Should India love Musharraf?

Love him or hate him. But it’s not about him.

M K Narayanan, India’s National Security Adviser (no less!) has declared a ‘grudging admiration’ for Pervez Musharraf. Now, stating that India would do business with whoever is in power in Pakistan is the right thing to do at a time when Pakistan is acutely unstable. But to declare admiration—grudging or otherwise—is pushing it too much. But then, Narayanan was always more comfortable in backrooms of internal security. He never had a flair for the front room of international diplomacy. J N Dixit died too early.

Then Maverick, a voice this blog respects, writes that India’s perceptions of General Musharraf have changed over the years. And that he “howsoever grudgingly has earned that respect from India”.

If this admiration and respect is for the manner in which Musharraf managed to ensure his own political survival in the face of political tumult and rising unpopularity, that’s fine. But it would be dangerously naive to believe that the ‘sombre, determined’ Musharraf somehow is now the best thing for India. Stephen Cohen’s 1999 thesis—that a Pakistan under military rule will be in India’s interests—has been recalled. This theory is the mirror image of those, like Rohit Pradhan, argue that a democratic Pakistan will be better.

Both these views just leaps of faith. What really matters is the balance of power. As long as this prevents Pakistan from pursuing ambitious projects at India’s expense, the type of dispensation in Islamabad is not of primary consequence. So India’s policymakers can entertain whatever fancies they like regarding Musharraf, as long as they are paying attention to what really matters.

4 thoughts on “Should India love Musharraf?”

  1. BOK,

    That too. The charitable explanation is that he was trying to talk down—in public—the inspired talk emanating from the United States about securing Pakistan’s nukes…with Indian assistance. That may well play to the public (who don’t matter in this case) but it won’t necessarily soothe the nerves of Pakistanis whose job it is to worry about such things. Because that’s exactly the sort of talk you would engage in if your intentions were to the contrary.

    The less charitable view is that he doesn’t really know or care much about signaling effects. That’s rather dangerous because the Pakistanis certainly do.

    Whatever be the case, it would have been much better if the NSA had avoided this talk. Silence, as they say, is golden.

  2. Does Mush at the helm make Pak any more ‘rational’ in its actions (expecting less hostility might be asking for too much)? Perhaps.

    There’s certainly been less warmongering rhetoric aimed at India post Op-Parakram. Even if the bombings of soft Indian (read civilain) targets in India has picked pace.

    I guess India’s best bet would be someone at the helm in Pak who will accept India’s ‘breakaway’ inevitable rise in geopolitical, economic and miitary terms in the coming years, vis a vis Pakistan. In effect Delhi is ‘waiting out’ Pakistan and we wait for a Pak leader who can handle/ manage/ diffuse the resulting takleef in Islamabad.

  3. Sud,

    India doesn’t need a Pakistani leader to accept a ‘breakaway’, although that would be nice to have. Or to state it in another way, whoever it is that is in power in Pakistan will have to accept the breakaway anyway.

    But even someone who accepts the breakaway can be tempted to fool around with Kargil-like ambitions, or death-by-a-thousand-cuts ambitions.

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