Musharraf is the man who slipped a fast one in Kargil, who refused to salute Vajpayee in Lahore, who turned Agra into a tamasha. And now he comes and starts talking of having a new heart, pays compliments to Manmohan Singh, goes calling on Vajpayee. Has he really changed' Or is he just pretending'
At the time of Partition, Pakistan suffered three reverses. One was the loss of Kashmir. Pakistan sent a ragtag army to conquer it. K.P.S. Menon flew to Srinagar with an Instrument of Accession, Maharaja Hari Singh signed it toute suite, the Indian army threw out the intruders and occupied most of Kashmir. Another was the loss of Junagadh. After the Nawab acceded to Pakistan, Kanaiyal Munshi collected a few dhotiwallas, some rusty swords and ladders and climbed over the walls of Junagadh. So that he should come to no harm, the Indian army followed. The Nawab took a boat to Karachi with his dogs. The third was Hyderabad. On 15 August, 1947, the British ceded sovereignty, and gave the Princes independence. The Nawab thought that was for real, and declared independence. Indian newspapers reported that Razakars, his irregular troops, were attacking and oppressing his Hindu subjects. The Indian army was sent in to restore order, and put a quick end to the Nawab's independence.
So Pakistan started with a generous stock of umbrage. The first chance to take revenge came in 1965. India was in an economic crisis and on the verge of famine. Nehru had died, and little Shastri had taken over. Troops of both countries skirmished in April 1965 in the Rann of Kutch. The Indian troops withdrew, and Pakistan claimed victory. In August, Pakistan slipped in troops into Kashmir; India attacked near Lahore in retaliation. In January 1966, the moustachioed President Mohammad Ayub Khan met Shastri in Tashkent and signed an agreement. Both sides ceased fire, returned occupied territory and freed prisoners. It was an honourable peace that could be passed off as victory by both sides, and they did.
Then in 1971, India attacked East Pakistan, severed it and took 90,000 Pakistani troops prisoner. Ayub Khan abdicated, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became prime minister. This time there was no meeting on neutral territory; Bhutto had to go to Simla hat in hand and plead with the victorious Indira Gandhi. He told his teenage daughter, Benazir, ""Do not smile; remember our soldiers who died and are imprisoned. And do not look grim, otherwise the Press will say the talks are doomed." "Yet, it was difficult to look unhappy as our Indian hosts smilingly and happily met us. The warmth of their reception was infectious, even if Indian Premier Gandhi was more aloof," wrote Benazir recently.
The defeat could not be passed off as victory, so it was passed off as Bhutto's treason. Lieutenant General Javed Naser, ex-chief of Inter-Services Intelligence, writing in October 2004, charged that Bhutto agreed to two different conditions in the Simla agreement. It said that Indian and Pakistani armies would be withdrawn to their side of the international border. But "In Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control resulting from the ceasefire of December 17, 1971, shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognised position of either side." In other words, both sides could keep the gains they had made in Kashmir. Amongst them apparently were the heights on the way to Kargil occupied by the Indian army. Bhutto understood the implications according to Naser, but accepted the terms to humiliate the Pakistani army. Having occupied the Kargil heights, the Indian army built a road to Ladakh along the Shyok river, and went on to occupy Siachen in 1984.
Then follow two versions. Naser's is that in 1989, General Aslam Beg, Chief of General Staff (CGS), presented a plan to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and PM Benazir Bhutto: the heights of Kafir Pahar, Damgul, Tortuk Challunka on the way to Kargil should be occupied. That would cut off Siachen and force the Indians to vacate it. Benazir rejected the plan because it would lead to a war. General Beg felt that India could not afford a war since it had sent three divisions to Sri Lanka, but he was not prepared to stage a coup. According to Lt Gen Sikandar Khan Baloch, however, this plan as well as the one to train and slip in terrorists into Kashmir were made by President Zia-ul-Haq. By 1998, the terrorist operation in Kashmir was in full swing; the supply of terrorists trained by Pakistan had increased to a point where their tour of service across the border was as short as 18 months. The Indian army was stretched. No party had a majority in the Indian Parliament, which was headed towards another election. In May, Pakistan staged its nuclear ceremony; after that India could not risk a general war. So, according to Javed Naser, General Musharraf, whom Nawaz Sharif had made CGS, implemented the 1989 plan and infiltrated soldiers in fortified positions along the Kargil heights in March 1999. Sharif was told that the heights had been occupied by Kashmiri terrorists.
Their presence was a complete surprise to the Indian army. The Vajpayee government decided to keep the conflict local and not to cross the LoC. That limited the scope for using air power. The Indian army could not slip behind the Kargil heights because it would have been exposed to Pakistani shelling. That left the task largely to infantrymen climbing steep hills against fire from dug-in positions. So India took huge casualties. Revenge at last.
Except that the Pakistanis could not withdraw their troops from the heights under Indian fire. So Sharif had to go to Washington and plead with Clinton, who put pressure on Vajpayee to let the Pakistani troops withdraw. Which he did. Kargil too turned out like the Bangladesh war ' Pakistan had to plead for a favour and retreat publicly. Why did Musharraf, the architect of Kargil, start talks with Vajpayee' Because he saw a chink. In Lahore, Vajpayee did not impress with his statesmanship or his astuteness. On Kargil, he showed himself to be a novice incapable of learning an elementary military lesson ' that it was suicidal to send infantry to take fortified hill positions. So Musharraf thought he would try his hand at talking to Vajpayee ' maybe trap him in talks as he had done in war. Unfortunately, unable to win a mandate to negotiate, Vajpayee confronted Musharraf in Agra with the entire bellicose top brass of the BJP. Musharraf saw that he would get nowhere, so he gave a pyrotechnic TV show before Indian editors and flew back.
Why, now, has he changed so' Why is he so nice about Manmohan Singh' Maybe because it is impossible to do otherwise. Manmohan Singh may be easy to disdain or underestimate; but he is a difficult man to dislike. He is warm, courteous and attentive. He neither trades insults nor hurls pseudo-history at Musharraf. He does not talk the costive language of foreign affairs. And he is always looking for some forward step.
But Musharraf is nice also because no other strategy shows promise at the moment. He has not given up on hostility; if another opportunity offers itself, he will try it out. For lack of anything else, why not try charm' And being the earnest, energetic, indefatigable man that he is, he will apply charm full strength: for the general, diplomacy is war by another means. But he will not do anything that would increase the cost of hostility or benefits of a rapprochement to Pakistan ' open up trade and investment, for example.