May 2001 News

Militants may step up activity, to resist peace

25 May 2001
The Asian Age
Ashish Kumar Sen

San Francisco: Insurgents operating in the Kashmir Valley could step up their violence in the wake of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s invitation to Pakistan Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf for talks in New Delhi. Making this point Prof. Sumit Ganguly a professor of Asian studies and government at the University of Texas, Austin, told The Asian Age that militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba would “not see the latest developments as being in their interest, and would certainly not want a to see bilateral issues worked out over their heads.” “We may see ugly incidents in Kashmir in the near future,” he cautioned. Incidentally, the LeT has already denounced the invitation calling it a “gimmick.” In interviews with The Asian Age, analysts, policy experts and academics dealing with South Asia, while welcoming Mr Vajpayee’s invitation said the tricky part now was to ensure that discussions produce concrete results. Gen. Musharraf has been invited “at his early convenience,” in pursuance of the Lahore Declaration and the Shimla Agreement. While Islamabad has yet to officially accept Mr Vajpayee’s invitation, reactions emanating from Pakistan indicate this could be on its way. Calling Mr Vajpayee’s gesture “worthwhile,” Mr Ted Galen Carpenter, vice- president of defence and foreign policy studies at the Washington D.C.-based Libertarian Cato Institute, said it was now up to Gen. Musharraf to “respond to this clear peace overture.” Agreeing with Mr Carpenter’s view, Mr Abraham Sofaer, George P. Shultz senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, added, “I hope there is something behind this gesture. Talks must lead somewhere.” Mr Sofaer, who served as legal advisor to the US state department from 1985 to 1990, said the situation in the Indian sub-continent was way past the point where “symbolic” gestures would do any good. Prof. Ganguly added much also depended on the agenda that is set for the discussions. “I fear Gen. Musharraf will say Kashmir must be the core issue, while the Indians will disagree. There may be a lot of hauling and pulling (over the agenda),” he said. Professor emeritus of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and editor emeritus of Asian Survey, Prof. Leo Rose said it was essential for both sides to discuss “everything.” Analysts agreed that both New Delhi and Islamabad needed to engage each other on a range of issues. “So many of the issues they fight about are really non- issues,” Prof. Rose said. Admitting that Mr Vajpayee’s gesture was a “surprise,” Ambassador Teresita C. Schaffer, director of the South Asia programme at the Washington, D.C.-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, added, “Clearly, he wanted to have a positive initiative in play rather than simply making a negative decision on the ceasefire.” “The key will be in the follow-up, and in how they define their talks,” Ambassador Schaffer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said. She pointed out that it was important for both sides to cover a full range of issues, and set up a process that can deal with them — “including Kashmir, and including the Kashmiris.” Media reports from New Delhi have suggested Mr Vajpayee’s recent decisions were prompted by a realisation that the ceasefire had ceased to be productive and that Mr Pant’s initiative was “not going anywhere.” A senior fellow, foreign policies studies programme, at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, Prof. Stephen Cohen said India “realised” that the dialogue with the Hurriyat wasn’t going anywhere and that it “might as well deal with a real power, Pakistan, than the disunited Kashmiris.” Mr Sofaer admitted both sides had a lot to gain, as long as they were realistic about what could be achieved. “My fear is that if you don’t have some sort of plan, if you’re not looking ahead, you will not get anywhere,” he added. Mr Carpenter, meanwhile, underscored the significance of a dialogue between two “nuclear-capable” countries. “The bulk of the concessions would have to be made by Pakistan. It would have to stop backing the rebels, and learn to accept the reality that India is larger power in the region,” he said. Prof. Cohen said the Indians were very concerned about Pakistan going the way of Afghanistan. “India would rather have a weak but stable Pakistan on its border.” After nearly two years of ignoring the Pakistan military, Prof. Cohen said India would now be willing to deal with it, “since there are unlikely to be any civilian saviours emerging in Pakistan for the next few years — and even if they did, they would have to defer to the Army.”

 

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