THE NEW SET of peace bombs hurled at each other by Pakistan
and India, the “Ceasefire” in Kashmir making the most
noise, should not be considered a major breakthrough as the real
intent is not peace but to acquire domestic political mileage and
befool the West, if possible.
is more so because there was no war being fought in Kashmir as such.
Using the term “ceasefire” is thus misleading and self-serving.
For years no party has ever admitted that it was carrying out a
war on the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The LoC is actually a ceasefire line and was known as such before
it was renamed.
fact that Prime Minister Jamali of Pakistan made the ceasefire announcement
reveals more about the move than what he said. Mr. Jamali has been
very humble and subservient to the military regime and in 12 months,
has not taken a single decision, big or small, without the express
permission and prior approval of President Pervez Musharraf.
policy, of all the subjects, has been such a forbidden zone that
once Mr. Jamali made an announcement by mistake, of appointing Riaz
Ahmed Khan as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India and within
12 hours the name was changed by the Foreign Office. Jamali was
left with egg on his face. A major initiative like a ceasefire by
Mr. Jamali has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
has responded by offering a ceasefire at Siachin, the war zone closest
to the Heavens or Hell. Again no war was going on there and neither
of the “warring” parties was actually interested or
willing to continue this high cost occupation of a useless glacier.
In fact in Benazir Bhuttos’ second government, an agreement
had been discussed, drafted, initialed and was waiting for the final
official stamp when the Pakistan Army derailed the process, in an
earlier version of Kargil. That agreement would have pulled back
both the armies from the bone chilling heights to more hospitable
real purpose of these initiatives is thus to assure the concerned
West, led by Washington, that the two governments are ‘serious’
about peace and are moving in that direction. The widespread media
coverage to the imaginary ceasefire would then be very reassuring
for Mr. Jamali. Mr. Vajpayee, who has already declared that his
initiative was the last attempt for peace, would also try to make
the most of it.
only real difference the new ceasefire on the LoC could make is
speculative. India says Pakistani troops open fire to provide cover
to infiltrators to enter Kashmir for terrorism. If India is satisfied
that infiltration from the Pakistani side would stop, then Mr. Jamali
may have provided New Delhi a face saver for moving forward with
a dialogue. But to determine whether cross border infiltration has
stopped would take weeks and months. The extreme cold winter months
are in any case a lean period for such infiltration. This is also
true for Siachin where in winter life freezes.
then will be gained by the big hoopla about these peace bombs, and
Pakistan General Musharraf is under increasing pressure to allow
the elected government some space and he has decided to let Jamali
share some limelight in a non-domestic sector. It is more of a face
saver for Mr. Jamali than for Mr. Vajpayee. And General Musharraf
can also get up and tell any foreign journalist that the elected
PM was in control, even of such sensitive subjects as relations
with India. Practically this would all be a farce.
Vajpayee, on the other hand, has committed to visit Islamabad in
January for the SAARC summit and is looking for some gestures, which
may provide him the justification, at least to meet and talk with
the Pakistani leaders. So far the Indians have strongly denied that
SAARC will be used for any bilateral Indo-Pak negotiations. The
Indians, in fact, are so cautious they did not allow Pakistan’s
publicity-seeking Information, Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, more
than 20 seconds with Mr. Vajpayee at the last SAARC ministerial
meeting in New Delhi.
real issue between India and Pakistan is credibility and trust.
Both sides want peace and are ready to offer concessions. But to
whom, is the big question. Mr. Vajpayee knows that General Musharraf
is the man who sabotaged all his previous initiatives, Lahore Bus
Diplomacy and Agra included, bringing him to a point where he was
forced to announce that he would make his last peace bid and then
give up. For a politician this is a major admission of failure.
General Musharraf the issue is how not to give up power to a political
leadership but use the same leadership to convince the Indians and
the world that he is sincere for peace. His job is doubly difficult.
Using Jamali as the front man further strengthens the perception
that Musharraf has not closed his petty (read dirty) tricks department.
It erodes confidence in him as a sincere leader who is not trying
to insult the intelligence of others.
Pakistan Army has really decided to have peace with India, the most
credible and honest way would be for General Musharraf to re-establish
his credibility first, come clean on what happened in Kargil and
who derailed the Lahore process. He should then discuss with the
entire political leadership of the country, opposition leaders in
Pakistan and in exile included, to agree on the policy bottom line
for Pakistan on Kashmir.
this is set, Mr. Jamali should be given a free hand to negotiate,
like in 1988 when under another military dictator General Zia ul
Haq, the then Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo negotiated the
Geneva Accords with the Soviets for troops withdrawal from Afghanistan.
A deal with India, which has the support of the Pakistani people,
will last. Nothing else will change the status quo.
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