M A I N   N E W S

New signals from Pakistan
News Analysis by K. Subrahmanyam
ó A noted commentator on Security Affairs

The joint statement issued at the end of the two days of talks by the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan continues to mark the improvement in Indo-Pakistan relations which was evident in the earlier nuclear CBM statement a week ago.

The issue of J&K was discussed as well as peace and terrorism in the region. Both sides are resolved to reach a peaceful negotiated final settlement on the issue of J&K. While the amount of time spent on discussing J&K may not be considered as adequate (perhaps less than two hours), both sides are determined to keep the process going.

This approach is different from the earlier ones adopted by Pakistan demanding immediate demonstrable results on movement forward on the Kashmir issue. At the same time the Pakistan Foreign Secretary got to meet a number of Kashmiri dissident leaders though most of his time was reported to have been spent on promoting some sort of unity among them.

Restoration of the strength of missions in Delhi and Islamabad to their original number, agreement to reopen the Consulatesí General in Karachi and Mumbai, release of fishermen and steps to avoid such harassment of fishermen, release of civilians from prisons were welcome and earlier anticipated steps necessary to signal to the world that Delhi and Islamabad are now determined to tread on the new road of tension reduction and progressive advance towards better state of neighbourliness.

It was not surprising that even as the Pakistani Foreign Secretary arrived in Delhi, General Musharraf obtained the resignation of Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the Prime Minister. Observers in Pakistan believe that this is the first of many steps to enable General Musharraf to fight the war against terrorism in his country.

In all probability, he is going to renege on his promise to shed his uniform and continue as the Army Chief. He is now in a situation when the Jehadi elements whom he used earlier in the proxy war on Kashmir have become his sworn enemies. He is no longer in a position to be permissive of terrorist operations of the Jehadis in Kashmir hoping that they would not direct their wrath against him.

His cooperation with the US to initiate military operations in the tribal areas to hunt for remnants of Al-Qaeda and Taliban has identified him as the implacable foe for the Jehadis. In the coming months as elections are to be held in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda steps up anti-US operations in Iraq, the relations between Jehadis and General Musharraf can only worsen.

In the US the staff findings of the 9/11 commission report already released make it quite clear that up to and until the receipt of US ultimate either to join them in the war against Taliban and al-Qaeda or treated as adversaries in September 2001, the Pakistan governments of Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and General Musharraf were all supportive of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. One of the motivations influencing the Pakistanis was the availability of the Jehadi terrorists for use in the Kashmir proxy war.

These considerations, taken together, are exerting enormous pressure on General Musharraf to demonstrate his credentials as a genuine partners in the war on terrorism. The American media is full of criticism of the Generalís lack of credibility. The US Congress has also expressed its doubts about the sincerity of his policies. General Musharraf appears to have finally made his choice, though he has not made any formal declaration. He has to go along with the US and eliminate the jehadis. Will he succeed? It is not possible to place bets on that: but as a patriotic Pakistani, he is left with no alternative.

The agreement on nuclear CBM measures was Pakistanís demonstration that it is a responsible nuclear power. The joint statement of today in Islamabad reassures the international community that it is prepared to work towards peace with India. So far as India is concerned, both Prime Ministers Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh have said that sky was the limit to consider alternative solutions to the Kashmir issue as they do not involve changes of boundary and the Line of Control.

The world has seen the free and fair elections in J&K. Delhi has promised all inclusive dialogue with all dissidents, though they do not talk to each other. The international support to their case on Kashmir, by which they meant a some US lobbies, has been dwindling even as there is an increasing US understanding of linkages among the Kashmiri terrorism, Al-Qaeda, Taliban and ISI operations. Even within Pakistan media it has been repeatedly stressed that Pakistan cannot get at the negotiating table what it could not get at the battlefield in the four wars and Pakistan has lost its proxy war in Kashmir after 13 years of campaign.

The present joint statement impliedly brings forth these considerations when it refers to the determination of the two parties to implement the Simla agreement in letter and spirit.

There is to be a meeting of Foreign Secretaries in the third week of August to revive the progress on the composite dialogue and then to prepare a Foreign Ministersí meeting. All this does not mean that terrorism in Kashmir, or for that matter elsewhere in India, will stop.

Even if Pakistan tries its best to stop any further infiltration of Jehadis, there are already hundreds of them infiltrated into this country, especially in the Valley. Secondly, the Jehadi organisations, to which the infiltrators belong, may no longer be friendly and amenable to the Pakistani Government control. In all probability for them Musharraf is now an American collaborator and an enemy. Therefore, we cannot afford to be complacent in spite of such moves forward in our relationship with Islamabad.

The real battle in the war on terrorism is likely to be fought in the next few months. It will be fought on the Afghan-Pakistan border and in terrorist incidents in various Pakistani cities. As of now, the pro-Jehadi violence against General Musharraf has not been unmanageable. That perhaps gives him hope that he would be able to pull through his war against terrorism provided his new Prime Minister, an economist, with appropriate US support, can deliver on the economic front. For us in India too, the alternative to General Musharraf does not appear to be an attractive one to contemplate.

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