Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Three Musketeers

As Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has declared himself to be the representative of the "third party" to the Kashmir dispute, its time to assess the situation at hand. Mirwaiz has held talks with both the Indian and Pakistani Leadership within a fortnight. Musharaff and Manmohan Singh have concluded a "tense and argumentative" or "frank and candid" round of talks. In between, the two have had time to make the now mandatory reporting session with the US President. All in all the talks on Kashmir this fortnight haven't cost India anything and Thank God for that! Have you noticed the irony that the three men at the centre of these negotiations were never the choice of their people for whatever positions they are holding?!. But yes, they do seem to have acquired some level of acceptance on the job. There is no need to talk about General Musharaff's illegitimacy although he seems to be the most powerful (domestically) of the three and is in a position to make hard decisions. Mirwaiz despite his charm, has no locus standi to be at the high table and should be dispensed with at the earliest. And finally the case of Manmohan Singh. At the outset he hasn't cost us anything yet and that's a good sign! He has allowed the Hurriyat its share of the daylight and that would help sentiments in the Valley. He has kept the General at the negotiating table for a while now and there has been some progress. But he should keep in mind that he has already treaded into uncharted territory! The changed stance on Hurriyat, the unusual and potentially dangerous discussion on troop deployments with Musharaff and Bush are significant developments. Considering that he is accountable to no one!, he should be extra careful. When his predecessors like Vajpayee, Rajiv and Indira Gandhi made overtures to Pakistan, they were sitting on strong mandates and had huge political stakes, neither of which Singh has. This introduced certain amount of caution to whatever they did. Manmohan Singh should consult the wider political leadership before indulging Musharaff in these doling out favor sessions. (Enough of Condi's "Give him something to take home" farce!). Here are some advises from yours truly for the near future that he will be better off listening to! 1. Don't humiliate yourself carrying on with this "pardon the spy" nonsense. 2. Do not tread the dangerous path of discussing troop levels in Kashmir. (Why the hell are we discussing this with Musharaff in the first place?) 3. We have had enough of the Hurriyat showtime. Let it end here! 4. Take the negotiations to the next logical steps...Sir Creek, Siachin and all the water bourne controversies!

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