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ExpertSpeak: Manmohan must go to Pakistan

Experts in New Delhi feel that Manmohan's visit will give a boost to the faltering peace process between India and Pakistan.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2006 17:26 IST
Indo Asian News Service
Indo Asian News Service

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should go to Pakistan to watch a cricket match to give a boost to the faltering peace process despite President Pervez Musharraf's provocative comments on Kashmir, say top strategic and diplomatic experts.

Although the Government has made it clear that there are no plans for Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan to see any of the cricket matches in the series now on in Pakistan, experts opine that he should accept Musharraf's invitation, made in a television interview, and go to save the peace process that is rapidly losing steam.

"He should go to pursue the peace talks. It can help improve the atmospherics for the peace process," said eminent strategic expert K Subrahmanyam, appointed by Manmohan Singh to head a task force on global strategic developments.

"Manmohan Singh may not be as passionate about watching cricket as Musharraf is. But that shouldn't be a problem as cricket is just an excuse to push the peace process forward," Subrahmanyam told the agency.

Subrahmanyam has even a concrete proposal for Manmohan Singh. "He could possibly go to Lahore to see briefly one of the matches and go from there to Nankana Sahib. After all, Musharraf also visited Ajmer Sharif when he came here last year."

Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, has some of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs.

Endorsed G Parthasarathy, a former Indian envoy to Pakistan: "If there is a formal invitation for Manmohan Singh and there are adequate preparations, I don't see why the prime minister shouldn't go."

In an interview to a news channel on Sunday night, Musharraf said he would like to invite Manmohan Singh to Pakistan to watch "any part" of the ongoing cricket series between the two countries.

The reason why Manmohan Singh is not keen to go to Pakistan for a cricket match, say knowledgeable sources, is that New Delhi wants to send a clear message that cross-border terror will not be tolerated any more and this time round it wants to hold Pakistan to account for that.

"Pakistan should implement forthwith its solemn commitments in this regard so that the peace process between the two countries can make progress and the two countries can live in peace and friendship as good neighbours,"MEA spokesperson Navtej Sarna said.

He said this while announcing the government's rejection of Musharraf's proposal for withdrawing Indian troops from Srinagar, Baramulla and Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir as part of his "demilitarisation, self-governance and joint management" proposal.

Subrahmanyam, however, insists that the prime minister should go to Pakistan precisely to get this message across.

"The prime minister should go to Pakistan and tell Musharraf to first fulfil his commitment of stopping cross-border terrorism before throwing up ideas about demilitarisation and self-governance," Subrahmanyam added.

Taking strong objection to Musharraf's quid pro quo on demilitarisation and ending terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, Subrahmanyam said: "It's more or less a confession that he (Musharraf) is in charge of terrorism in Pakistan."

Said Commodore C Uday Bhaskar, deputy director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a leading security think tank, also feels that Manmohan Singh should go to Pakistan to maintain the bilateral engagement at the highest level.

"We have to engage with Pakistan. We really have no other option.

"It is useful and desirable for India and Pakistan to maintain high-level political contacts. If an invite for the prime minister comes from Musharraf, he should go to Pakistan," Uday Bhaskar said.

Musharraf had extended an invitation to Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan when they met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2005. The invitation was accepted in principle by the Indian side.

Last year there appeared to be a strong possibility of Manmohan Singh going to Pakistan to see one of the cricket matches.

But with the recent incidents of terror attacks in India that security agencies suspect were hatched in Pakistan, the atmospherics seem to have changed, with many questioning openly what such a visit would achieve.

Besides, compulsions of domestic politics could no longer be ignored.

"Maybe the government doesn't want to be seen as soft on cross-border terror which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been accusing it of," added a former envoy who didn't wish to be named.

First Published: Jan 11, 2006 15:25 IST