And there’s a big difference between the two
Even the strongest Indian supporters of Musharraf’s cross-border cricket excursion hold that inviting the General for a cricket match helps keep the scoreboard of the peace process ticking. In many of the debates that followed the Indian blogosphere’s ‘No to Musharraf‘ statement, it was a sincere, if unfounded, hope that caused many to put forth the view that for all his past evils, there is no harm in engaging Musharraf if it can buy peace. Indeed, it is this very view that may have persuaded both the previous and current Indian government’s to reach out to Musharraf.
Unfortunately, unlike most Indians and their government, peace is not what the General is after. What he wants is Kashmir. And he has been consistent on this front. Until he secured a formal invitation from the Indian government, it was about his love for sports and cricket. Musharraf has now declared that “the April 17th cricket match has no value compared to the talks to be held on Kashmir”. It is not about the peace-process after all, not is it about people-to-people contacts or confidence-building measures. It is about Kashmir. Not a ‘friendly visit‘, then.
Largely conceding to Pakistan’s position, India bent its own constitution to allow the Kashmir bus service to take off. As Harish Dugh points out, while the entire Indian leadership braved the terrorists to turn up at the launch, Musharraf was most conspicuous by his absence. Despite nice statements from the Pakistani foreign minister, Musharraf’s followed up on his ominous silence by announcing that the bus would ‘not solve the Kashmir dispute’. The eternally optimistic Indians got it wrong again — they thought that the Kashmir bus was about confidence-building, people-to-people contacts and above all, the ‘peace-process’.