Pakistan President Asif Zardari has denied branding militancy in Kashmir as terrorism. But the retraction is no shocker. Even his hardcore supporters felt he could have been savvier articulating “the radical shift away from the paradigm of enmity with India.”
Of equal significance from the Indian standpoint are passages left uncontested in The Wall Street Journal's paraphrased interview. They kind of de-hyphenate Kashmir from other issues on the table — notably trade, the President with his proven business instincts knows, could be the worst enemy of war.
His dream of Pak-stitched blue jeans in Indian stores and his country's cement factories providing for India's infrastructure needs is a throwback on former World Bank official Moeen Qureshi's 1979 blueprint for sustainable peace.
The stillborn proposal envisaged industries on both sides of the border depending on raw material from across the line.
As the idea excited Morarji Desai, the Pak economist took it up with Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. An upbeat Zia heard him at his presidential quarters on April 3-4 night in the middle of another serious business— Zulfikar Bhutto's execution at Rawalpindi's Adiyala Jail.
Qureshi linked the incessant flow of ‘little slips’ the dictator stacked upside down on his desk, to ZAB's hanging only after getting to know of it in next morning's newspapers. Not the least apocryphal, the episode, related to this writer by former PM Inder Gujral, is relevant as much to Zardari's thoughts.
Does the Pak Army endorse its civilian commander-in-chief's India policy? How well does his assertion of India having “never been a threat” fit in with the concept of anti-India indoctrination making for a good Pakistani soldier?
Answers to these questions would need to wait till the army brass briefs an in-camera joint sitting of Parliament on Pakistan's “war against terror” on October 8. Zardari's since disowned “Kashmiri militants are terrorists” line will inevitably be up for debate. In the broader context, it will reflect also the level of political support for his perceived relations with India.
“There is no other economic survival. We have to trade with our neighbours first,” Zardari told the journal.” He said what he feels,” explained an analyst close to the President. “But the wheel of change wouldn't move without India lending a shoulder…”
And Pakistan becoming a peaceful place to do business!