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'We'll continue working with Musharraf'

India sees the Pak president as "a credible interlocutor", says National Security Adviser MK Narayanan.

delhi Updated: Dec 15, 2007 15:40 IST

India will "continue to do business" with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, whom it sees as "a credible interlocutor", and hopes that the next year will take forward the peace process after a new triumvirate of power centres comes into existence, says National Security Adviser MK Narayanan.

"Yes, by and large he will remain a credible interlocutor to that extent. We will do business with whoever has the stamp of approval in Pakistan," Narayanan said in an interview to a private TV channel on Sunday.

"We've done business with him in the past and I think we will continue to do business with him," he said.

He stressed that the legitimacy of Musharraf's presidency, after he doffed the army uniform last month, will have to be declared properly after the new parliament approves of it with a two-thirds majority.

"I think there are things in the pipeline, things which are cooking, which are half cooked or three quarters cooked, which we would like to take forward," he said when asked about the prospects of the peace process with India after a new dispensation takes shape in Pakistan, likely after elections early next year.

"But would he (Musharraf) be able to convince the other power centres that have come up in addition to himself that this is the best thing for Pakistan? That's a question mark," he said.

"We're hopeful that if he overcomes all the obstacles he will have a degree of credibility and acceptance that would make it easier for him to do so. We've dealt with him in the past and that experience, as the prime minister has said, has not been something we've been uncomfortable with. So we will go forward with that," he added.

Narayanan said the ruling triumvirate in Pakistan would consist of three authorities or centres of power - a civilian president, the army chief and the prime minister.

Narayanan also spoke about "a certain amount of grudging respect for the manner in which President Musharraf has managed to overcome his previous struggles."

"To some extent he has managed to ride (it out). At least definitely in the short term it should be possible (for him to succeed). If he manages to do so in the long term then, of course, he's a very able person," he said.

Narayanan stressed that Musharraf does not have much threat from the army as the army is united and the president has put all his loyalists in key positions.

Narayanan stressed that that he did not see "any signs of cracks in the system", at least in the short term.

"If you take the corps commanders and generals they are all on the same wave length. When ambition emerges it may be different, but at the moment (not). I don't see any major cracks," he said.

Narayanan also underlined that India need not be wary of Pakistan's new army chief as he is "a professional soldier" who is unlikely to indulge in an adventurous action against India

Contrasting the new army chief, who is a former ISI chief also, with Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief, he said: "The point I'm making is that General Kayani was certainly not a Hamid Gul. For those of us who know Hamid Gul - the author of the belief that you must make India bleed by a thousand cuts - that means a lot."

Narayanan was, however, sceptical of former prime minister Benazir Butto's claims of delivering on her promises of closing down terror camps against India and curbing private militias if she were become the prime minister of Pakistan.

Alluding to similar promises made by her in 1988 to Rajiv Gandhi which were not fulfilled, he said: "Her track record is not necessarily something that would make us believe that she will follow to the letter and the spirit of what she has said."