Pakistan Elections and Indian Interests
By Mariana Baabar; The News, December 24, 2007
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, is making waves in New Delhi where she is in the midst of a controversy, but even though she is busy in electioneering at home, she has had time to hit back at allegations that she went back on promises. It started with Indian National Security (INS) Adviser M K Narayanan’s comments, accusing Benazir of unfulfilling promises made to New Delhi in 1988; he was asked about Benazir.
“One has to go by what she did in the nineties. One is always a little skeptical. It is possible, but her track record is not necessarily something, which will make us believe that she would follow to the letter of what she has said—I think even if she wishes to do so. As I mentioned earlier, the single most important entity in Pakistan remains the army and along with that ISI. I find it extremely difficult to believe that Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, if she becomes that, will have a free hand in doing all the things that she wishes to do. I know that in 1988 when she met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, she made a number of promises. We know almost certainly that she was sort of curbed by the military at that point but whether she will have success now is difficult to believe and it would be very optimistic to expect that she can fulfill whatever she says but we hope that she will do her best,” he said.
Narayanan made these remarks in a television interview. On Saturday, Benazir hit back at Narayanan in an interview with Outlook. “If anyone kept their word, it was me, not Rajiv. He went back to India and then called me on his way to the Commonwealth to say that he could not keep his promise to withdraw from Siachen and that he would do it only after the elections. Now, if I haven’t raised the subject or complained all these many years, why is it being raised now?” Trying to refresh Narayanan’s memory, she asked, “Does anyone remember those times or is public memory so short that no one recalls the extremely difficult conditions India faced during the Sikh insurgency 20 years ago? India was in a complete mess. Does anyone remember that it was I who kept my promise to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when we met and he appealed to me for help in tackling the Sikhs? Has India forgotten December 1988? Have they forgotten the results of that meeting and how I helped curb the Sikh militancy?”
Recalling her meeting with Rajiv in Islamabad, she said, “Nobody else knew what Rajiv and I discussed. There was no fly on the wall. How can anyone say I have not kept my promises to him when the single biggest result of that meeting was the end of the Sikh insurgency? It was Rajiv, who committed to me that he would withdraw from Siachen. I made no promises that could have been broken.”
She said after the former prime minister was assassinated she tried but could never establish the same kind of rapport with the government that followed. But despite the slight chill, there was no war with India when she was prime minister, she added.
“Not only was there no war, in fact there was peace because I nixed the idea of Kargil. Has India forgotten all of this? When I was prime minister you did not have the Mumbai bomb blasts, you did not have the attack on Parliament. There was no Kargil,” she added.
Benazir said that she made no promises on Kashmir because there were no discussions on Kashmir. “Why does India believe I will break my word, imply I cannot be trusted?” Benazir then added, “I believe we share so much a belief in democratic values, in democracy and human rights. I am very disappointed to hear that Delhi does not think so.”
Meanwhile, the New Indian Express in an editorial asks why Narayanan has taken on Benazir and put full trust in Pervez Musharraf. The editorial is more sympathetic towards Benazir. “Narayanan finds Mr Musharraf, who was responsible for taking his country down the path to Kargil a far more credible interlocutor than Benazir Bhutto.
This clownish and potential flag-waver in Srinagar, is the person in whom Mr Narayanan implicitly has reposed his faith in, the man who even the NSA admits, is only tactically restraining some jehadis from running around freely; Mr Narayanan has implicit faith in the man who has failed to deliver on the join terror mechanism; he believes more in the man who controlled the establishment against whom the NSA declared he had “pretty good evidence” against soon after the Mumbai train blasts, the man even the Americans are now cutting to size. How will this sort of loose talk go down in Pakistan, with Benazir more particularly? Will she keep quiet? Will it colour her view of the Indian Establishment? What do we get out of gratuitous comments like this? In the ‘eighties Kashmir insurgency was less of a problem than the Sikh insurgency in Punjab. Especially considering the fact that after her meeting with Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, Benazir paid the price, for among other things, handing over a detailed dossier of local operatives Pakistan was using to foment the Punjab insurrection,” the editorial says.