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Musharraf's new approach
April 14, 2005
General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will shake hands with the cricket teams of India and Pakistan at Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla ground on April 17.
Ten days after the start of the historic Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, the two leaders will again try to make new history through cricket. They will send a message to the people of both nations that two countries were not at war on the cricket ground but playing to promote friendly relations.
Congress party President Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will also join the two leaders for the match.
Musharraf still seems to have lot of respect for Vajpayee, and plans to invite him to Pakistan.
'If Musharraf talks, it will be cricket' | Visit about Kashmir, not cricket: Musharraf
General Musharraf, however, will not arrive at the cricket ground till the end of the match. He will join President A P J Abdul Kalam at lunch in Rashtrapati Bhavan, after which he intends to meet Hurriyat leaders at the Pakistan high commission. Musharraf wants to unite both factions of the Hurriyat since he needs their 'joint' support for his peace initiatives with India.
Musharraf wants to move ahead from where he left Agra in July 2001.
I still remember he was very optimistic about the results of Agra talks, and planned to visit the dargah of the Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer to offer prayers. But unfortunately, the talks collapsed at the last moment, and he returned to Pakistan in a huff.
Agra talks: complete coverage
This time, Musharraf will start his India yatra from the Ajmer dargah on April 16. He has recently been reading up about the teachings of the Sufis who spread the message of love and peace all over the subcontinent without the sword.
Musharraf and Manmohan Singh will also discuss some new confidence building measures to maintain the pace of the peace process.
The Khokhrapar-Monabhao train service is already on the cards but there is a proposal to extend the train service from Karachi to Ajmer.
Another CBM would be the opening of a Jammu-Sialkot and Ori-Mirpur bus service. India and Pakistan are also close to announcing the establishment of consulates in Karachi and Mumbai.
PM willing to meet Hurriyat; dates a problem
Musharraf will also invite Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi to visit the Lahore Fort where Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru spent some time in custody. This was not open to tourists, but the recent peace wave between India and Pakistan forced the Punjab government to renovate it and open it to visitors.
But the archaeology department in Pakistan Punjab is very confused about a recent invitation from former Pakistan prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to BJP leader L K Advani for the inauguration of Raja Luv's temple in Lahore Fort.
In a note to the government, experts from the department said they have not found any signs of such a temple in Lahore Fort, and recommended that Advani visit the Valmiki temple, which is very close to the fort, instead. Advani is scheduled to visit Pakistan in October.
While Musharraf and his associates are ready for all kinds of CBMs, big and small, they are not ready to close their eyes on Kashmir.
Musharraf will insist that New Delhi allow Hurriyat leaders to travel on the bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad. He will make it clear that Pakistan definitely wants peace and friendship with India, but not as a loser. He will urge Manmohan Singh to discuss ways to ensure that India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris don't lose face.
Musharraf met Kashmiri leaders in Islamabad on April 12 and assured them that 'I will be the last person to betray you, I will not abandon you, and I am trying to solve the problem with the help of the Indian leadership.'
He will repeat the same words in Delhi to the Hurriyat leaders.
Musharraf is also ready to facilitate a dialogue between the Indian government and Kashmiri militants.
He is willing to request the militants to cease fire, but in return he wants some CBMs from India for the militants, particularly troop reduction and the release of political prisoners in Kashmir.
If Delhi agrees, Musharraf will try to use his 'influence' on those who were involved in an attempt on his life in December 2003.
The biggest threat to the CBMs is the dispute over the Baglihar dam.
Both Musharraf and Manmohan Singh seem prepared to defuse this time bomb. There are indications that both sides have indulged in critical secret diplomacy to ensure that Musharraf's India visit is not wasted by pre-conditions from either side.
This is a good sign.
It is also worth noting that Musharraf remains willing to talk on the gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan despite the opposition from the US.
India threatens to dump Iran-India pipeline
If India and Pakistan start cooperating economically, they can beat the big multinational companies of the West. Indian goods can be transported from Delhi to Lahore, from Lahore to Kabul and from Kabul to any city of the Central Asia.
India and Pakistan need a 'truck service' to connect their economies with Central Asia through roads. But to move towards gas pipelines and truck services, we needs to get rid of the Kashmir dispute.
Once the Kashmir dispute is resolved, it would be easy for Pakistan to come out of the American influence. Today Pakistan is a Major Non-NATO Ally of the US because Pakistan fears India can create problems for it by joining hands with the US.
Enmity with India threw Pakistan on the American side. Friendship with India will provide Pakistan an opportunity to say a big no to Washington not only on the issue of the gas pipeline but also on the issue of cooperating and conspiring against Iran.
Musharraf is going to India not just for peace and the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. He would like to get out of US influence by making permanent peace with India.
No breakthroughs expected from Musharraf visit
He needs F-16s from the US not against China or Iran but against India.
If there is peace with India, then Pakistan will not spend millions of dollars for F-16s, but on the education and health sectors.
That will be Musharraf's new approach to India.
Complete coverage: the peace talks