Making peace is always more arduous than making war. Parleys across a table demand more patience and tact than shelling borders and bombing towns. It is impossible for a military leader to fully appreciate the difficulties involved in a peace process. He prefers solutions to flow from the barrel of a gun. The latest interview given by Mr Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, to a television channel only strengthened all the stereotypes about a general. The interview also fortified all the prejudices and suspicions that the Indian establishment has about the president of Pakistan. It was clear that Mr Musharraf can only play the one-note samba, and that note is Kashmir. He asserted that unless the Kashmir issue was solved, there was no point in discussing the other issues. Indeed, the other issues, in the words of the general, were trivialities. Mr Musharraf’s views can thus be described somewhat frivolously as “Kashmir determinism”. It was evident that on Kashmir, Mr Musharraf’s mind is closed since he has already arrived at the conclusion that the people of Kashmir have no desire to remain with India. He swept aside the large turn-out in the last elections in Jammu and Kashmir as manipulated. He was not willing to countenance the suggestion that the turn-out was a sign of the people’s faith in democracy. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is not the best attitude with which to approach a negotiating table. But this is the position Mr Musharraf has chosen to adopt while responding to Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s initiative to reopen peace talks between India and Pakistan.
Being a military man, Mr Musharraf is obviously not very adept at the art of winning friends and influencing people. Speaking to an Indian television channel, he expressed no regrets about the hostilities in Kargil. He did not rule out the possibility of similar encounters in the future. This could, of course, be a ploy on the part of the general. The raison d’ etre of the entire military establishment in Pakistan is the belligerence that India is supposed to harbour towards Pakistan. By his statements, Mr Musharraf has only fanned such feelings of suspicion and hostility. Nobody listening to the Pakistan president would have got the impression that he is enthusiastic about peace with India. On the contrary, it appeared that Mr Musharraf would prefer a continuation of the present uncertainty with the possibilities of violence simmering just below the surface of events.
There is, of course, an element of irony in the general’s posturing. Hostilities between India and Pakistan have somewhat spun out of the control of both New Delhi and Islamabad. The Indo-Pak problem has become an item on the larger stage in which attempts are being made by Uncle Sam to remove potential flashpoints of violence across the globe. Mr Musharraf should not be dismayed if he has to eat his words or if he finds that nobody writes to the general anymore.