Originally Published 2004-11-24 05:10:56 Published on Nov 24, 2004
President Pervez Musharraf has a number of reasons to be unhappy with India. It took only a few hours for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to dismiss the General's seemingly well-crafted and cleverly worded war-game plans for Greater Kashmir. The General's idea was simple.
Checkmating Musharraf's plan
President Pervez Musharraf has a number of reasons to be unhappy with India. It took only a few hours for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to dismiss the General's seemingly well-crafted and cleverly worded war-game plans for Greater Kashmir. The General's idea was simple. He was getting impatient with India's shadow boxing over Kashmir. The peace process that has become the fulcrum of global attention is an Indian initiative. The progress of the dialogue too solely depended on Indian proposals and initiatives. There was nothing that gave Pakistan an edge or a say. The Bush Administration, caught in the heat and dust of domestic elections, was less inclined to meddle in the process or help foist Pakistan. <br /> <br /> The General is not used to being led. Therefore, he came up with this plan for Greater Kashmir, linking up both sides of Kashmir in his proposal to demilitarise a select region. He did not make it clear which side he was talking about. Nor did he, deliberately, mention who should take the initiative. And he floated the idea to the media, and did not follow it up with a formal proposal to the Indian Government that, in a way, betrayed his true intentions. He didn't mean to follow up on the proposal. He didn't even know the contours of the proposals he had mentioned. It was merely a ploy to put India on the defensive and give him enough reasons at home to bolster his position. <br /> <br /> Few words about his domestic compulsions are important to understand the underlying reasons for his latest trial balloon on Kashmir. At home, he is set to renege on his promise of quitting as the Chief of Army Staff before the year ends. But there is growing opposition to his staying on as the President as well as the Army Chief. Most of the opposition parties have joined hands to launch an agitation against him later this month. Leading the agitators is the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, the six-party religious alliance which has been supporting the ruling alliance in Islamabad. <br /> <br /> The General, ironically, had been courting the MMA for long, to keep the PML-Q (the King's Party) in power. But the religious alliance, after a stunning victory at the polls, had played along with the General as long as they could protect their own turf and when the General began a crackdown at Washington's behest, the alliance leaders had second thoughts about continuing to kow-tow to the General. They knew that if they did not protect their ground, they would lose out to the General and there would be no comebacks. The alliance was therefore engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the General. While one of the top leaders, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, would seem to be generally supportive of the General, his colleague, Qazi Hussein Ahmed, would rant and rave against the General and his support for the US-led war on terrorism. <br /> <br /> The General's plan was to neutralise the MMA. He adopted a two-pronged strategy. He began sending feelers to the other political parties to come around. Communication channels were open with Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Ms Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, a pliable, unscrupulous and overly ambitious businessman, has been released to act as a counterpoise to the mullahs. For the MMA, he had another plans. The Qazi, for instance, is likely to be charged with conspiracy to murder in the assassination of a well-known cleric, Azam Tariq. Several witnesses have deposed before the anti-terrorism court that the conspiracy to kill the cleric was taken at the residence of MMA leader Qazi Hussein Ahmed. With the Qazi out of the way, the General will have to contend only with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a politically ambitious cleric who had come close to being nominated as the Prime Minister by President Musharraf. <br /> <br /> In the General's scheme of things, the domestic front would have been brought firmly under his control, leaving him to nurture his ambition of becoming an Islamic statesman. This required a decisive action on Kashmir. Hence the proposal, despite not being formal, was projected as official. There is always a blind side to each one of the General's plans. This time the General did not anticipate the reaction which he got from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He had anticipated a rhetoric-filled reaction. <br /> <br /> What he got instead was clear action. The Indian Prime Minister announced a unilateral troop withdrawal. It was an adroit step. He ordered what the General proposed; thereby checkmating the latter's war game. The only way the General could have responded was to order a similar troop withdrawal on his side of the border, at least for the sake of appearance. The problem was he could not. Despite being the Army chief, General Musharraf does not enjoy the full confidence of e Pakistan Army to order a troop withdrawal. <br /> <br /> That was not the only point he lost. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh effectively neutralised the All Party Hurriyat Conference by stating that he was ready to talk to "anyone or everyone" who does not believe in violence for a solution to the Kashmir problem. His message to the Hurriyat was clear. He was not willing to talk to those who indulge in violence or support secessionism. He was only willing to hold a dialogue with those who have the welfare of the Kashmiri people in mind. <br /> <br /> This was a strong message to those who have been holding the State to ransom by either directly or indirectly supporting acts of violence, especially those elements in the Hurriyat who have been directly or indirectly subversive in their voice and action. This is also a subtle reminder to Pakistan to give up violence if it wants to have peace on its borders. The Prime Minister made it quite clear that it would be easier for him to take the next step towards peace if Pakistan stopped sending in terrorists across the border.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Three clear indications can be drawn from the Prime Minister's speech about the Government's approach towards Kashmir in the days to come. First, violence will not be tolerated. Second, Pakistan will have to shed its hypocrisy and give up promoting cross-border terrorism. Third, instead of playing politics, the Government will ensure development of basic infrastructure and facilities for the people of Kashmir. By talking about providing jobs, schools, hospitals and other basic needs, the Prime Minister has laid out the parametres of his New Kashmir Plan. <br /> <br /> Incidentally, it is also an indication to the political and non-political actors in the State to start taking the welfare of the people more seriously than their own. The disappointment expressed by certain sections of the Hurriyat and political leadership in the Valley clearly indicate that the Prime Minister's words have had the intended impact. Prime Minister Singh has made it known that he was not interested in finding a political solution as is being demanded by several self-proclaimed leaders in the Valley and Pakistan. The only political solution in Kashmir was to hold a free and fair election and the Prime Minister has clarified, in no uncertain terms, that he was not interested in bypassing or destabilising the State Government. Those who were looking for a political formula were obviously disappointed. For President Musharraf, it was a surprise checkmate. <br /> <br /> &nbsp; <br /> Courtesy: Pioneer, New Delhi, November 24, 2004. <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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