Friday, Aug 15, 2003
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THE PROPOSAL BY Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, that he will enforce a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) if India meets certain conditions has been rightly dismissed by official India. Among the conditions that India has been asked to meet are a reduction of its forces in Jammu and Kashmir and an end to `atrocities'. The Pakistan political establishment is in the habit of defining the term `atrocities' sweepingly to include even detention of suspected terrorists. When read in context, General Musharraf's proposal implies a demand that India considerably scale down its counter-insurgency operations. His offer in respect of the LoC amounts to a vague suggestion that Pakistan will stop resorting to artillery fire to help terrorists penetrate Indian lines. In other words, Pakistan's military ruler has proposed that he might lower the level of military and other material assistance that Pakistan provides to the terrorist infiltrators if India agrees to wind down its security forces operations in Jammu and Kashmir. General Musharraf's offer falls well short of a promise that Pakistan will proactively try to prevent terrorist groups from crossing the LoC. His depiction of all the insurgents, foreign and indigenous, as "freedom fighters" indicates that he is not willing to undertake serious action against them.
General Musharraf has also proposed that he can "facilitate" a ceasefire within Jammu and Kashmir if India agrees to downsize its operations. This proposal flies in the face of the statement, which he concurrently made, that he has little control over the "freedom struggle." However, that is only one aspect of the matter. New Delhi should try to reach a ceasefire agreement with the indigenous Kashmiri rebels, if that is possible. The Indian security forces are under no obligation, moral or otherwise, to suspend operations against those who have infiltrated into the State. Indeed, the security forces have the right and the responsibility to root out the foreign militants, even if the infiltrators heed General Musharraf's instructions to observe a ceasefire. Action on these lines is all the more necessary since the infiltrators were primarily responsible for the collapse of ceasefire initiatives in the past. The infiltrators are not inside Jammu and Kashmir because they want to live in peace. They are motivated enough to provoke confrontations on their own. As General Musharraf probably views it, Pakistan has the option of describing any major Indian action against the foreign terrorists as a ceasefire violation and thereby free itself from any inconvenient commitments.
This offer has been made in a season when India and Pakistan are trying to outdo each other in moves towards détente. General Musharraf's offer appears to have been a response to the message sent to the people of Pakistan a day before by the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in which he said that mutual cooperation could help the two countries solve their problems. This particular exchange merely demonstrates that India and Pakistan have not abandoned their scripts as they follow contrasting approaches to the disputes between them. Mr. Vajpayee's observation stems from the Indian view that disputes such as Kashmir will become less intractable once the relationship between the two countries develops in other dimensions. General Musharraf's proposal reflects official Pakistan's mindset that the relationship between the two countries can develop only after a solution is found to the Kashmir dispute. The dynamic developing on the ground suggests that the Indian approach is proving more effective at the moment. A vibrant `track II' interaction, which has just concluded in Islamabad, has left the strong impression that multi-dimensional exchanges can help the two countries handle their differences sensibly.
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