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Musharraf leaves India perplexed

Omar says Musharraf wants India to keep guessing over four proposals on J&K, writes Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 22:43 IST

It is unclear what prompted Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf to offer a renewed set of four proposals to resolve the Kashmir issue to the Indian government at this point of time.

But, according to National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, what his interview has done is set the agenda, once again, and get the Indian government to try and "second guess his motives".

"Thank God we don't function that way," Abdullah said, talking of the Indian government, but "he has set people thinking about the Jammu and Kashmir issue again."

"I don't think his intention was to have the proposals rejected," said Abdullah. "In fact, I think he is playing to a domestic constituency and telling them he is on the ball on Kashmir, and doing something leaders in this country could do, which is initiating a debate on the issue," Abdullah told the Hindustan Times.

"This is his way of pushing the envelope and seeing how far it can go," Abdullah, a former Minister of State for External Affairs who has met Musharraf several times, said.

"That's just the way he is," said Abdullah, "and while we don't know what elections next year (in Pakistan) will throw up, he is the person we have to deal with. Musharraf uses the media because, he has often said, he does not get any response through official channels."

The Indian government has not reacted officially to the latest Musharraf proposals made in an interview to NDTV. When asked, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon shot back, "you know I never react to what is said through the media?"

According to a senior official, Musharraf’s proposals were a way for him to regain relevance before his domestic constituency after enormous criticism from abroad.

His last visit to the United States was dismissed by the media as a "book promotion tour", his policy on Afghanistan has been slammed by NATO, the United States and the European Union, and the lack of any real movement on the J&K issue with India has been criticized domestically.

Pakistan’s traditional position on the need for a plebiscite in the state has been repeatedly rejected, first by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and most recently by the European Parliament, which has slammed Islamabad’s Kashmir policy.

"Given the enormous seriousness of the humanitarian situation," a draft EP report says, "continuing calls for a plebiscite on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir are wholly out of step with the needs of the local people and thus damaging to their interests."

Former envoy to Pakistan and strategic affairs analyst, G Parthasarathy, when asked, dismissed Musharraf’s grandstanding as a case of "being able to fool some of the people all of the time."

He said there was no question of the Indian government being reactive, because these issues are being seriously discussed by back channels on what is called the Track 2 process. There was even some talk on all these proposals when the Foreign Secretaries of both countries met last month, Parthasarathy said.

Parthasarathy also spoke of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statements made at the launch of the Amritsar - Nankana Sahib bus service, on March 24, 2006. Singh had said, "borders cannot be redrawn, but we can work towards making them irrelevant, towards making them just lines on a map," and his "vision" was to make the India-Pakistan peace process culminate in India entering into a 'Treaty of Peace, Security and Friendship'.

Contending that "a serious government in the process of negotiations does not shoot off its mouth unless an agreement has been reached or the process has failed and discussions have collapsed," Parthasarathy said, improving India-Pakistan relations was "a process, not an event."

"These proposals, though not new, have formed the basis of intensive discussions on J&K for some time now," Parthasarathy said.

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First Published: Dec 06, 2006 22:43 IST