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Benazir visits India

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    Benazir visits India

    Ex-PM of Pakistan is on a personal visit to India and has met almost all important political leaders.She has conveyed some very Positive messages.She has agreed that though Kashmir remains the core issue,India and Pakistan should resume the talks and discuss all other issues of importance.She illustrated it with some examples of other neighbouring countries where they had major differences but continued to talk to each other.

    Cheers for Bhutto in Delhi a reminder of region's shifty politics

    By B. GAUTAM
    Special to The Japan Times

    Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former president, played the rights cards during her seven-year reign, endearing her to India while ensuring that she was not alienated from her own people.

    On her four-day visit to India that ended Wednesday, Bhutto -- who now lives in London and Dubai on a self-imposed exile -- struck the kind of chords that could only have been music to Indian politicians' ears.

    In her meetings with the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, Bhutto cited the example of Indo-China ties, noting a border dispute between the two neighbors did not lead to violent conflicts such as the Kargil war in 1999 or the bloody insurgency in Kashmir.

    She said that it was imperative to "break the invisible Berlin Wall separating India and Pakistan," and if "we cannot find a solution to the vexed Kashmir problem, we should focus on conflict management."

    With a shrewdness that her father, the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, displayed, Bhutto walked the tightrope, keeping New Delhi and her own conservative and often radical clergy happy.

    Most ordinary Pakistanis could not care less about Kashmir, a disputed territory disputed by Islamabad and New Delhi for well over half a century.

    However, the Muslim mullahs and the Pakistan Army are bent on keeping the Kashmir issue alive to such an extent that Pakistan's foreign policy has been mostly centered and intensely focused on the territory, a large part of which is with India. Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, shares this hawkish view, and it was basically his insistence that Kashmir be termed the core bilateral problem that marred the Agra summit in July between him and Vajpayee.

    In the unlikely event of her returning to power, Bhutto herself may not be able to rein in the conservative groups in her country, but it must be argued in her favor that during her watch, she kept some kind of check on the radicals.

    No explosive confrontation such as Kargil happened during her regime, and the indigenous political movement was not allowed to be hijacked by the likes of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is strongly suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

    Admittedly, Bhutto's strategy, spelled out in New Delhi, is different from Musharraf's only in technique rather than in content or form. Yet, Vajpayee and Advani -- and to a degree the leader of India's main opposition Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi -- applauded and cheered her on, probably adding to Musharraf's current discomfort.

    Also, New Delhi's gesture in welcoming Bhutto was clearly meant to convey to the world that there are points of views in Pakistan other than those of Musharraf's, and that his hostility toward Pakistan's neighbor is not necessarily the overriding concern in current political thought. To bolster her diplomatic profile at the expense of Musharraf, Bhutto also praised Vajpayee's initiative in inviting the Pakistani chief to Agra.

    In recent days, the general must be quite unhappy at the turn of events, particularly the developments in Afghanistan. An apparent change in American plans allowed the Northern Alliance -- also widely known as United Front -- to walk into Kabul. The Uzbeks and Tajiks, two ethnic tribal communities that form the front, are hostile to Pakistan, and the last thing that Islamabad wants now is another "enemy" sitting on its border.

    However, it would be unwise for India to take advantage of the unsettled situation for two reasons.

    One, when all said and done, Washington will still need Pakistan because of its geographic location. Situated next to Afghanistan, Islamabad's strategic help will be necessary in the event of another radicalization attempts in the war-torn country. Worse, nobody knows for sure if bin Laden is still in Afghanistan. He could very well be in Pakistan, a situation that Pakistan's ruler could use as another trump card in wangling favors from the U.S.

    New Delhi must, therefore, realize that if at all there is a setback in American-Pakistani relations, it would be, at best, temporary.

    Two, a stable Afghanistan is well within New Delhi's interests. A more settled government at Kabul may not be inclined to support Islamabad's designs against India, however close Afghanistan maybe to Pakistan. India must, thus, stop seeing the Afghan problem through the Pakistani prism, and work toward greater harmony in the region.

    It must also be stated that while New Delhi had every right to welcome Bhutto and to have accorded her the dignity and respect due to a former head of state, there was little point in pampering her.

    New Delhi cannot afford to forget that Bhutto and Musharraf are politicians who need to play the Kashmir card to the hilt if they are to survive in their country, and although the general's actions toward the territory are viewed with the deepest suspicion, it is high time that India made a serious effort to solve the problem. It would do little good for the entire region if Kashmir continues to remain a festering sore.

    The Japan Times: Nov. 30, 2001


      Benazirís makeover

      ITíS often remarkable how a visit to a place can totally change oneís perceptions. When I first met Benazir Bhutto in Islamabad, she was quite hostile towards anything Indian. Even during personal conversations, her bitterness was apparent. Understandably, she was alien to things Indian as the only time she visited this side of the border was at the time of the Simla Agreement, when she accompanied her father.

      Things started changing when the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Pakistan to attend the 1988 SAARC summit. He had a one-to-one lunch with Benazir, which lasted for more than an hour. The two leaders became so friendly in the process that Benazir even discussed the issue of ISI influence on the Pakistan Government with Rajiv, who, on our way back to New Delhi, told me how he liked Benazirís husband as a transparent and competent person. That initiative was lost with Rajiv Gandhiís untimely death.

      But Benazirís current visit to India has indeed made a sea change in her views. She has finally realised the merits of the Indian viewpoint on Kashmir and several other issues. A common dislike for General Musharraf only helped her warm up to Indian arguments. During discussions, she even accepted that Pakistan did help the Taliban in Afghanistan.

      Surprisingly, the former Pakistan prime minister was rather impressed by the BJP leadership. At home with her Indian hosts, she was particularly charmed by Home Minister L.K. Advani during their meeting at the latterís residence. They interacted in Sindhi and Kamla Advani cooked Sindhi food for her. After all, Advani is also a fellow Sindhi from Karachi and the Bhutto family is still quite attached to the old city and the Sindh province. So much so that even as Prime Minister, she would take a two-hour flight from Islamabad to Karachi every third day.


        Who cares?
        Not the pakistani people.
        Let her come back.
        She would wish she was dead.

        Ours is not to reason why;
        Ours is but to do and die
        You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!