Originally Published 2005-04-19 11:01:59 Published on Apr 19, 2005
That is the question that should be uppermost in the minds of analysts as they analyse the outcome of Pakistani President Gen.Pervez Musharraf's visit to India from April 16 to 18, 2005, and compare it with his first visit in 2001, which ended in a fiasco at Agra.
A Commando turns a Statesman?
Has the commando turned a statesman? Is it for real?

That is the question that should be uppermost in the minds of analysts as they analyse the outcome of Pakistani President Gen.Pervez Musharraf's visit to India from April 16 to 18, 2005, and compare it with his first visit in 2001, which ended in a fiasco at Agra.

The Musharraf whom we saw at Agra in 2001 was the commando par excellence---quick-footed, always looking for an opportunity to trip his opponent, the architect of the deception of Kargil of 1999, the nemesis of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the killer of democracy, the outcaste of the USA, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world, the darling of the jihadi terrorists, the creator and the creation of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda, the protector of the Taliban, the godfather of the jihadi terrorist organisations of Pakistan and the defence lawyer of the jihadi terrorists whom he projected as freedom-fighters.

He came to Agra, misreading the surprise invitation of Mr.Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, to him as an indicator of battle fatigue in the Indian Army, as the precursor of the capitulation of India over the Kashmir issue. He thought he could dictate terms to the Indian leaders. Refused to take cognisance of past bilateral agreements between the elected political leaders of the two countries--- such as the Shimla Pact of 1972 between Mrs.Indira Gandhi and Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto and the Lahore Agreement of 1999 between Vajpayee and Nawaz. Projected on the TV before an outraged Indian public opinion the ongoing jihadi terrorism in India, which has killed thousands of civilians, as a legitimate freedom struggle. Declined to condemn cross-border terrorism in the planned joint statement, which ultimately could not be issued. He came like a commando and went back to his country like a commando----leaving what little remained of India-Pakistan cordiality before his visit in utter ruins.

One could hardly believe one's eyes as Musharraf visited India again from April 16 to 18. The swagger of the commando has given way to the seeming wisdom of a statesman. The accusatory, hectoring tone of his statements gone. A picture of sweet reasonableness. As impeccably dressed as ever. As much in command of the spoken word as ever. As much a defender of the rights of the Kashmiris as ever, but a new man of patience and no longer the fidgety commando of the past.

Is he the same man who in April 1999, while speaking as the new Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) before the English-speaking Union of Karachi, spoke of the need to keep India bleeding in Kashmir and wait for the day when like a ripe fruit, Kashmir would fall into their basket.?

Is he the same man who, during his visits to the military units before seizing political power in October,1999, used to speak sarcastically of India's political leaders as chatterboxes, who keep talking endlessly, and as devious persons with whom Pakistan cannot do business?

Is he the same insensitive commando who, in an interview to a Western newspaper as the COAS in 1999, spoke derogatively of the Hindus and asked:" How can there be anything in common between the Hindus and the Muslims? They worship the cow. We eat it."

Is he the same insensitive, rigid, uncompromising commando of pre9/11, who has delightfully become a sensitive human being receptive to the concerns and anxieties of India, willing to give a try to India's road to a solution to the Kashmir question paved with confidence building measures (CBMs), while reiterating his conviction that the CBMs are pain-killers which do not address the root cause of the pain?

Is he the same detractor of Indian politicians, who is now trying all the tricks of the trade of Dale Carnegie to win them over and make them see the wisdom of what he has been saying on Kashmir?

What we saw and heard during the last few days was definitely not an apparition. It was Musharraf in flesh and blood. The Commando, who now projects himself as a statesman.

Is the transformation in him for real or is it yet another camouflage of the good old commando?

What has contributed to the transformation? 9/11? The activities of the jihadi Frankenstein's monster in Pakistan, which has made him realise that terrorism is a double-edged sword? The unsuccessful attempts on his life by this monster and the continuing threats to his life? The global adulation for him as the fighter of the jihadi dragon of bin Laden? American pressure and nudging to behave?

It is possibly a mix of all of them. Let us give him a try, while remaining on our guard and remembering that a commando may change his camouflage dozens of times, but a commando remains a commando in his heart and mind. 

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, New Delhi, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-mail: [email protected]

Courtesy: South Asia Analysis Group, New Delhi, Paper no. 1340, April 18, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.