Meeting with President Bush has produced few surprises as far as the official communique goes


Oct 04 - 10, 2004





President General Pervez Musharraf's visit to the United States to address the 59th Session of the General Assembly and his meetings, on the sidelines, with US President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have proved highly productive and his interviews by US print and electronic media proved highly useful for projecting Pakistan's point of view to the world at large.

In a thought provoking address to session of the United Nations General Assembly, President General Pervez Musharraf has very succinctly analysed the crucial issues facing the world today. He has spoken of the challenges to Islam, Pakistan-India relations, especially the problem of Kashmir, the responsibilities of the big powers and the role of the United Nations. Expressing the feelings of the Muslm world, he has candidly pointed out that Muslims are acutely aware of the injustice being done to them, and the indifference when it comes to solving their outstanding international disputes. He said that there is no time to lose, warning that action has to be taken before an iron curtain finally descends between the West and the Islamic world. He said the Western powers have yet to show a movement by seriously trying to resolve internationally recognized disputes affecting the Muslim world.

In moving words, he spoke of the tragedy of Palestine, which he called an open wound inflicted on the psyche of every Muslim, and rightly pointing out that it generates anger and resentment across the Muslim world. The usurpation of additional Palestinian land would never be accepted, he said. The President told Israel to withdraw the wall from all occupied Palestinian lands, taking it back to 1967 boundaries. He called upon Israel to stop the daily atrocities against the Palestinians. President Musharraf also appealed to the President Yasser Arafat to use his influence to reciprocally halt the Intifada and give peace a chance.

On Iraq, the President was equally forthcoming. He said that the country had taken a serious turn, to the anguish of the entire world community. It is imperative, he pointed out, that together with the closing of Palestine and Kashmir fronts, we also wind down the Iraq confrontation. Peace and stability in Iraq could be restored through handing over governance authority to the people of Iraq, and allowing them full control over their natural resources. Internal law and order and security can best be promoted by the local police or militia, which needs to be built up expeditiously.



Denouncing terrorism and assuring his support in the international efforts to check it, he said the immediate anti-terrorist response has to be accompanied by a clear, long-term strategy striking at the root of the problem if we are to ensure final success against this scourge. Emphasizing upon a "welcome resurgence for support of mulilaterlaism" he said it must be based on the principles of the UN Charter, and it must seek just, peaceful and durable solutions to conflicts and disputes. The President said that the United Nations Security Council should become more effective, democratic and representative. He denounced the effort to create new centers of privilege. The Council should be enlarged to ensure the representation of the mostly small and medium sized states, which have joined the United Nations over the last three decades. He said that Pakistan believes that a new consensus on peace, security and development should be achieved on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations.

His meeting with President Bush has produced few surprises as far as the official communique goes. There is a ritualistic quality about both sides' reiteration of their mutual commitment to continue the war against terrorism. The US has tried to allay suspicions rooted in its track record and assured Musharraf that it would not 'abandon' Pakistan or the region this time, even after the war on terrorism is over. There is also a message between the lines that the US will supply weapons and equipment suitable to the Pakistani military's operations on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Pakistanis have recent memories of the United States walking away from Pak-Afghan region after Soviet withdrawal from there leaving its allies in the lurch with piles of a unresolved issues. People in Pakistan generally do not trust United States. After having been abandoned repeatedly, most of the Pakistanis are skeptical about present warmth of US friendship and there is general apprehension here that once the US achieved its objectives against terrorism Pakistan would be left in the cold. The US administration has been made conscious of this perception and that is why the joint statement issued after Bush-Musharraf meeting has tried to allay this fear. President Bush has once again emphasized the long-term US commitment to Pakistan and to this region and assured President Musharraf that he would stay engaged with Pakistan and would fulfill all his commitment. "To be certain no one can predict future. What is certain is that as long as the interest of Pakistan and US coincide there could be no earthly reason that US would loose interest in Pakistan".

The results of the formal meeting between President General Pervez Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held in New York apparently seem to be quite significant. The joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, that was read out by President Pervez Musharraf at the request of the Indian prime minister to the press, states that the leaders "addressed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed that possible options for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issue should be explored in a sincere spirit and purposeful manner'. Recalling the joint press statement of January 26, 2004, the statement also said that the two countries "agreed that the CBMs will contribute to generating an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding so necessary for the well being of the peoples of both countries". Both leaders reiterated their commitment to continue the bilateral dialogue. They felt that a gas pipeline via Pakistan to India, could contribute to the welfare and prosperity of both countries, and should be considered in the larger context of expanding trade and economic relations between India and Pakistan.

Now these are important statements in the context of Pakistan-India relations. The formulation of Kashmir is certainly very constructive, an issue that has been the main cause of bedeviling relations between the two countries since they became independent. It is a statement full of hope in the direction of joint, sincere effort to strive for a peaceful settlement of the dispute to pave the way for a future of pleasant relations between the two countries. The sentiments that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed after the joint statement had been read out point to a pleasant change from the usual bitterness that has characterized the old, acrimonious relationship between the two countries. He said: "I feel confident that despite the difficulties on the way, I and President Musharraf will together work and succeed in writing a new chapter in the history of our two countries". President Musharraf had also been saying again and again before this meeting that he would meet the Indian Prime Minister with an open mind.

Both the countries will have to show flexibility in their respective attitudes if they want to solve their bilateral disputes for the sake of peace. One finds this required flexibility to be amply reflected this time. Both countries have been cautious not to repeat their hard, old stances, which have quite often been stressed in the past. India, for instance, besides, not mentioning the Simla agreement and the Lahore Declaration has also not accused Pakistan of its old allegation of what it calls the cross border terrorism. Pakistan has also avoided mentioning about the right of the self-determination for the people of Kashmir as also about the violation of Human Rights in Kashmir. The effort, from both sides, to be cautious in this regard seems quite palpable. The way President Musharraf in his speech at the UN spoke of sincerely resolving this key issue for peace in the the area, and the way Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed it in his speech there, shows that serious talks at a high level are moving behind the scene, taking a successful course. Although this cautiously worded joint statement does not show a big movement forward on Kashmir, the very reiteration of the fact "that possible options for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issues should be explored in a sincere effort and purposeful manner" by the two leaders is quite important. At least this much can be deduced from this commitment by the two leaders that there is the least likelihood of any major bottleneck in the continuation of dialogue.