Musharraf: Wages of confusion

Ayaz Amir:

Put a simple question to Gen Musharraf: what new thing has his Delhi visit achieved which wasn’t there before? Has he brought back the outlines of a Kashmir settlement? If so, the nation should be informed. Did he return with tidings of Indian flexibility on Siachen or the Baglihar Dam? Not that anyone can tell. His PTV interview, far from clearing the air, has fed more doubts. Long on hype, it was short on substance.

So beyond photo-ops and general bonhomie, what was the purpose of the Delhi trip? Friendship is already in the air. While this should be taken further, for this you don’t need a Pakistani head of state going to Delhi, when he is not very clear in his mind what he is hoping to achieve.

Peace with India, yes, by all means. War has brought nothing but harm to both countries, perhaps more to Pakistan. But after the permafrost has come the thaw and relations are looking up. Links are expanding and there is more movement across the borders although heaven knows we could do with a lot more.

But serious issues—Kashmir, differing interpretations over the Baglihar Dam, the senseless standoff in Siachen, etc—also remain. And when top leaders meet it is reasonable to expect serious discussions leading, hopefully, to some kind of progress. And in the absence of progress a frank statement that, well, we tried but there was no forward movement and let’s hope we do better next time.

While the people of Pakistan would appreciate a little candour what they are being treated to is spin on a grand scale, with the president’s declaration that his visit was successful “beyond expectations”. If the visit was really successful “beyond expectations” why aren’t the people of Pakistan being let into the secret?

No doubt Pakistan is playing on a difficult pitch. The status quo or occupying power as far as Kashmir, Baglihar Dam and Siachen are concerned is India. To break or fine-tune the status quo, flexibility, by definition, has to come from India. Pakistan for its part has dismantled the infra-structure of terrorism/ the freedom struggle. (If it hadn’t delivered on this count, Musharraf would have been greeted with scowls.) But how precisely has India responded? The people of Pakistan would be grateful for specific answers. They are getting none from their president.

As the status quo power it is in India’s interest to keep Pakistan lulled by empty gestures of goodwill. But here we are seeing a strange thing happening. It is not India overdoing the flashing smiles and warm bear hugs but Pakistan.

Asked on TV as to what had been “beyond expectations”, Musharraf was reduced to saying that the sincerity of the Indian leadership in looking for a solution to the Kashmir dispute was beyond expectations. Moving away from belligerence is one thing, descending to such frivolity quite another.

India is not frivolous with us nor are India and China with each other. Manmohan Singh is doing the right thing by his country which is his bounden duty. We should do the right thing by ours which means work for peace by testing the waters, gauging India’s intentions and only giving concessions when some are forthcoming from the other side.

The question then is one of emphasis not substance. But Musharraf’s blithe reference to ‘porous borders’ without a word about the UN resolutions was music to Indian ears. That’s why the Indian media was bowled over, treating the visit less as diplomatic event, more as a rock concert.

Ayaz, a columnist for Dawn, writes for THT from Islamabad