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‘We have to cooperate with Musharraf ’

"We have to go on cooperating with him for the benefit of the people of Pakistan," says Benito Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations, in an exclusive interview to Amit Baruah.

world Updated: Jan 05, 2008 23:55 IST
Amit Baruah
Amit Baruah
Hindustan Times

Will agreement on an India-IAEA safeguards accord allow the European Union to take a common position on civil nuclear cooperation with India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group?

For the time being, we don’t have a common position and we need not have a common position everywhere. But I think a memorandum of understanding between India and the IAEA could facilitate such a common position. We are not yet there, so we want to see this agreement. It will certainly be very important. It’s not for me to decide whether the member states would then have a common position, but I think it (a safeguards agreement) could facilitate the way.

How big an election observer mission is EU planning to send to Pakistan?

This will be quite an important mission, with long-term and short-term observers. It will be a regular mission. If the elections had been held on January 8, we would only have had a limited observer mission. But now we will prepare well.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group, in a new report, says that the United States and the West have backed the wrong horse in supporting President Pervez Musharraf. It points out that extremist forces have strengthened themselves since 2001. Does the ICG have a point here?

The ICG is an NGO group, with eminent personalities, a lot of them personal friends. But I think we are dealing with reality and we have clearly stated that we wanted to see a lifting of the emergency. Otherwise, we could not have observed the elections. We have criticised some ‘facts’ like the question of the change of judges (the removal of the Chief Justice Ifthekar Chaudhry) and his brother judges, the lack of freedom of speech and the press. Therefore, we now hope that this new process will improve the situation. We also think it is very important that the three important parties have a chance to really run and be there in the elections: the ruling party (PML-Q), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s party (PML-N).

Do you think President Musharraf is now a part of the problem rather than the solution in Pakistan?

I am a realistic politician and as I said, we have to deal with realities. And, at this moment, President Musharraf is the elected President of Pakistan. We have to go on cooperating with him for the benefit of the people of Pakistan.

You have referred to the possibility of India and the EU working together on Pakistan. Specifics?

I think there are many possibilities and not just on Pakistan, but on all the neighbouring countries because India is a big democracy.

But we also have problems with our neighbours…

Yes, we know. But among all neighbours, things are always more critical if you are further away (detached?). India is aspiring to become a member of the UN Security Council. We are expecting India to become a responsible player. We think India can influence its neighbours with regard to stability. The economic factor is a very important. One of the root causes of fundamentalism is poverty. But, maybe also, working together with India on questions like a dialogue of cultures and civilisations, which I think is really important.

It’s not just a title, we want to make people feel that the direction is the right one. The direction has to be one of moderation, it has to get people out of poverty and give them education, given them health services and jobs. And, then, immediately people will go for the moderate solutions and not extreme solutions.

Given that Sri Lanka was in a state of war, does the formal abrogation of the ceasefire by Colombo make any difference?

It’s important to maintain a framework and this was the right framework. The (Sri Lankan) government, the President (Mahinda Rajapaksa) always said they wanted peace. Now he just chose the opposite. This is something which we have to criticise. War cannot bring about peace.

With changes in American politics, do you see the pullout of US troops from Iraq?

I would not like to comment on other countries. It’s their decision. But, we, as the European Union and Commission are working very closely with the Iraqi government to help them to stabilise their country.

Is the situation in Afghanistan better today than it was after the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

Much better. This is what we hear…but there is still a long way to go. It’s for the Afghan population to understand that we are all there in order to help them to create, again, their own country.

I see that you were the UN’s chief of protocol (1993-1996). What do you think is the role of protocol in diplomacy?

The role of protocol in diplomacy is to make everybody feel dignified — small and big countries — and to do it in such a way that it is not noticed but it’s really so.