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Politics & Policy
Indo-Pak summit



Science & Technology

Politics & Policy

It will open up the new channel of communications

July 09 - 15, 2001

The impending Indo-Pak summit has raised new hopes and sprung pleasant surprises. Prime Minister Vajpayee who was averse to talking to a military dictator is now offering full protocol for President General Musharraf as Head of the State. Pakistani politicians who were not on speaking terms with General Musharraf are now talking to President Musharraf on a sensitive issue of Kashmir and helping him in preparing his brief for the historic summit.

President Musharraf had a prolonged meetings with politicians of different shades during last week and held discussion on the coming summit in Agra at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee. He talked to them frankly and listened to them with an open mind. The politicians gave him their vote of confidence for conducting negotiations with the Indian leadership. Some politicians speaking to press after the meeting did not mince words in appreciating the peace effort of Gen. Musharraf. They all expressed the view that talks were the only way to resolve issues including Kashmir between the two neighbouring countries.

General Musharraf's elevation to the post of President has not come as a surprise as it was a foregone conclusion waiting to be formalised at the appropriate moment. His impending summit may have prompted him to act sooner than planned. It may be because some politicians had been challenging his credentials and legitimacy to conduct negotiations with India. They had stated that the next government would not be bound by any agreement made by the General. Musharraf must have concluded it as the right moment to become the President and thereby silence the challenger of his credentials.

The objection that General Musharraf's elevation is unconstitutional does not hold water in view of the fact that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has legitimised his action of Oct. 12, 1999 also giving him powers to amend the constitution if found necessary. Moreover the Chief Justice of the Apex Court himself administrated the oath of President. That should remove any doubt about the constitutionality of his becoming the President.

The argument of some of ARD leaders that President Musharraf has no authority to enter into dialogue with India is untenable. The functions of the state cannot be put on hold just because an elected government was not in saddle. If the ARD argument is accepted as correct, then the logic demands that there should not be any budget, no domestic and international borrowing, no participation in the world moots like OIC and UNO and no development plans and their execution during the period of military rule. The state will thus become dormant putting the people in double jeopardy: deprived of representative rule and given a dysfunctional government.

All eyes are now on the Musharraf-Vajpayee summit. President Musharraf as he has said repeatedly would be going to New Delhi with open mind and flexible attitude. His main object is to start the stalled talks on Kashmir and lower the tensions between the two countries. It was in pursuit of this objective that he had a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Vajpayee and implored him that both sides should desist from making statements that could damage the impending talks. Mr. Vajpayee readily agreed. It is a good omen and bodes well for the summit. At the same time, however, it will be a too optimistic approach to expect a break through in the first round of talks. The summit will however, certainly help in reducing tensions and provide conducive atmosphere for the second or the 3rd round.

What is likely to happen in the aftermath of the dialogue between India and Pakistan? It is obvious that everything depends on the outcome. As days go by, enthusiasm for a breakthrough is dampening and the reality of an intractable conflict becomes clearer. One can only hope for establishing a meaningful channel for negotiations between the two arch-rivals of the sub-continent in the first round of contact. However, if the two leaders strike a personal rapport and the two sides can build a sufficiently high level of trust, then something more can also be expected and achieved.

But any move forward is only possible at the cost of at least a part of the traditional standpoints of the two countries. In that case, the two governments will face tough resistance from their respective hawkish constituencies. The half-century long conflict of Kashmir has predominated the agenda on the Pakistan side. Is this agenda going to include such important issues as nuclear build-up and its corollary in the form of rationalising the nuclear command and control system and related pursuits in the direction of disarmament? Perhaps, there is need to broaden the agenda in real terms as far as the issue of enhancing national security is concerned.

It is to be hoped that the India-Pakistan dialogue not only presents a real opportunity to the two nuclear states of the region to pursue peace but also opens up other channels of communications relating to areas such as trade and culture. It is possible that a breakthrough in relations between the two countries will improve President Musharraf's credibility at home and in the world diplomatic forums, In that sense, a positive outcome of Indo-Pakistan dialogue will have some relevance to the political career, if any, of the Chief Executive turned-president.