The day of the Allied invasion of German Occupied Europe in World War 2 in 1944. June 6, is commonly known as “The Longest Day”. From Islamabad to New Delhi is an hour plus by air, for General Pervez Musharraf it will be an extremely long journey back to the place of his birth, it has taken almost 54 years. As he retraces his roots, no doubt the President will be nostalgic, and he has every right to be. In effect Pervez Musharraf symbolizes why it was necessary to have a separate homeland for Muslims, in undivided India, Muslims would never have had the opportunity that he is privileged to have, risking to the rank of COAS on merit. The appointment of President was by default on the part of our top political leaders, their bankruptcy of leadership inherent not only in their penchant for corrupt practices but their total inability to provide good governance.
It is apparent from the war of words launched by the BJP Government leading upto the Agra Summit that they have had afterthoughts about inviting Musharraf and are now best engaged in an unending assault to show up their credibility with their own supporters, trying to convince them that they are not going to give away the family silver, let alone Kashmir, the jewel of the crown..
One funny thought does come to mind, are the Indians engaged in such a deliberate dampening process to lower the threshold of expectations of their public? That being so, any small progress in the Agra Summit will seem to be relatively large on a pro-rata basis. At the moment things are very much confused, the media-hype network notwithstanding, the consensus among recent public opinion polls within India gives negative ratings to any possible success in the talks. There seems to be a digging in of the heels by the old guard, noticeably a lack of emotion either way among the younger crowd. Kashmir is relevant in the North of India, in the South and East it has very little relevance. Given that the poll conducted by a leading TV channel was conducted in a-radius of 300 miles radius around New Delhi, it cannot reflect the true feelings of the entire Indian population.
Forget the semantics, forget the polls, what we have witnessed in the streets and the drawing rooms of New Delhi is generally a lack of hostility towards Pakistan, in fact in many cases more than only a gracious welcome. So as the President wings his way to what in perception seems to be a boiling cauldron, he should see it as the crossroads of hope. The funny thing is that Pervez Musharraf, the unelected, has a mandate from the people of Pakistan while Vajpayee the elected leader of the world’s largest democracy does not seem to have even the mandate from his own party. Pervez Musharraf will understand when I say that the “Break-in Phase” may have been relatively easy but one hopes the talks may not end up in a dogfight. One thing is sure, mindful of world perception India will never risk Pervez Musharraf, the young and vibrant on the same media platform of a Joint Press Conference with Vajpayee the elderly, and clearly infirm the Break-out Phase. That in effect symbolizes the predicament of South Asia, how to break away from the past with grace in order to seek a common vision for prosperous future for all the peoples of South Asia.
Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan). He was Chairman APSAA for the year 2000, now acting in adhoc capacity pending elections for the year 2001.