Originally Published 2003-12-23 12:44:42 Published on Dec 23, 2003
Call it a game of good-cop-and-bad-cop being played out by President Musharaff and Prime Minister Jamali, yet Pakistan¿s willingness to ¿keep aside¿ the UN resolution on plebiscite in Kashmir should come as a welcome turn, if not relief, for India, and all those hoping for permanent peace in South Asia.
To Islamabad and After
Call it a game of good-cop-and-bad-cop being played out by President Musharaff and Prime Minister Jamali, yet Pakistan's willingness to 'keep aside' the UN resolution on plebiscite in Kashmir should come as a welcome turn, if not relief, for India, and all those hoping for permanent peace in South Asia. True, real peace would also involve both nations ridding themselves of 'jehadi terrorism', but any improvement in bilateral relations would definitely help in easing the situation. An ideal situation would be that in which both nations pool their resources to fight off 'jehadi terrorism' -- which would still be around with greater vehemence, and which has now afflicted Pakistan as much as it had done India earlier -- but it may sound utopian at the moment.

Pakistan may not have acknowledged India's 'List of 20' terrorists, starting with Dawood Ibrahim. Nor can it escape the responsibility for introducing cross-border terrorism to India, which has had a physical form and economic import. For the present, and into the future, the mere elimination of ISI-sponsored Kashmir-centric terrorism would be more than half the battle won for India. Independent of this, Pakistan seems to have realized that it cannot divert all of jehadi terrorists from its western frontier to the east, meaning Kashmir and rest of India, without a motivated residue staying back to fight its own battle, presumably against the pro-US elements and policies of Islamabad.

For India thus, the Ramadan ceasefire announced by Jamali last month carries with it the 'guarantee' that Pakistani troops would not be offering 'fire-cover' any more for cross-border infiltrators. As against Musharaff's empty words last year, this one is a verifiable mechanism, and Pakistan could still be caught in the act, if it reneged. Simultaneously, both sides have also agreed on joint patrolling of the International Border. By leaving it to the ground commanders to pen the agreement, away from the glare of the international media, both nations have moved forward on a crucial aspect, without attracting presumptuous evaluations of the 'Agra kind'.

Taken to its logical conclusion, even if on the military front with no political accruals, this could release for Islamabad, substantial resources that it would need to fight jehadi terrorism, if and when those who had migrated to Iraq are forced to beat a hasty retreat to the hilly jungles along the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan also needs to realise that the jehadis need the whole of Pakistan, and nothing less - a well-acclamatised base after they had lost Afghanistan. The Pak nuke would be an irresistible attraction, and Islamabad can only fight them, not befriend them any more.

The path to Islamabad would not be a bed of roses for Prime Minister Vajpayee, when he visits the Pakistani capital in the New Year, for the SAARC summit. It is then that he is expected to revive bilateral talks with Jamali, Musharaff, or both. Both sides would be under as much pressure as they were in at Agra, or at the Kathmandu SAARC summit, later, particularly given the media-hype attending on the occasion. But Vajpayee can take heart in the realization that the public mood in this country is still pro-peace, despite the hurt in Kathmandu, harassment in Kargil, and humiliation in Agra. It is no different for Musharaff, who is under greater pressure to bring back elusive peace to the sub-continent.

There is still no denying the centrality of the 'Kashmir issue' to any permanent peace between India and Pakistan, if not in South Asia, where 'jehadi terrorism' would have other dimensions, as well. Being Pakistan-based, and India-centric at the moment, Islamabad would have to rid its system and processes of such elements, and also do it in a way that New Delhi and the rest of India fells convinced and comfortable. Any unilateral Pakistani action without inducing a positive response in India would not take things too far, and Islamabad needs to realise this.

It is the Pakistani actions arising out of such realization that would ultimately pave the way for a final solution to the 'Kashmir issue', where India faces as much a civilian political problem, as an external military-terrorism factor. Once that kind of a mutual realization, and consequent acceptance gets built in, marketing a solution like 'conversion of LoC into International Border' could become easier than anticipated. For, Islamabad needs to get more than PoK, and what India can offer is only permanent peace, and shared prosperity to the people of Pakistan, not more territory than what Pakistan already has.

For its part, India, as the larger political and economic power, needs to demonstrate that there is scope for peace and prosperity for the people of Pakistan in the evolving relationship between the two nations. A shared 'marketing strategy' for exclusive products and produce of the region in the global market, the much talked-about India-Iran oil pipe-line, and adding an 'Indus loop' to India's ambitious river-link project, with power-sharing as the theme, would help.

But then, Islamabad would still have to live down the folly of taking the initiative when Musharaff promised it last year after the 'Afghan war' but did not have either the will or the willingness - or, both -- to move forward, beyond saying it all in words.

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N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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