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Now for some ghazals too

It is standard practice for leading public figures to write their memoirs after they reach the climax of their careers.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2006 05:16 IST

It is standard practice for leading public figures to write their memoirs after they have reached the climax of their careers. They either unveil themselves and the goings-on during their time after they have stepped down from office (the memoirs of Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Jaswant Singh, etc.), or  their writings steer clear from their day job (Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poems, Abdul Kalam’s soul-stirrers, etc). The author of In The Line of Fire does away with such niceties and, á la Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy et al, writes a campaign manifesto-as-memoir. The President of Pakistan presents a dictatorial perspective of his handling of the ongoing war on terror, the ‘real’ reason behind the 1999 “counter-coup”, the shenanigans within Pakistani polity and the ‘personal bits’ with which he wants us to know that the dictator can become a cuddly elected President in 2007.

But the real bits that jump out and are  the USP of the book are Pervez  Musharraf’s observations involving India. He insists that it was India, not Pakistan, that started the Kargil conflict, which in turn led to “the initiative” being “wrested from India” and creating an imbalance in the “Indian system of forces”. Never mind the propaganda or empirical evidence, the General insists that India lost the war it had started. Strangely, though, he writes in the last line of the chapter: “... whatever movement has taken place so far in the direction of finding a solution to Kashmir is due considerably to the Kargil conflict.” Does this mean that he is giving India credit for leading the way via Kargil to an India-Pakistan peace process? Even the most rumbustious hawk in New Delhi will feel embarrassed to take such credit. Mr Musharraf also writes about a Dubai-based cartel that provided Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan-led nuclear programme with the wherewithals. A confession that is late is better than no confession. But to get to the bottom of his claim that India’s uranium enrichment programme could have come from the same network requires another set of memoirs — perhaps those of Dr Khan.

All this ‘remembrance of things past’ has already upset many in India. It is too early to tell whether J.K. Rowling is worried about competition. But Mr Musharraf is the man with whom Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be talking about India-Pakistan ties. This is a serious issue that requires both tact and facts — not the subject of a future foray into a new sub-genre of fantasy fiction. For Mr Singh to find himself as the subject of Mr Musharraf’s next presidential memoir — as Richard Armitage finds himself in this one — could make him rethink opening his mouth. History is supposedly written by the victor. But history as presented by a fabulist in a memoir can be an effective spanner in the works. Forget Indian diplomats. Would you invite Mr Musharraf, the latest magic realist from the subcontinent, to dinner?