Oops! We were counting on Musharraf

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.

10 thoughts on “Oops! We were counting on Musharraf”

  1. Nitin: agree. The MM Singh dispensation and the Vajpayee dispensation were seduced by the same “one-window” – Mush. Must be quite a talker – did the same to the GW Bush dispensation too. But the point – Pakistan is not ready for a durable settlement – is disastrously accurate. Anyone who has lived through Pakistan’s self-immolation will be common-sense challenged to insist on Kashmir’s accession to Pak.

  2. Right. The phenomenon of multiple power centers in Pakistan will continue for a few more years, if not decades and any democracy will take decades to take root again.

  3. Some revelations in that article.

    I see everyone talking about trying to bring peace in Kashmir by involving Pakistan when there is a lot we can do without involving Pakistan. Some things like:

    a. Better integration, if not legally with respect to Art. 370, etc, atleast trade-, business- and culture-wise.

    b. Counter Pakistani disinformation in Kashmir. For eg., I was in Kashmir in Oct 07 and it was good to hear sound of explosions, coming not from IEDs or encounters but from the dynamitting of hill-sides for the railway line to Srinagar. I am sure regular people can see why this would be good for Kashmir but the story going around was that India was building it only for its own troops. I was laughing inside. You can see why such perceptions are bad for India and there are more such anti-India perceptions being propagated by some people.

    c. Tell APHC to bugger off. Seriously, how can we let a party whose following does not extend beyond Srinagar and surrounding areas to dictate terms for the whole region. Either that or tell it to prove its mandate to represent the separatists.

  4. NRA: Counter Pakistani disinformation in Kashmir …
    Must not be the Pakistan Foreign Office doing the disinforming. Their FO would rival the best stand up comedies. Also says something about the mindlessness of the local population – that the State of Pakistan could actually be a beacon of hope for a significant number!

    From an individual standpoint, the continuous appeasement of the Kashmiris almost begs a “screw them” response i.e. clamp down hard enough till they end their ridiculous stand. How many “hearts and minds” are we going to change before we throw in the warm fuzzy towel and take out the cold hard guns? Fortunately, state policy in a democratic setup generally shows little fatigue to cause it is mortally committed to 🙂

  5. Libertarian:
    I doubt if it matters who the source of the disinformation is. Most of the time it seems to be originating within Kashmir. To me, the mindlessness seems to be present mainly because of the religious blind folds that they wear.

    …that the State of Pakistan could actually be a beacon of hope for a significant number!
    It is true that the number of people who are pro-Pakistan or anti-India has gone down in the last 10 years but the disconcerting fact is not that they exist but that they get more attention/interaction with the media/government than the pro-India elements. What this says is that it doesnt pay to be pro-India in Kashmir, unless the stand is principled in which case it doesnt matter how much resources India or Pakistan is willing to throw your way.

    From an individual standpoint, the continuous appeasement of the Kashmiris almost begs a “screw them” response i.e. clamp down hard enough till they end their ridiculous stand.

    True, and a major reason for wanting to respond that way is that we hardly get to see the pro-India elements or their views in public. I am sure its pretty clear which side gets appeased.

  6. NRA: Thanks for the insight. It’s true that these quite unrepresentative Hurriyat get a lot more notice from the Indian media. These (for the most part Pakistani stooges) are treated like foreign delegations in Delhi. That, in itself, is OK if they agree to be part of our process and can deliver. If they don’t we should make every attempt to marginalize them (in the media and in the political discourse) – because they _are_ marginal players. If they agree to the process it’s Game Over: yesterday’s secessionists are today’s chief ministers and tomorrow’s opposition.

    Agree of the religion thing being the blinders – it truly is the opium of the masses. Exceedingly frustrating when folks are mentally imprisoned in this life because of vague, unsubstantiated promises of a better afterlife.

Comments are closed.