Kayani ‘too professional’ to indulge in anti-India adventure: Narayanan
New Delhi, December 15
In an extensive interview to Karan Thapar on the turmoil in Pakistan and its implications for India scheduled to be telecast on CNN-IBN tomorrow evening, Naryanan said in his reply that “If the question is will General Kayani indulge in an adventurous action against India I think the answer is no. He’s too professional a soldier to attempt it.”
Stating that the Pakistan army is united, the NSA went on to add that “I don’t see any sign of cracks in the system. If you take the key Corp Commanders and Generals they are all in a sense on the same wave length.”
Asked how India views Pervez Musharraf, Narayanan went out of his way to say that “I think as of now he is an elected President but the legitimacy of his presidentship will have to be declared properly after the new Parliament approves of it with a two-thirds majority. As things stand, it does seem possible he will be ratified with that majority.”
“If that happens then he will be the legitimate President of Pakistan and I think we will do business with him. We’ve done business with him in the past and I think we will continue to do business with him.”
Asked whether Musharraf "remains a credible interlocutor for India", Narayanan said “Yes, by and large, he will remain a credible interlocutor to that extent. We will do business with whoever has the stamp of approval in Pakistan.”
Asked how much power Musharraf has lost when he removed his military uniform and retired as army chief, the NSA said, "It’s a difficult question to answer. If you accept that the army is the arbiter of destiny in Pakistan, then whoever doffs his uniform necessarily does lose a certain amount of his sheen. What he (Musharraf) has is a Chief of Army Staff, who is a close comrade, who is well acknowledged to be a professional soldier, and its therefore likely that the relationship between the civilian President and the army chief will remain cordial. How long is a matter (of conjuncture)… the basic point is how does a civilian President play out in Pakistan when the army is still the dominant force?”
“This is still something we will have to look at closely. Next, we will have a Prime Minister shortly and who that person is still in the realm of speculation. Therefore you will have 3 authorities or centres of power - a civilian President, the Army Chief - and the army is definitely the most dominant entity in Pakistan - and the Prime Minister. Therefore, you have three elements now as against one single unified element earlier. Quite clearly this is going to make a difference to the way matters are carried out.”
When asked if Musharraf will have trouble adjusting to the triumvirate of power that will rule Pakistan from January onward, Narayanan began by suggesting, “Even granting he would still have a lot of his previous strength, it is going to be difficult. Whoever becomes the civilian Prime Minister is certainly not going to accept a position where he is well and truly subordinate to the President. For instance, who heads the nuclear command authority? Musharraf has said I will. Earlier it was supposed to be the head of the government. Now who is the head of the Government? Is it the civilian Prime Minister or the civilian President? These are the kind of ticklish issues that need to be sorted out.”
“I must say there is a certain amount of grudging respect for the manner in which Musharraf has managed to overcome his previous struggles. He’s moved from a military President to a civilian President. He’s managed to see there is no boycott to the election to the Assembly. To some extent, he has managed to ride (it out). At least definitely in the short term it should be possible (for him to succeed). If he manages to do so in the long term then, of course, he’s a very able person.”
In the longer term, Musharraf’s future depends on the army standing united as well loyal to him. Narayanan pointed out and said that as of now “I don’t see any sign of cracks in the system.”
Asked if Musharraf had got away with his strategy of sacking the Chief Justice and other recalcitrant judges and replacing them with compliant judges of his choice, Narayanan said there was angst and simmering concern but Musharraf’s critics had failed to rouse public sentiment and bring people on to the streets.
Talking about the new Pakistani army chief, Narayanan said “I don’t think he’s a stranger. The impression about him is that he’s a professional soldier. He’s not a man with great political ambitions. The soldiers who know him think he’s a loyal individual. And that is what makes people think the relationship between the civilian President Musharraf and the army chief will be smooth at least in the short term.”
When Thapar pointed out that from 2004 till September this year General Kayani was director general of the ISI and asked the NSA if this meant Kayani was responsible for much of the terror India has faced or whether under him Pakistan had taken meaningful steps to curb and contain terrorism, Narayanan went out of his way to distinguish between Kayani and one of his predecessors, Hamid Gul, who was best known for his belief that India should be made to bleed by a thousand cuts.
“I think the trouble with the ISI is that leaders often come in from the outside and are not there long enough to get a grip on the organisation. Then there are the professionals who have been there a long time who have their own ideas and mandates.”
“I don’t think the ISI has changed under Kayani one way or the other. There was possibly a tactical restraint, imposed from outside, possibly by President Musharraf. But that applied only up to a point. In terms of the larger issue of mentoring the Lashkar, the Jaish, the Al Badr, I don’t think there was any fundamental change. How far was General Kayani as head of the ISI responsible for this?”
When asked if his answer meant that India had no problem with General Kayani, the NSA pointedly said, “If the question is will General Kayani indulge in an adventurous action against India I think the answer is no. He’s too professional a soldier to attempt it.”
Asked about the election outcome he was anticipating, Narayanan said, “I have to go by conventional wisdom. And conventional wisdom seems to be that no one single party is going to get a majority.”
In his reply to a question about Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister and her several promises, the NSA said, “If she lives up to her promises, most certainly. But it’s difficult to believe she will. One has to go by what she did in the 90s so one is sceptical.”
“Her track record is not necessarily something that would make us believe that she will follow to the letter and the spirit of what she has said. But let me point out that even if she wishes to do so the single most important entity in Pakistan remains the army and the ISI and I find it extremely difficult to believe that Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, if she becomes that, will have a free hand in doing all the things that she wishes to do.”
“I know that in 1988, when she met with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, she made a number of promises. Whether she was unable (to fulfil them) we know that she was immediately curbed by the military on that point. Whether she will have greater success now is difficult to believe. I think it would be very optimistic to expect that she could fulfil what she said but we hope that she will do her best.”
Finally, Narayanan spoke about the peace process and said “We’re hoping” that it will be taken forward in 2008. He mentioned “three-quarter cooked” agreements and, once again, expressed confidence in Musharraf’s commitment to the peace process.
“I think there are things in the pipeline, things which are cooking, which are half cooked or three quarters cooked, which we would like to take forward. But would he (Musharraf) be able to convince the other power centres that have come up in addition to himself that this is the best thing for Pakistan? That’s a question mark. But we’re hopeful that if he overcomes all the obstacles he will have a degree of credibility and acceptance that would make it easier for him to do so… We’ve dealt with him in the past and that experience, as the Prime Minister has said, has not been something we’ve been uncomfortable with. So we will go forward with that.”