Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, considered the architect of the 1999 Kargil war, has warned that there could be more such conflicts if the “key dispute” and “sore point” Kashmir remains unresolved for long.
The retired Army General, who ruled Pakistan for nine years till last August after seizing power in a bloodless coup, acknowledged that there are a "lots of 'mujahideen' in Pakistani society" and "freelance jehadis" who have "emotional involvement" with the cause of Kashmiris.
Playing a peacenik as he faced a barrage of uncomfortable questions from a combative audience at a media event in New Delhi last night, he said the leaderships of the two countries need to take “bold” and “affirmative” decisions to address the core dispute of Kashmir.
He said India and Pakistan have caused "immense" damage to each other over the past six decades and they needed to “overcome the burden of history” and move towards peaceful relations by adopting realistic approach to addressing disputes.
During the marathon three-hour long interaction, he appeared agitated at times by the questions which touched issues like why terrorism continues to emanate from Pakistan, why Kargil happened, why Dawood Ibrahim is not being handed over and whether India can trust Pakistani army and ISI.
Noting that he was expecting "hostile" questions at the event considering the new chill in Indo-Pak relations, he deflected and ducked the tough ones, including the one about reason behind the Kargil aggression if he had wanted peace.
"It is a sensitive issue, I will not comment on it," said the then Army Chief, who was behind the Kargil aggression, when Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh asked as to why Pakistan indulged in such an act if he was for peace.
Singh was reminding Musharraf that the Kargil aggression by Pakistan occurred soon after the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee undertook a peace bus ride to Lahore.
"Yeh usi cheez (Kashmir issue) ki kadi hai aur chalti jayegi (It is part of the same chain and will continue). If the problem (of Kashmir) continues, there will be more Kargils,” Musharraf said.
He said he had already explained his position on Kargil issue in his book -- ‘In the Line of Fire´.
"Kashmir remains a key dispute and sore point," he maintained. He recalled that when he was at the helm of affairs in Pakistan he had proposed four-point formula to resolve the issue and it had helped.
Suggesting that Kashmir problem was the main reason for terrorism in India, he said Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad came into being “because of sympathies” in Pakistan for the people of Kashmir.
"There is emotional involvement of people of Pakistan for Kashmir. There is public sympathy. This has given rise to dozens of freelance jihadi outfits,“ he said.
“We have to realistically understand the root causes and address issues accordingly, otherwise we will fail. It (terrorism) will carry on and on,” Musharraf said, adding “If we behave like ostriches, it will not help.”
Asked if terrorist camps existed in Pakistan, he deflected the question by alleging that India was fomenting terrorism in his country through its embassy in Kabul.
"We should not indulge in blame-game... Don’t make it one-side affair... We should accept realities. If you try to do damage to us, we will retaliate,” he added.
He claimed that Pakistan army and ISI had no role in fomenting terrorism in India as they wanted peace and that these agencies were not correctly understood in this country.
"RAW does exactly what ISI does. ISI does exactly what RAW does. Let us tell RAW and ISI to stop confrontation,” he said.
Talking about creation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, he asked “have you thought how Bangladesh was separated? Who armed Mukti Bahini? Pakistan was divided. Who did it, you know.”
Insisting that Pakistan has accepted it as its “destiny”, he said “let us bury the past. Let bygone be bygone... The past has been dirty, past has been bad, let’s forget it.”
Musharraf sought to blame India for the "hostile" relations between the two countries by suggesting that it was trying to “coerce” his country.
“When we say don’t coerce us, are we asking something utopian? We are a small country. You are a large country. You should be humble,” the former Pakistani army ruler said.
He said India and Pakistan were both victims of terrorism and extremism and should join hands in defeating these scourges jointly as well as individually.
At the same time, he claimed that Muslims in India were being alienated leading to terrorism from home-grown terrorists and asked India to put its “house in order”.
However, Jamaat-e-Ulema-i-Hind leader Maulana Mehmood Madani shot back saying Muslims in India had no problems and he need not bother about them as they know how to take care of themselves.
Miffed at the retort by the Muslim leader, Musharraf said sarcastically that if their condition was really well, he wished them well.
The former Army General, while insisting repeatedly that he was speaking frankly, admitted that he had failed to convince the audience that Pakistan, particularly its army and ISI, favoured peace with India.