Monday, July 14, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Musharraf has vested interest in instability: Gujral
TR Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral is categoric that the US invasion of Iraq has disturbed the region and unless there is a new world order, difficulties will continue for the rest of the world.

“The Iraq invasion has thrown up a new geostrategic situation for all of us as America has a large network of bases extending into Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has caught the Americans in a difficult frame of mind and they do not know how to handle peace,” he emphasised. Hoping that India will not commit itself to sending troops to Iraq, Mr Gujral said: “We have kept our distance, declaring that we will go with the United Nations. The move proved to be correct. Now we can’t (send troops) after the revelations of the British Parliamentary Committee.”

He insists that Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf has vested interest in instability. Further, a military regime anywhere cannot be a stabilising factor and more so in Pakistan. Ever since Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s time, terrorism has been the state policy of Pakistan and “they have not gone away from it,” he maintained in an exclusive interview to The Tribune.

The former Prime Minister stressed that the USA was more active in this region than in the past. “If the government says that the USA is our strategic partner then they must ask overtly or covertly whether the USA trusts India. The USA thinks it has to intervene. If they have not done it all this while then why today,” he asked.

Mr Gujral spoke candidly on foreign policy shifts, Indo-Pak relations and SAARC, the Gujral Doctrine, Jammu and Kashmir, Sino-Indian relations, the Gujarat carnage, the Ayodhya tangle and political parties posing a casteist danger.

The question before the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government is what do we want with Pakistan and how to deal with it. To say “aar ya paar” is one thing. It is a fact that there is no relaxation on the terrorist front but India has proved in the past 20 years that it can look after its own interest without any bellicose or aggressive intent.

He said: “I will go with the Prime Minister that if killings continue in Jammu and Kashmir and does not reduce, how can India have worthwhile talks with Pakistan. India means peace but has been disturbed by state sponsorship of terrorism. Any dictatorship is unfriendly.”

Mr Gujral insisted that there was a large constituency in Pakistan which wanted peace and friendship with India. General Musharraf will cross the road when this becomes more articulate.

“To expect the tiger to change its stripes may be a miracle we may not see. We should not get pushed by irresponsible statements of dictators as it only helps in keeping the temperature high. They (Pakistan) are inviting the USA to intervene. Our approach should be to make cool and calculated statements and avoid playing into the hands of General Musharraf. We should not generate an atmosphere of tension. Most of General Musharraf’s statements should be dismissed cynically. Our strong point is stability and success without getting provoked.”

The former Prime Minister attached overriding importance to the policy towards the people of Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral part of India. Article 371 of the Constitution and not Article 370 must be read carefully. The country’s unity in diversity is the spirit of Article 371.

“The trouble in many cases arise when we are undemocratic and lack the elasticity of accommodation. Patriotism does not live in Delhi alone. It lives in every part of India and particularly in the border lands. Once we are able to generate the environment of trust and meeting the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, we have won the battle,” Mr Gujral said.

Advocating looking at Southeast Asian countries despite difficulties with Pakistan, he regretted that India’s relations with its immediate neighbours in South Asia is bad except for Bhutan and the Maldives. Did India lose out in settling the water dispute with Bangladesh in a spirit of generosity. “If there is disquiet we have to analyse how to deal with it. It is a good idea to watch and not intervene. Can we sustain such an outlook and is it helpful. There is disquiet in Nepal. In Sri Lanka the negotiations are in a rut. Now what is our policy can be permanent.”

Mr Gujral is of the firm view that India must pay greater attention to the region and revive its faith in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which should also include Myanmar and Afghanistan.

“Please put more life in SAARC as the regional grouping does not mean India and Pakistan alone. I will plead for a new approach. The Gujral Doctrine says we are the largest country in South Asia and strong economically. Let us give unilateral concessions. Let us go back to it. At the same time let us not respond to any polemics by Pakistan.”

Welcoming the improvement in India’s relations with China, he acknowledged: “We have been moving slowly but positively. China will never move fast nor should we expect it. Pakistan is an important factor in Chinese foreign policy. We will have to adjust to slow change.”

Mr Gujral recalled what the Chinese President had told him and the Pakistan Senate in 1996 that in sorting our neighbourhood problems, don’t take up the most contentious issue first. “Let’s sort out peripheral problems and gradually come to the contentious issues. I think the foreign policy course is correct. Unfortunately it does not suit Gen Musharraf who talks of the so-called core issue.”

Stating that the Gujarat carnage was most despicable, he said he felt proud of India and being an Indian that the Indian Muslim community “kept aloof from jehad” which had entered Afghanistan from the erstwhile Soviet Union. When a foreign correspondent asked him this question recently, he responded by saying it was because of the country’s diversity and secular credentials.

The former Prime Minister favoured providing pro-rata representation to women in Parliament and the legislatures. He pointed out that the presence of women in Pakistan and Bangladesh is one-third in their legislatures. “We should either follow the Pakistan or Bangladesh model without embarrassment or go in for pro-rata representation which entails increasing the number of seats in Parliament and legislatures,” he added. 

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