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Are we too quick to praise Musharraf?

April 19, 2005

Both India and Pakistan would have reasons to be satisfied with the joint statement issued at the end of President General Pervez Musharraf's visit to New Delhi from April 16 to 18, 2005, for talks with our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

Musharraf in India

India's satisfaction would arise from the fact that the two leaders have agreed to considerably expand the basket of confidence-building measures, CBMs, not only across the Line of Control in Kashmir, but also across Punjab and Rajasthan.

While the CBMs in Kashmir would greatly benefit the Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC, those in Punjab would benefit the Sikhs, some of whose holy shrines are located in Pakistani Punjab and the Sindhis and the Mohajirs of Sindh in Pakistan.

However, the CBMs in Kashmir have naturally received the maximum attention.

Contrary to expectations, the agreement does not contain any specific CBM, which could benefit the people of the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) of Pakistan and the Kargil area of India. The statement merely says:

'They decided to increase the frequency of the bus (Srinagar-Muzaffarabad) service and also decided that trucks would be allowed to use this route to promote trade. They also agreed to operationalise additional routes including that between Poonch and Rawalakot.'

While Pakistan has fairly effective control over what it calls Azad Kashmir and what India calls Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and hence has had no hesitation in agreeing to Indian proposals in this sector, its control over the Northern Areas is tenuous. It, therefore, seems to have been reluctant to agree to any major proposals for CBMs in this sector. Indian officials had spoken of the possibility of a bus service between Kargil in the Ladakh division and Skardu in the Northern Areas, but the joint statement makes no reference to this.

Since January 2004, there have been three important Indo-Pakistani statements on the composite dialogue between the two countries -- the Vajpayee-Musharraf statement of January 6, 2004, issued at Islamabad, the Manmohan Singh-Musharraf statement of September 24, 2004, issued at New York and the Manmohan Singh-Musharraf statement of April 18, 2005, issued at New Delhi.

'Both sides are sick of hostility'

A careful reading of these statements would indicate a dilution of the references to terrorism, an increasing spotlight on Kashmir and a creeping recognition of the Pakistani position that the Kashmir question is still an unsettled issue. Musharraf could use this to claim before his people that his policy is paying dividends.

The Vajpayee -- Musharraf statement said: 'Prime Minister Vajpayee said that in order to take forward and sustain the dialogue process, violence, hostility and terrorism must be prevented. President Musharraf reassured Prime Minister Vajpayee that he will not permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.'

'President Musharraf emphasised that a sustained and productive dialogue addressing all issues would lead to positive results.' There was no specific reference to terrorism in the New York statement. The latest statement of April 18 contains an indirect reference to terrorism in general terms without any specific reference to terrorism emanating from Pakistani territory. It says: 'The two leaders pledged that they would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.'

The increasing spotlight on Kashmir is evident from the following. The Vajpayee-Musharraf statement said: 'The two leaders are confident that the resumption of the composite dialogue will lead to peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides.'

The Manmohan Singh-Musharraf statement of September 24, 2004, said: 'They also addressed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed that possible options for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issue should be explored in a sincere spirit and purposeful manner.'

India, Pak talk of shared future

The latest statement of April 18 says: 'The two leaders addressed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to continue these discussions in a sincere and purposeful and forward looking manner for a final settlement.'

Unlike Agra, where no mutual accommodation between the differing points of view of the two countries was possible, the latest summit at New Delhi has seen a readiness on both sides to work towards mutual accommodation even while sticking to each other's stand. India's insistence that there can be no redrawing of the maps and Pakistan's insistence that the LoC cannot be legitimised as an international border have not been allowed to come in the way of mutual accommodations on issues which would benefit the Kashmiri people even in the absence of an agreement on the territorial issue.

Another noteworthy feature of the agreement is that the two leaders have tried to find ways of expanding and strengthening bilateral economic relations, without allowing the Pakistani reluctance to give India the Most Favoured Nation status to come in the way.

While thus noting the positive features of the statement, one would be failing in one's duty if one did not point out that the over-all impression of the statement is that the accommodation has been unequal -- more by India than by Pakistan. For the sake of Pakistran's acceptance of some CBMs, the enduring benign effect of which is still to be tested and proved, we have chosen to award an as yet unwarranted certificate of good conduct to Musharraf.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have started praising the pudding in glorious terms even before tasting it.

The term Stockholm Syndrome describes the behaviour of kidnap victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. The name derives from a 1973 hostage incident in Stockholm. At the end of six days of captivity in a bank, several kidnap victims actually resisted rescue attempts, and afterwards refused to testify against their captors. This is also now used to describe victims of terrorism who start sympathising with the terrorists and pleading for them and praising them.

Have the Indian political leadership and policy-makers been infected with a national Stockholm Syndrome as a result of nearly 25 years of relentless acts of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, which have killed thousands of innocent civilians all over the country and continue to kill many more? Has terrorism fatigue induced us to start viewing the sponsor of terrorism, responsible for so many deaths, as our objective ally in the march on the road to peace and progress?

After Musharraf visit, optimism engulfs Valley

These are disturbing questions gnawing at one's mind as one read the joint statement and as one heard on television the kind of glowing expressions which our prime minister is reported to have used while describing Musharraf during a briefing for senior editors after the departure of Musharraf.

God forbid, but these words may come to haunt us one day.

B Raman

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 22

Sub: It is foolish to believe Musharraf.

I think we are peace-crazy. We want peace with Pakistan at any price. We are so impatient for it that we get overwhelmed even by ...

Posted by Sharad Korde, Thane

Sub: good timely warning!!!!

Mr Raman, ur article is a real eye opener. U are very much right in saying not to count the chickens before they hatch. The ...

Posted by Raghothama

Sub: My response to the article by B Raman

It may be too early to expected fruits of labour. Yet let's give it a try. An effort has been made in right earnest, at ...

Posted by p mohan sachdev

Sub: Possibly yes!

As suggested, it may be the Stockholm Syndrome that is driving our political leadership to heap such praise on the General. However, such peaceful efforts ...

Posted by A Seshu Kumar

Sub: Indo Pak Relations : A vicious circle

Hi, I agree with Raman's point that we might be expecting chickens even before the eggs are hatched. Knowing Pakistan's way of treating this relationship ...

Posted by Sarang


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