public support in India.
Yes, Musharraf was clear in his strategic thinking. We were not and were willing to be fooled by a man who had fooled us in Kargil.
(KANWAL SIBAL is India’s former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to Russia. Views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)
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