Time has come to view Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a "changed man", according to strategic experts who reflected over his latest set of proposals on Kashmir, according to strategic analysts and Kashmiri mainstream politicians.
They are against viewing President Musharraf through the same prism of "an architect of Kargil and a Pakistan military commando." "Men do change. And what President Musharraf has stated on Monday regarding his proposals on Kashmir is a major departure in the most explicit terms," says Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Jammu University Vice Chancellor and an expert on international relations.
Pakistan President has spoken of in "bold" terms in giving up the stated position of the Plebiscite under the United Nations Resolutions of 1948, ruled out independence as an option and demilitarization in a phased manner.
"All these are indicators of change," Prof Mattoo said. "It shows that he has confidence in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh"
Musharraf has always reinforced an image of a ruthless military commander. His picture of playing with a pistol in one hand and cigarette loosely tucked into his lips is imprinted on the minds of the people here.
Particularly , In Jammu region, Musharraf is a hate figure. He is regarded as mastermind behind the Kargil conflict of summer of 1999. More than 150 soldiers from this region lost their lives while fighting Pakistani intruders at the trans-Himalayan heights. That is very much reflected in the statements made on his proposals by BJP, the party that frames itself as the party of the cause of the people of Jammu in the state.
State Unit BJP chief Ashok Khajuria said : Musharraf ias a military dictator and an adventurist We cannot forget Kargil and martyrs. Through joint mechanism he wants to grab Jammu and Kashmir. He is as rigid as he was before”
But the analysts have based on the wider political response that the proposals have evoked all across the state. Barring the hardline Syed Ali Shah Geelani- once the staunch pro-Pakistan voice- United Jehad Council and Bhartiya Janta Party, almost all other groups have seen a major shift in Pervez Musharraf’s stand.
National Conference President Omar Abdullah, who during his days as minister of state for external affairs was highly critical of Pakistan’s role in Kashmir, has loudly voiced that Pervez Musharraf, has shown “extreme flexibility”. But now, he sees signs of big changes.
"I feel that he has taken a bold step. This is a major sign of his change in attitude," Omar Abdullah said.
Strategic analysts feel that there were reasons for this. "But I feel that it is not purely tactical, though an element of tactics might be ingrained in it,” according to Prof. Mattoo. "The way West has stepped back and asked India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir issue bilaterally could be one of the factors behind his change of ideas and proposals."
Noor-ul-Qamrain, editor of Muslim Kashmir and a keen watcher of the events in Jammu and Kashmir, said: "In diplomacy, the language and choice of words matters the most. President Musharraf has shown willingness to scale down Pakistan’s stand and accordingly changed the lexicon. There is no element of shrill rhetoric, it is a pure diplomatic language with appealing words."
"This change of the words should be read as a major climb down," Qamrain said.
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