Musharraf heads back towards square one

Rejecting the charge of the so-called cross border terrorism he reiterated that the struggle of the Kashmiris was indigenous, and Pakistan will not hesitate to provide moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris.[The News/Jang]

The Kashmir-rattling that Musharraf indulged in during the India Today Conclave was no fluke. Hardly has Pakistan come out of the international doghouse than Musharraf has begun increasing his rhetoric on Kashmir. The Himalayan snows are melting, and there’s no let up in the body count in Kashmir – there were 60 attacks on security forces last month, as compared to 53 in February 2003, leaving 183 dead as compared to 126 last February.

Musharraf himself has delivered a slap on the face of those who continue to peddle the ‘people-to-people contacts’ and similar lofty-softy ‘confidence-building measures’.

President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday warned India that Pakistan would shelve the dialogue process if Kashmir was not included in the agenda for foreign ministers’ level talks by July or August this year.

“We have committed ourselves to bringing peace to the region and so we want talks but not at the cost of Kashmir. If Kashmir is not included in talks’ agenda by July or August, there will be no need for the dialogue process,” President Musharraf told a private TV channel.

He said confidence-building measures between the two countries would not bear fruit if talks between their foreign ministers failed. President Musharraf said that Kashmir remained the core issue between Pakistan and India and the resolution of the dispute was the key to lasting peace in South Asia.[Daily Times]

As Swapan Dasgupta put it, the General has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. The BJP would do well to tone down its election campaign loudspeakers that are going into a peace with Pakistan overdrive. At least until the elections are over, part of Vajpayee’s electoral fortunes are in Musharraf’s hands.

It looks like Musharraf in turn has been spooked by Al Qaeda’s tape-worm and the failure of the operation in South Waziristan. Zawahiri called for the Army to mutiny and it has been reported that around 150 soldiers, including a colonel and a major, refused to take part in the Al-Qaeda wild-goose hunt off Wana. The Pathans are up in arms against Musharraf and the Pakistani government. In these circumstances Musharraf is hardening his position on Kashmir. It is Musharraf’s over-reliance on such tactical moves that makes him all the more unsuitable as an interlocutor for peace

“If peace process does not move forward, then I will not be a party to it,” said President Musharraf while talking to a select group of journalists and intellectuals at the Army House here on Tuesday. [Dawn]

And that is the problem.