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Musharraf on fire

The General's memoir has touched a raw nerve in India, with most experts in New Delhi seeing his book as an unabashed exercise in self-promotion.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2006 17:07 IST
Manish Chand (IANS)
Manish Chand (IANS)

Be it the Kargil war, terrorism or nuclear proliferation, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's memoirs have touched a raw nerve in India, with most experts seeing his book as an unabashed exercise in self-promotion and one that casts doubts on his sincerity in pursuing the peace process with New Delhi.

"The book exposes him as a liar. How can you even think of finding a solution to the Kashmir issue with such a liar?" K Subrahmanyam, who headed the Kargil Review Committee appointed by the former ruling coalition headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said.

"He thinks the rest of the world is an idiot. For seven years, he kept quiet and now he comes out with a cock-and-bull story about the Kargil conflict and wants the world to believe it," Subrahmanyam said, not mincing words to expose what he calls the general's publicity trick.

"If it was a victory for Pakistan, why didn't he bury the Pakistani soldiers with dignity? Why did he abandon them on the Indian side?" an angry Subrahmanyam asked.

In his 368-page In the Line of Fire - A Memoir (published by Simon and Schuster), Musharraf admits in a chapter on Kargil that Pakistani soldiers, and not the so-called mujahideen, were involved in the military operation.

Musharraf also admits for the first time, seven years after he ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a coup, that the Pakistan Army set up "outposts" to conduct "raids and ambushes" into the Indian side of Kashmir.

The timing of the much-hyped launch of Musharraf's memoirs in the US, weeks after his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Havana and the decision to set up an India-Pakistan joint anti-terror mechanism, has also questioned his commitment to the peace process with New Delhi.

Many experts, however, see this melange of facts and fiction as Musharraf's campaign pitch for the elections next year and to please the US that is not too happy with what many see as Pakistan-aided resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"It's done mainly for the American market. It's for the Americans to see through his game," Shashank, former foreign secretary, said.

"He wants to be regarded as a hero of South Asia and the leader of the Muslim world," says Shashank.

Kuldip Nayar, a passionate advocate of peace between India and Pakistan, also dismisses the book as a vainglorious exercise in self-promotion and a cynical ruse to improve his standing before the elections next year.

"He has suddenly shot up in stature in Pakistan. But such tricks won't succeed elsewhere," says Nayar.

Subrahmanyam also rubbished Musharraf's charge that India's nuclear programme used Pakistani P1 centrifuges proliferated by the infamous Khan network run by Dr AQ Khan, father of Pakistan's atomic bomb.

"It shows that Pakistan's security is so lax that they will allow the Khan network to employ Indians and proliferate to India," Subrahmanyam said.

"He is the first one to comment on centrifuges. That's a speculation contrary to what has been widely believed about Pakistan," said Shashank.

"If he knew about the Khan network, he is party to the network. He is trying hard to put India and Pakistan on the same pedestal and attack India's record in non-proliferation ahead of a (US) Senate vote on the India-US civil nuclear deal, but he won't succeed," the former foreign secretary said.

Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh has already damned Musharraf's version of the Kargil conflict as being "incredible."

"Quite often, when you occupy high office, the distinction between fiction and fact gets obliterated. This is fictional," Singh told a news channel.

Although officials have yet to comment on controversial assertions made by Musharraf in his book, the intensity of reaction in the political establishment was clear from former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's remarks that the 2001 Agra summit failed because the general refused to describe the violence in Jammu and Kashmir as "terrorism."

First Published: Sep 27, 2006 15:48 IST