The candid admission by Pakistan’s retired General Shahid Aziz that there were no Mujahideen but only the Pakistan army involved in the Kargil attack could be a game changer if the Indian response to it were not so immature and unintelligent. Many Indian critics are gloating and calling General Musharraf a liar. Others are taking the high moral ground and accusing Pakistan of deception.
The BJP MP Mr. Kirti Azad on behalf of his party said now that Pakistan stood exposed on Kargil there was no excuse for the government to perpetuate a soft state “and not take action”. And what action did he propose? He urged the government to apprise the international community about Pakistan’s duplicity. As if the government and Indian media have not been doing this for years! I shall briefly deal with each aspect before suggesting what the government in fact could do.
When India denied the central role of its army in liberating Bangladesh it was as much a liar as Pakistan was in Kargil. The only difference was that India succeeded in Bangladesh and Pakistan failed in Kashmir.
First of all what India needs to appreciate is that General Aziz was serving in the ISI monitoring the Kargil operation when it occurred. Why was he silent for ten years and has revealed the truth only now? Two reasons suggest themselves. First, due to domestic politics the Pakistan establishment considers it expedient to hurt the reputation of General Musharraf. Steps have been taken to damage prospects of Musharraf staging a political comeback to resume the role of peacemaker on Kashmir. Significantly enough, this seems to be suiting not only the civilian government in Pakistan but also the military establishment. Otherwise it is doubtful if a retired ISI General would have made such an exposure. Regarding the future of Musharraf we need not concern ourselves. That is a question best left to the politicians and people of Pakistan.
Secondly, this exposure suggests that the strategic compulsions for Pakistan to ensure stable survival are compelling its establishment, most likely including the army, to forge friendly ties with India. Those in power entrusted to neutralize international pressures eventually recognize reality in order to survive. That is precisely what General Musharraf did after taking over the government. That is why as President he undoubtedly made some positive proposals to normalize Kashmir. His formula could be questioned and amended but it would be churlish to deny that his was a genuine attempt to break fresh ground even at the cost of relinquishing Pakistan’s claim to the Valley. From the above surmise it would appear that Pakistan, including its army, might be favourably inclined to seriously discuss peace. Already a former Pakistan minister whose name I will not disclose has visited India for track-2 diplomacy on behalf of the Pakistan government.
Then there is the issue of the high moral ground being adopted by some Indians. They should perish the thought. Musharraf attempted in Kashmir precisely what Indira Gandhi did in East Pakistan. The Mujahideen contribution in Kashmir was as phony as the Mukti Bahini contribution was to the liberation of Bangladesh. When India denied the central role of its army in liberating Bangladesh it was as much a liar as Pakistan was in Kargil. The only difference was that India succeeded in Bangladesh and Pakistan failed in Kashmir. I will not dwell on the contradictions and false assumptions that India holds on the Kashmir issue. These might be addressed at the time when there is a genuine attempt to resolve the issue. The immediate requirement is to invest the Pakistan peace dialogue with a meaningful, substantive agenda.
The only meaningful starting point for normalization with Pakistan would be through the creation of genuine cooperation with its army. Whether it is through joint defence as once proposed by President Ayub Khan or through gradual steps is a matter open for discussion. But there should be no confusion about the priority. The peoples of India and Pakistan, apart from the subverted lunatic fringe, want peace. The process will not progress through increasing contacts between peoples, however desirable that might be. The process will kick start through establishing trust. And trust will only be created after the armies of both nations are cooperative and not contentious. It is for achieving such a breakthrough that the recent disclosure by General Aziz offers an opening. India should seize it. India should abjure gloating and empty posturing.