Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf Saturday said that the Pakistan Army, widely seen as anti-India, was in favour of resolving the Kashmir issue, “the root cause of dispute”, and stressed that New Delhi should take the lead in creating peace between the two neighbours.
Pushing for a new beginning in relations with India, Musharraf, who now shuttles between Dubai and London, stressed that resolving the disputes over the Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek marshlands, were “doable” and added that the right niyat (intention) was needed to solve these issues.
“The festering wounds of Kashmir continue. We need to resolve the long-standing disputes. These are the causes of hatred, conflict and war,” Musharraf said while delivering the lecture “Uniting South Asia: The Way Forward” at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.
These disputes, which spawn religious fundamentalism, need to be resolved for socio-economic development of both countries, said Musharraf, who didn’t mention 26/11 attack even once in his long speech.
Alluding to his four-point formula for resolving the Kashmir issue, that has seemingly been put in cold storage by his successor civilian administration, Musharraf stressed that this roadmap was still the best way forward. The formula included, among other things, gradual demilitarisation along the Line of Control (LoC), giving maximum self-governance to the two halves of Kashmir, making LoC irrelevant by opening as many routes along the border as possible.
Musharraf said he had proposed this formula to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he was in power, and added that there was “some progress” on it. He said the two sides were working on a draft agreement for 15-20 years, but admitted there were “some hitches”.
Later, speaking to reporters, Musharraf said he had invited Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan in 2007 and sign some agreements, but he didn’t come.
However, Musharraf stressed that he did not “feel let down” by Manmohan Singh as he had “the highest esteem for him”.
“We were moving forward. There was a sincerity on both sides. In 2007, he was supposed to come to Pakistan. I told him that coming to Pakistan would be meaningless if no agreement was signed. But he did not come,” he said.
Calling the resolution of disputes over Siachen and Sir Creek doable, Musharraf said had he come the two sides could have done deals on these issues.
Stressing that he was not speaking for the government of Pakistan, he pitched for greater flow of people and trade between the two countries to create enduring peace.
To create the right atmosphere, Musharraf said intelligence agencies of both countries should stay away from damaging activities.
In a statesman-like manner, Musharraf, who is better known in India as the architect of the Kargil misadventure, said peace was possible between the two countries if both displayed the right “niyat”, a word he used at least a dozen times during his lecture and a separate interaction with the media.
“Compromise should come from the bigger party. India should have a big heart because it is the bigger country. When the smaller party makes the compromise, it can have negative connotations,” he said. Let India take the lead with a clean, large and magnanimous heart, he said.
For creating enduring peace, he outlined three pre-requisites that included a “sincere niyat”, downsizing the roles of bureaucrats and intelligence agencies, since they “find it difficult to break from the past” and a strong leadership.
Musharraf, however, did not regret the Kargil adventure, indicating that it was a retaliation for India’s role in dividing Pakistan in 1971 by creating Bangladesh. It was the same niyat when you went to East Pakistan and Siachen,” he replied when asked what was the niyat behind the 1999 Kargil conflict.
In candid talk, Musharraf said that despite what India may think, some extremist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa and other militant outfits enjoyed tremendous public support in Pakistan.
He, however, treaded cautiously when asked about the anti-India activities of Hafiz Mohammed, suspected by India to be the 26/11 mastermind, saying these activities did not fit into the course of rapprochement and reconciliation the two countries were engaged in.
Against the backdrop of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, Musharraf, however, warned India against trying to create an anti-Islamabad Afghanistan and underlined that both India and Pakistan “should stop proxy war” in the violence-torn country.
“Either Afghanistan goes back to 1989, when the Soviets left and warlords began fighting, or it goes back to 1996, when the Taliban came. If the US leaves a minimum force, then the situation should be maintainable,” he said.