Opinions on the Economist Leader

This week’s Economist leader concludes:

There are two great dangers. One is that Islamic terrorists, nurtured by Pakistan’s intelligence service for the long proxy war with India in Kashmir, will refuse to accept that they have outlived their usefulness. It would take only one large bomb directed against a civilian target in the Indian heartland for all the good work of Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf to be undone.

This is only a danger if Musharraf’s intelligence apparatus does not go along with his stated intentions. Even if the jehadis stop taking orders from their ISI handlers, genuine cooperation between Pakistani and Indian security forces can put a brake on terrorist attacks, if not stop them entirely. India will have little reason to call off the peace process with Pakistan should the jehadi terrorists strike even after bona fide efforts from the Pakistani regime.

The other danger is even more chilling. By abandoning the Taliban and siding with America in Afghanistan, by taking on militancy at home, and now by moderating his demands on Kashmir, the general has become the prime target of the terrorist groups that infect his country. Two bomb attempts in December revealed a degree of inside knowledge of the general’s movements, and only narrowly missed. Stanley Baldwin warned in the 1930s that “the bomber will always get through”. Should that happen in Pakistan, the dream of peace with India could well be among the casualties.   

This is the real danger: the legality of Musharraf’s locus standi to negotiate with India is based on ‘a doctrine of necessity’ according the the Pakistani Supreme Court. It will not be legally wrong to argue that Musharraf had no authority to conclude any agreement with India. There is nothing to stop anyone – inclusive of the Pakistani Army – from reverting back to Pakistan’s old dogmatic position. So, regardless of whether Musharraf uses up his self-professed ‘nine lives’, dealing with him is fraught with the danger of a successor regime bent on revisionism.

That the guns are increasingly falling silent is certainly welcome. But India needs to work out how to detach the rapprochment from one so exclusively identified with General Musharraf. That is a major challenge given the damage the General and his Army have done to other national institutions in Pakistan.

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