The sinking value of unsigned promissory notes
The Acorn has been steadfastly against the ‘peace process’ that India (first under the NDA and then under the UPA) had been engaging with General Musharraf. Because the ‘peace process’ also involved negotiations over Kashmir, which invariably meant that India would make concessions that would be hard to reverse should Musharraf’s successors (or Musharraf himself) repudiate the deal.
And even if the squeezed-from-all-directions Gen Musharraf is forced to make a deal with India, there is little reason to believe that such a deal will outlive his rule. Just ask those who are holding on to contracts signed by Suharto, Marcos or Leonid Kuchma. Fears of Islamic fundamentalism may (or may not) be overstated, but it is the corporate interests of the Pakistani army that are of primary concern. Can the Pakistani army remain in power if India is no longer ‘the enemy’? Any number of Musharraf’s potential successors are not quite on board on the trade-offs that must follow if the peace process is to go anywhere. Given that Musharraf himself came to power thanks to a ‘doctrine of necessity’, a future Pakistani regime can always cite a some other ‘doctrine’ to repudiate all or part of Musharraf’s concessions. What then? Call the White House?
These risks are serious enough by themselves, but they are greatly magnified by Musharraf’s extremely poor record in keeping promises. His modus operandi has been to strike tactical compromises whenever he is under pressure, and renege on them as soon as the situation permits. [It’s all about trust, May 2005]
Now here’s the thing: Praveen Swami writes about how negotiators who had worked out an elaborate set of solutions to the future of Kashmir now find themselves looking into an uncertain future. Zardari and Nawaz Sharif lack the clout to do a quid pro quo, even if they have the willingness. General Kiyani shows no sign of abandoning the proxy war strategy. Tragic? Yes. Predictable? Entirely. It is only luck, perhaps, that Musharraf began visibly losing his grip over power before India made any further concessions.
Deals signed with a military dictatorship stand a good chance of being repudiated when a ‘democratic’ transition takes place. It was not hard to foresee that this will happen sooner or later. And deals signed with a civilian dispensation stand a good chance of being frustrated by the military establishment. This too is not hard to foresee. What this means is that a ‘final settlement’ is impossible because Pakistan is not ready for it. Rushing to complete “deals” with one or the other, therefore, is not a very good idea. Peace process enthusiasts—now energised by the prospects of a civilian prime minister in Islamabad—better take note.
The route to peace and stability in the meantime lies neither in trying to ‘settle’ the Kashmir dispute or in building pipelines. It lies in ensuring that the Pakistani elite have a stake in maintaining the peace. It alies in ensuring that the balance of power is overwhelmingly in India’s favour. And it lies in ensuring that ensuring that the international environment does not allow Pakistan to escalate the proxy war.