On Saturday, March 7, I watched General Musharraf’s speech and the question and answer session in the India Today Conclave beamed on Headlines Today Channel. He handled himself with a lot of class and panache. He is a great ambassador for his country. Whatever one may say about him, he is not a coward. He will not flinch and he won’t run away.
Though there were several holes in his arguments, he came across as blunt and straight forward. Yet, paradoxically, he did tell lies with a straight face when it came to protecting the image of his country. He laboured hard to drive home the following points.
1. He is a man of war (as an army man), but a man for peace as a human being and leader of his nation.
2. He did his best to bring about peace during his 11 years as the power center in his country. But peace can be only between equals treated with respect.
3. He had worked out a blue print for peace along with Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh during the Agra summit. This was scuttled by certain forces.
4. The Indians are hysterical about Pakistanis, Pakistani government, Pakistani army and ISI. The same level of hysteria is absent in Pakistan.
5. Just as RAW is very much active to undermine the growth of Pakistan, ISI is abuzz to clip the wing of India. Both RAW and ISI should be restrained.
6. Kashmir is the root cause of all the problems. He used the simile of a problem tree to describe the situation. Tackling terrorism, improving trade, dialogues etc., would be only like removing the leaves, branches, trunks etc., of the problem tree. The problem would linger till the cause named Kashmir problem is removed from its roots. When Kasparov, the world famous former Russian chess player suggested that the tree could be also destroyed by denying it water, the general did not have a convincing answer.
7. To find a solution, there has to be a lot of give and take. And, to give, leaders on both sides have to muster a lot of courage.
8. Terrorism was born to protect the deprived Muslims in India and particularly in Kashmir. When a turbaned, Muslim M.P pointed out that there were more Muslims in India than in Pakistan and they felt very much safe in India and at least 70 % of the Hindus would protect the Muslims even risking their lives, the Pakistani general was a bit shaken, but later added that he always believed in mouthing what his head and heart dictated. He seemed to insinuate the Muslim M.P was playing to the gallery.
To every question, General Musharraf had a ready answer. The burden of his message was, as long as “eye-for-an-eye” or “tit-for-tat” responses were the basis of the relationship between the two countries there would be no durable peace.
It appears solutions to the vexing problems staring at the two countries will not come easily. Pakistan and India have to share the faults for the state of things. As long as we are concerned only at the wrongs perpetrated by the other, the problems will linger. Each country needs to look inward.
We harbour prejudices against each other. These need to be removed by making attempts to understand the other through dialogue and ceaseless communication.
Courageous leaders will have to face the problems and catch the bull by the horns and subdue it. Otherwise, the problem will last a thousand years as some leaders from across the border indicated. If countries in Europe which were at one another’s throat for centuries can live in harmony, bonded by a common vision and currency, all is not yet lost in South East Asia.
For this to happen, populism has to give way for statesmanship, fear has to be vanquished by courageous steps and the lessons of history have to be learned and assimilated.
Image Credit: Ashour Talk