July 12, 2001


 Search the Internet

E-Mail this interview to a friend

Print this page
Recent Interviews
'The summit is not a
     a tamasha'
     - Tarun Vijay
'Pakistan should learn
     to forget J&K'
     - Seshadri Chari
'The continuance of
     Jaya as CM is an insult
     to the Constitution'
     - T R Baalu
'Becoming home
     minister has cast a
     burden on me'
     - L K Advani
'Jayalalithaa is afraid
     of herself'
     - M Venkaiah Naidu

The Rediff Interview/Dr Rifaat Hussain, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad

'Any agreement will be weighed against the memories of Kargil'

Dr Rifaat Hussain, chairman of the department of defence and strategic studies at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, has been an eloquent and outspoken commentator on Indo-Pak relations. In a detailed conversation with Ramesh Menon, he says if the Indo-Pak dialogue makes headway, the jihadis will be deprived of the argument that diplomacy does not work. Excerpts:

Will the Indo-Pak summit produce results?

Expectations about the summit need to be put in perspective because the very fact that this summit is taking place is an achievement for both sides.

For over a year-and-a-half, India refused to talk to General Musharraf. Musharraf has made it very clear that he is coming to India with an open mind. He wants to make something out of this summit. He has said that he would like this occasion to change history. I think positive messages emanating from New Delhi and Islamabad suggest that the mood of the summit is going to be positive.

If you say that history is a guide, then this summit will not produce any better results than previous attempts to normalise relations. But my counter to this is that foreign secretary-level talks did not work as the leadership in both countries did not have enough psychological commitment to make it work. Now we have the commitment on both sides. Therefore, the bureaucracy will be forced to fall in line on the steps that both the leaders take or agree upon.

In India and Pakistan, politicians and bureaucrats have allowed themselves to be caught in a trap of their own making.

'General Musharraf holds the top five positions in Pakistan. This gives him enough clout to overcome domestic resistance'
There is an inertia and there is bureaucracy on both sides. There are security establishments on both sides. Many vested interests today are unhappy with the India and Pakistan meeting. Of course, we know that there is a vested interest in India and there is an anti-peace lobby in Pakistan. If General Musharraf and Vajpayee can make a headway, such influences and forces would be marginalised.

Why should Vajpayee take Musharraf seriously?

Many people are asking why Vajpayee should take Musharraf as a serious negotiating partner -- because he is a military ruler and dictator and has not been elected by the people. The reason why Nawaz Sharief's dialogue with Vajpayee did not go very far was because the military was not taken into confidence.

What Musharraf is doing is that he is not only taking the military into confidence, but is also taking the political opinion in Pakistan into consideration. He is visiting India through a process of having held negotiations with the key political parties and has worked out a kind of consensus about the dialogue.

Does General Musharraf have the required credibility to pull the talks off?

In terms of the formal position that Musharraf has, it is unprecedented. He is the president of Pakistan, he is the commander of the armed forces, he is the chief of army staff, chairman of the joint staff committee, the chief executive and also heads the National Security Council. One person -- General Musharraf -- holds the top five positions in Pakistan. This gives him enough credibility, enough clout and enough influence to overcome some domestic resistance that leaders like Nawaz Sharief saw previously.

He also represents the Pakistan military, which is one of the most powerful forces and influences today. The military under him has tended to take an institutional view of things. So he is not only coming here as president; he is also representing the military.

Therefore, those who are sceptical about his ability to deliver should have second thoughts.

What about roping in the jihadis and other fundamentalist elements in Pakistan? Do you think Musharraf would be able to do that?

The reason why the jihadi elements have been having a perceived influence on the Pakistani Kashmir policy is because there was no India-Pakistan dialogue taking place. If you have such a dialogue, the jihadi elements are deprived of the arguments that they need to use the language of the gun and not diplomacy. If the dialogue makes progress, the jihadis will not have a rationale to use violence.

The best way to marginalise the influence of the jihadis is to make Indo-Pak dialogue work. And put it on a viable track. However, if the summit fails, or does not produce any significant results, it will only strengthen the hands of the hardliners who have all along opposed Indo-Pak dialogue.

There is a lot of scepticism in the media and elsewhere about the summit.

Scepticism is because of past experience. The track record of Indo-Pak summits has not been very good. The Lahore Declaration was unfortunately followed by the Kargil war. However, because of Kargil, there will be cautious optimism at the summit. Anything that Vajpayee and Musharraf agree upon will be weighed against the memories of Kargil. You can be cynical about it. You can also draw positive lessons from it. I hope Kargil will become an isolated incident.

You were also saying that both India and Pakistan have not developed a language to talk to each other as far as nuclear issues are concerned.

There is a lesson to learn from the Soviet-American confrontation. They were able to challenge each other and establish a cold peace between them as they had evolved a common strategic language, which means they understood what the other side said. They did not push the panic buttons. There was also a geographical distance between them. They had a warning time of about 30 minutes.

However, in the case of India and Pakistan, we do not have any such mechanisms in place.

'Musharraf has made it very clear that he is coming to India with an open mind. He wants to make something out of this summit'
Geography is also an enemy. The flight time is the impact time. Anyone who thinks they can manage a crisis in five minutes must be crazy. Therefore, both countries cannot allow themselves to be pushed into a situation where there is even the slightest risk.

There is this constant fear of a nuclear escalation.

What is important is that both countries reassure each other that the nuclear and missile capabilities they have is under control. Both countries should work to reduce the risks of an accidental war.

What do you think should be discussed at the summit?

Obviously, Kashmir has to be on top of the agenda because it is the main cause of tension.

But, there are trade issues, environmental issues, visa restrictions and many outstanding issues. Also, how can India and Pakistan deal with each other in a normal way? Then there is Siachen. There is also a critical economic issue in the context of liberalization of both India and Pakistan. They could take certain positions, which allow them to have a bargaining position within the framework of the WTO [World Trade Organisation].

What about Musharraf talking to the Hurriyat leaders in India?

General Musharraf did not want to leave the Hurriyat high and dry. But he will not become hostage to the Hurriyat. I think too much is being made of it in India.

The Hurriyat invitation to a tea party has been mismanaged. If the Indian claim of the Hurriyat being insignificant is true, why are they not being allowed to participate in a tea party, after all? If the Hurriyat is as important as they claim, why are they being kept out? You cannot have it both ways.

Now, it has become a prestige point for India. The Pakistani position is that they are going to be among over a hundred distinguished guests at the tea party and General Musharraf is not going to sit and negotiate with them. Now that it has been made into such a big question, the Indians are in a position to physically block them even if they are invited.

Indo-Pak summit: The complete coverage
The Bus to Pakistan: The complete coverage

Do tell us what you think of this interview