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Musharraf's new plan

By Wilson John
September 15, 2005 20:50 IST
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Few points can be quickly drawn from the varied voices that have been broadcast from New York before and after the much-awaited dinner meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Kashmir and terrorism remained the focus of the discussions during the various meetings the two leaders had, both on and offline. It is also quite significant that both the leaders chose not to rake up contentious issues in the short joint statement issued after they met for dinner in New York.

This is a clear indication that both the leaders are careful not to disturb the Composite Dialogue which has a mutually agreed upon schedule of progress till early 2006 when the foreign secretaries of both the countries are scheduled to meet for the third round of talks.

Complete coverage: the peace talks

On terrorism, they agreed that 'they would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.'  

The statement is a reiteration of the one made after President Musharraf's three-day visit to India on April 18 in New Delhi.

It is however quite different in tone and tenor from the one made on January 6, 2004 between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Musharraf in Islamabad, where the latter had categorically assured that he would not 'permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.'

In that sense, the present statement is a confirmation of India's decision not to press strongly on the issue of terrorism which, once again, reflects a strong desire on the part of Prime Minister Singh to make the peace process work.

What they said offline, in their respective meetings with US President George W Bush, is no less important to understand the trajectory of the peace process.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said terrorism from Pakistan must end before peace could return to Kashmir. This has been his consistent demand.

President Musharraf made two suggestions to President Bush. First, he said, India must withdraw troops from Kupwara and Baramullah. Second, the US must step in to 'facilitate the peace process.' He also added that the Indian refusal to 'reciprocate Pakistan's moves' will jeopardise the peace process.

No troop withdrawal in Jammu and Kashmir till terrorism ceases, Singh tells Musharraf

Earlier, in his address to the UN General Assembly, the general said that global peace depended on resolution of Kashmir (and Palestine) issues and added that it was essential to 'find a just solution of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir acceptable to Pakistan, India and above all to the people of Kashmir.'

Read together, it can be safely concluded that the general has different ideas on Kashmir.

He is not letting go of Kashmir at any cost. He has once again reaffirmed his position that it is Kashmir alone that will decide the future progress of the peace process. His suggestion to the Indian government to withdraw troops from Baramullah and Kupwara is, however, grossly misplaced.

Either he is being badly advised or he has been abandoned his earlier cautious approach to the peace process, letting Kashmir remain as part of the process and not a stand-alone issue on which rested the future of peace and stability. He has made it amply clear that Kashmir is the issue.

There are reasons for his renewed obstinacy. He is under growing domestic pressure, both from the civil and military realm, on his seemingly lenient approach towards Kashmir. For Pakistan, Kashmir has always been the core issue, and remains so.

The reason for shortlisting Kupwara and Baramullah, and not Srinagar and Anantnag, as areas for troop withdrawal is also not a mystery. Both the districts are border districts and face Pakistan occupied Kashmir, the centre-stage of terrorist activities. Withdrawal of troops from the region could mean India vacating the Line of Control.

The road to peace

Another fact is that the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus route also passes through Baramullah which would mean that there would not be any stopping of terrorist infiltration if the forces were to be withdrawn from the area.

Knowing well that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has categorically stated that there would not be any redrawing of boundaries, why is the general coming up with seemingly unacceptable demands?

The answer is available in the briefing given by Pakistan's Ambassador to US, General Jahangir Karamat on President Musharraf's meeting with President Bush. He said India's failure to reciprocate 'could affect' the peace process.

He perhaps meant it as a veiled threat but completely forgot to mention what was the Pakistan offer to which he expected a reciprocation. The second point he made was more relevant. He said President Musharraf urged President Bush to 'facilitate the dialogue between Pakistan and India.'

It is not difficult to understand why President Musharraf has been making highly impractical suggestions. His ideas is to claim that India has not been responding to any of his proposals for peace in Kashmir and thus make the ground for the US to intervene in the peace process.

President Musharraf has set the ball rolling for such a course in New York.

Wilson John is a Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi

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