India concerned about Pak vacuum: Analysts

New Delhi, August 19:

Pervez Musharraf was a man whom India loved to hate, but his departure from the helm of rival Pakistan is now a cause for concern as New Delhi wonders who will fill the power vacuum.

He was branded a “wily fox,” “arrogant,” “cocky” and “unpredictable” by India’s press for most of his nine years in office.

As Pakistan’s army chief during a bitter border conflict in Kashmir’s Kargil region in 1999, Musharraf became reviled in India, and was accused of having an abrasive style.

After Kargil, New Delhi cold-shouldered him, refusing to acknowledge him as the leader of Pakistan when he then took power in a coup.

But according to retired Indian army general Ashok Mehta, his abrupt departure would not be wholly welcomed by the Indian government.

“India had got used to dealing with Musharraf who was army chief and president at the same time. He was the one central authority,” Mehta said.

“But now no one knows who is in command.” Politicians in New Delhi had slowly acknowledged him as a man “India could do business with” — and the two nuclear-armed nations even managed to start peace talks in 2004 and agree on a ceasefire that still holds.

C Uday Bhaskar, the former head of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses think-tank, said that with Musharraf, “India-Pakistan relations went through the whole spectrum — from near hostility to robust relations.”

India had an “ambivalent approach,” he said, because Musharraf was viewed as a figure who played a double game — using Islamist militants while at the same time positioning himself as a US ally in the “war on terror.”

India’s dilemma was mirrored in the media here today, a day after Musharraf announced his resignation.

“He’s gone!” screamed the banner headline in the Hindustan Times.

But “India should worry. Terror groups will target Kashmir. The ISI (Pakistani intelligence service) may get a freer hand,” the paper cautioned.

“Who do India, America and other countries do business with in Pakistan now?” wondered former diplomat Kanwal Sibal in the Indian Express.

“Musharraf’s exit makes the political situation more uncertain. There is less confidence about the capacity of the civilian government (in Pakistan) to deliver,” he wrote.

The worry in India is whether such threats will now increase with Musharraf gone.

“Pakistan’s political parties have not shown the ability to fill the vacuum caused by

the military stepping aside,” an analyst said, referring to previous spells of civilian rule in Pakistan.

“New Delhi will have to be cautious of non-state actors, like Pakistan-based rebel groups and the anti-India constituency represented by the ISI,” he warned.

Mush to seek refuge in London?

LONDON: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf could seek refuge in London, a British newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed senior Western diplomat in Islamabad as saying Musharraf could first head for Saudi Arabia on a Muslim pilgrimage, but that London could be his ultimate destination. — IANS