President Pervez Musharraf has always had a thing for the media. Even while intense and intricate discussions are taking place through the back-channel to find a reasonable settlement to the Jammu and Kashmir issue, the general’s wont is to go public. The four-point proposal that he made to a news channel has been aired publicly several times in the past. It is almost as if Mr Musharraf is in a dark alley and is raising his voice to build up Dutch courage. Whatever be the case, he cannot expect New Delhi to react in kind. The issue is far too important to be decided through sound bites.
The template for the India-Pakistan discussion has already been laid on the table. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said there will be no redrawing of boundaries, which means no shift of sovereignties. Mr Musharraf has declared that Pakistan will not accept the Line of Control as a border, which in practical terms also means the same thing. Both sides have agreed and are slowly working towards making the boundaries “less relevant”. Over time — and in step with the larger South Asian process — the borders can become irrelevant.
But now we come to the difficult part. Mr Musharraf wants the region to be demilitarised. This would be great, provided the shadow of terrorism is first removed. It is not enough to say that violence and infiltration have come down. Terrorist violence works according to the principle of a single gun being able to change the political dynamics of a region. The assassinations of former Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone testify to this. So there must be a complete cessation of terrorist violence before demilitarisation can be considered. Perhaps the most difficult element in Mr Musharraf’s proposals is the idea of joint supervision or control of the state. This is simply not doable. Oil and water do not mix and joint mechanisms between a military-dominated Islam-centric political system of Pakistan and the secular liberal democratic framework of India cannot work.