Hello and welcome to a special interview with the former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf. I shall talk to him about the alleged advances on the back channel--they’ve been speculated about but never confirmed--and the situation in Pakistan itself--how serious is the threat from The Taliban? But first, as the two Prime Ministers meet in Egypt, how does General Musharraf view the present state of Indo-Pakistan relations?
Karan Thapar: General Musharraf, as you know relations between India and Pakistan have suffered in the wake of the terror attack in Mumbai in November.
Indians believe Pakistan has not done enough to bring the accused to book or to dismantle organisations like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and their infrastructure of terror. If you had been president of Pakistan how would you have responded to Mumbai?
Pervez Musharraf: Well certainly we would have co-operated in the investigation, because we wouldn’t like Pakistan to be blamed for being an accomplice – the government, or the army, or the ISI--because that is what generally gets projected, that they were accomplices in whatever happened; we would have joined the investigation and brought whoever has done it to book
Karan Thapar:You said a very important thing in the beginning: if you had been President, you would have been positive and you would have been accommodating and understanding. That is the message and you would have picked up the phone and given to Dr Manmohan Singh yourself?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, indeed--certainly.
Karan Thapar:And you believe it is important that sort of positive message was given?
Pervez Musharraf: Should have been given but I don't know what transpired at the official level.
Karan Thapar: Let me tell you one reason why Indians feel Pakistan has not done enough. Not just India but many countries believe Hafiz Mohammed Saeed is the mastermind of what happened in Mumbai. Yet when he was detained it was under the Maintenance of Public Order Act--he wasn't charged with terrorism. When he was released the government spent a whole month trying to make up its mind whether they were going to appeal against his release. And when they appeal against his release they seemed to have bungled it as well.
The Punjab government has suddenly withdrawn the appeal. When people look at this in India they say this is not just contradictory it looks half-hearted as if the government isn’t willing to pursue the matter?
Pervez Musharraf: I am not privy to what exactly happened in the courts, appeals, rejection but if the evidence was against him then they should have proceeded against him, certainly. If there is evidence then one has to move against them. What the courts did and what the government did with the courts, I am not privy to that.
Karan Thapar: If I understand your first answer correctly, if you had been President you would have been much more pro active and assertive. You would have enforced the law with greater determination and taken full measures not half measures.
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, certainly. Full measures have to be taken and a crime like what happened in Mumbai was a terrorist attack and therefore Pakistan must cooperate. The other problem also is adequate sharing of intelligence so that the Pakistan side cooperates fully.
Karan Thapar: Let me put to you a view that is often expressed in India. People say there is no doubt that the Pakistan state is very serious and committed in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda but they ask does the same seriousness exist when it comes to the LeT and Jaish. What it your answer to that?
Pervez Musharraf: I think they certainly do it very seriously and there is no doubt in that.
Karan Thapar: Why is Hafiz Saeed then detained under the Maintenance of Public Order Act and not charged with terrorism?
Pervez Musharraf: I don't know these legalities frankly. I won't be able to answer that.
Karan Thapar: If you were President and there was a shadow of doubt you would have charged him, wouldn't you?
Pervez Musharraf: Certainly, law has to be enforced.
Karan Thapar: Strictly and rigidly.
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: Recently, President (Asif Ali) Zardari has accepted that Pakistan has created and nurtured militant and extremist groups for short-term goals. The LeT and Jaish fall into that category, don't they?
Pervez Musharraf: When we are talking about all these organisations we have to go back about 20 years. We have to go back to 1989; we have to see what was happening in Kashmir and what happened in the decade of the nineties.
In the decade of the nineties, freedom struggle in Kashmir started and there were independent organisations in Pakistan who were fully supportive. That is how all these organisations came into being and they had public sympathy, certainly in Pakistan. Now that the situation has changed and we have started a dialogue for the political settlement of Kashmir and all other disputes between India and Pakistan, we have to see what all these independent groups are doing--these independent mercenary groups are doing.
There is a shift in attitudes and now we are here but the organisations you are talking of gained strength all along the decade of the nineties.
Karan Thapar: But is there a possibility that today when the shift has taken place and the organisations are being reined in and checked that some elements of the Establishment may regard them as assets? Is that one reason why people like Hafeez Saeed, or Zarar Shah or Lakhvi are not being prosecuted as India wants?
Pervez Musharraf: I wouldn't say that official patronage will be given to them. If there are some individuals who have sympathy with them or what they did--there are many people against the policy of political dialogue; they are for carrying on mujahideen activities. There are elements who are sympathetic to that view.
Karan Thapar:And hence they therefore may be more sympathetic to Hafeez Saeed and people like Lakhvi or Zarar Shah?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, but that doesn't mean there is official, government patronage or ISI or army patronage.
Karan Thapar: But it does mean that there are elements who are rogue elements or not fully in agreement with government policy, who are sympathizers?
Pervez Musharraf: If these elements are there and they are in service in the ISI or the army, certainly they will be sorted out because that goes against the government policy and I am sure it is against the army and ISI policy. There has to be unity on that policy, and a standard policy is being followed. If there is any element which is violating that policy it has to be punished and dealt with.
Karan Thapar: Indian authorities say weeks after you stepped down as army chief in November 2007 the peace along the LoC, which had prevailed from 2004, began to unravel. Very quickly by May 2008 a situation had been reached where there were incidents every other day, culminating in the attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan.
Isn’t this because the sort of people you had kept in check, when you were army chief, got a free hand when you stepped aside?
Pervez Musharraf: I really don't know and won't be able to comment on that but certainly there was a policy we had formulated and that policy we were following strictly. I at least make sure that every one down the ladder--all government organs-must follow that policy in letter and spirit.
Karan Thapar: Is there a possibility that after you stepped down others--I won't name them--didn't keep such a firm check and which is why activity which you clearly considered unacceptable began to resume?
Pervez Musharraf: I would say that I had one advantage: I believed you ought to have unity of command if you want to effectively control and check such incidents or such activities. I had unity of command because I was the army commander and the President.
Karan Thapar: That ceased to be the case when you stopped being army commander?
Pervez Musharraf: But since I was an armyman I had much greater association, control and understanding with the army.
Karan Thapar: Which is why there was greater control of this sort of terrorist activity when you were there and there is less now?
Pervez Musharraf: I was sure they were following whatever I was telling them. There was no doubt in that.
Karan Thapar: Let me put to you what President Zardari said to the Indian Prime Minister in June in Yekatinberg. He said he had difficulties checking groups that were targeting India; he needed more time.
What is the problem? Is President Zardari too weak for this task or is too difficult or complicated?
Pervez Musharraf: We must understand that the situation is extremely complex--that is what needs to be understood. There is a full-fledged war going on in Afghanistan and Mullah Omar with his Taliban (supporters) are fighting the coalition forces, the US forces. Coming on to our side there is al-Qaeda, which is active in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan. We have to deal with them. Then there is Taliban--the Pakistani Taliban who are supported in Afghanistan. Afghan Taliban have links with them.
The same Taliban are spreading Talibanisation in our settled districts. And the fourth element are extremists in our society. The fifth elements are the jehadis who want to go to Kashmir and fight. There is a nexus between all these and this nexus is extending its arms to a nexus of extremists in your society. Therefore, it is a complex situation.
Karan Thapar: Are you saying to me the situation has become much more complex after you stepped down?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: And that is why President Zardari has trouble?
Pervez Musharraf: It was complex but with the passage of time--you see after 9/11 it was only al-Qaeda. The Taliban were on the retreat and they were finished (but) with passage of time Taliban re-emerged.
Karan Thapar: What is the possibility that it is not the situation that has become more complex, but the willingness of your successors that is in question? Maybe they don't have the strength or determination to curb terror as you did?
Pervez Musharraf: They suffer from one problem, certainly. As I said there has to be a unity of command between the federal government, the army and the provincial government--the frontier provincial government specially. That unity of command that existed when I was there, maybe at this moment is not as smooth as and as functional as it was then.
Karan Thapar: Which is why the ability to curb terror targeting India has gone down?
Pervez Musharraf: I wouldn't say targeting India, overall it is a combination of this element and other elements I spoke of.
Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. It not just the Indians who are dissatisfied, the Americans are making it publicly known that since November they have been requesting access to people Pakistan has detained in connection with Mumbai and it has been repeatedly refused to the FBI.
Would you have refused access if the FBI had made a request?
Pervez Musharraf: I wouldn't be able to comment because I don't know if this is the case, that they have detained some people and are refusing access to the FBI. I would like to say that I was extremely sensitive when anybody--FBI or anyone else--did not trust what were doing and didn't have faith in the capabilities of the ISI or our interrogation agencies and they wanted something separate. We are a sovereign country and I didn't like that at all.
Karan Thapar: But if the FBI had requested for access on the grounds that what happened in Mumbai resulted in the deaths of six American citizens and therefore they wanted access for their own investigation, would you have granted that access?
Pervez Musharraf: With our interrogation teams, FBI coming and interrogating together I think that would--but certainly not handing them over.
Karan Thapar: But you would have permitted the FBI to come in with your interrogation teams?
Pervez Musharraf: I think, I suppose--I am not very clear about the situation. I can't clearly say yes or no to it.
Karan Thapar: But you are indicating clearly your willingness to explore the situation/
Pervez Musharraf: Certainly, if it was nothing against our interests, against the interests of our investigation team, against our own intelligence organisation, yes. But if there was anything counter to interests then I certainly wouldn't have agreed
Karan Thapar: That would have given much more assurance to the Indians because they would have said at least the Americans have got access even if we haven't got it. Let me widen the discussion. At least on two separate occasions in the last three months President Zardari has said that Pakistan doesn't see India as a military threat. You have been army chief for nine years, do you agree with him?
Pervez Musharraf: India has certain forces, those forces are deployed in certain ways and they have certain plans. But obviously at this moment there is no war scenario and there are no threats at this moment. But after the Mumbai incident all your politicians, your media was talking of punishing Pakistan--talking of hot pursuit action and surgical strikes. So when that happens certainly there is a threat from Indian forces.
Karan Thapar: But President Zardari said this to the American TV channel, PBS, on May 14th and he said it to Euronews in Belgium in June. That is a month ago.
Pervez Musharraf: Today I think certainly tension is not there and Pakistan forces have a capability of deterrence and therefore he may have said that.
Karan Thapar: Do you agree with him?
Pervez Musharraf: I don't think India is posing any offensive move or offensive attitude and therefore he is right.
Karan Thapar: Are Pakistanis today less wary of India and more willing to believe that India means them no harm?
Pervez Musharraf: I think generally, if you took my view, most of them think India has not reconciled to Pakistan's existence and therefore there is always a threat from India.
Karan Thapar: So, in a sense, President Zardari's views are not echoed by his people?
Pervez Musharraf: If you are talking in the broadest sense, then I have given you the answer. Public opinion in Pakistan is that India needs to reconcile with the existence of Pakistan and stop posing a threat to Pakistan. If you are talking of specifics, immediately after Mumbai, I as army chief would have moved my army because there were threatening noises coming from politicians and senior people in India and we couldn't take anything for granted. But now those have died down and we are quite all right and we are quite comfortable.
Karan Thapar: Do you agree with what both Army Chief Kayani and Director General of ISI Shuja Pasha have said that in today's circumstances the threat that Pakistan faces internally from extremists and militants is a greater danger than the external danger it faces from India?
Pervez Musharraf: At this moment, yes. I agree.
Karan Thapar: Today the real enemy Pakistan faces is extremism within the country?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes indeed but having said that if there are threatening noises coming from the Indian side then one has to again see. Threat perception has to carried out very regularly and it is done by the army. At this moment you are absolutely correct, but I only hope that no politician in India again starts to make aggressive sounds that lets go and punish Pakistan, lets go and carry a….
Karan Thapar:But General Musharraf give me a clear answer, which are you saying? Today which is the bigger threat?
Pervez Musharraf: Today under the absolute present circumstances--today--the biggest threat is extremism and terrorism by Taliban, al-Qaeda, by the extremists in our society.
‘DEALS ON SIR CREEK, SIACHEN AND KASHMIR’
Karan Thapar: I want to talk to you about the belief that major achievements were in the offing in the back channel between India and Pakistan, when you were President, and ask you just how accurate is that belief.
There is a widespread belief that while you were president there were enormous advances made on the back channel. Is that belief accurate?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, absolutely.
Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you what the American journalist Steve Coll has written in the New Yorker. He writes that the two countries “were close to a deal” and it was “huge”. Your own former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri told me in February this year that if people found out the truth, they would never believe how close the two countries were to agreement. Is that accurate?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, I think it’s accurate. Yes.
Karan Thapar: You are not exaggerating?
Pervez Musharraf: No.
Karan Thapar: You are really telling me that the two countries were close to an agreement that was path-breaking?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, absolutely. On all three issues: Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek.
Karan Thapar: On all three?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: Let's then, so that the audience can understand the important achievements that were in the offing, go through them step by step.
Pervez Musharraf: Okay.
Karan Thapar: To begin with, what exactly had you achieved on Sir Creek?
Pervez Musharraf: Well, we had carried out joint surveys. Joint surveys were complete. The issue was the changing course of the Indus River. While Indians thought that the boundary should be taken on the western side of the river, on the Sir Creek, we were claiming on the eastern side.
This had implications on the EEZ, when you carried out the survey when the points extended out into the sea. We carried out joint surveys and we knew exactly all the details. We only had to agree to some form of agreement to the extension of those points into the sea, what becomes of the area which comes in between the maximum position of Pakistan and the maximum position of India.
Karan Thapar: Therefore, the area of disagreement that remains if I understand...
Pervez Musharraf: Was identified fully and we could have gone into agreement on whatever we wanted to do with it. Here it is.
Karan Thapar: So an agreement was ready?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, indeed, it was. I thought it just needed a decision by the leaders.
Karan Thapar: Khurshid Kasuri said to me in February that not only was an agreement ready, it was waiting for the Indian Prime Minister to come to Pakistan and sign. He says: “if the Indian PM had come to Pakistan when we thought he would, we would actually have signed it.”
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, indeed, of course. I had told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he had agreed, of course. It was his turn to come to Pakistan and we had decided that if he comes and there is no signature on at least one out of those three, if not all the three, it would be a total flop and that must never happen. So we agreed that when he comes, there will be an agreement on at least one of those three.
Karan Thapar: And that one was most likely Sir Creek?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, Sir Creek was more possible, but we had made great progress on the other two also.
Karan Thapar: So, not only was Sir Creek possible to be signed, if Manmohan Singh had come to Pakistan, but you were also hoping to sign Siachen and even Kashmir?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, that was certainly possible. Siachen is very, very easy to be decided. It is only some basic semantics of what needs to be put in the text, as far as the present positions are concerned. I think we are just being too touchy about a minor issue and negating very major gains that we could achieve.
Karan Thapar: Let me again quote to you what Khurshid Kasuri, your former Foreign Minister, said to me. He said to me, “we had worked out certain schedules of disengagement whereby both Indian and Pakistani concerns could be met.” And he added there was “substantial agreement on Siachen.”
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, indeed, absolutely true.
Karan Thapar: So you had worked out schedules of disengagement?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes. And positions as well, where will we withdraw and what will be the disengagement zone?
Karan Thapar: What about the Indian concern that they wanted the two positions from which both sides were withdrawing to be authenticated on maps that were signed. Had you got around that?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, that was one of the issues. That was one stumbling block. We had to reach an agreement on that.
Karan Thapar: Was an agreement possible?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, it was actually possible. What difference does it make? Our stand was why should we authenticate the position? Because it was disputed. We could put it in an annexure or something. A very easy solution could have been found by the two foreign ministries.
Karan Thapar: And were the two foreign ministries happy with the idea of putting it in an annexure?
Pervez Musharraf: We were very happy.
Karan Thapar: And the Indians?
Pervez Musharraf: Indians, I think were happy too. As per my information it was the Indian Army that put its foot down.
Karan Thapar: But you are telling me that on this you believe you had a measure of understanding that could have led to signatures?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, absolutely.
Karan Thapar: Not as certain as Sir Creek, but on the road to deciding?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, it required a decision by the leaders overruling anyone who is creating the obstacles to the agreement.
Karan Thapar: Let me sum up for the audience what you have so far told me because it is so important. You are saying to me that you had an agreement on Sir Creek that awaited a visit from the Indian Prime Minister to sign. Am I right?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: And on Siachen you were very close, though not as close to an agreement as on Sir Creek, but you were very close. You believe that with a little extra effort you could have had an agreement on Siachen as well?
Pervez Musharraf: Hardly an extra effort but just leadership decisions that okay we are going to do it. We have decided everything and this minor stumbling block needs to be removed.
Karan Thapar: But you were confident with Siachen as well?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: Is that a loud yes or a mumbled yes?
Pervez Musharraf: Loud, loud, Karan. I don't believe in mumbling.
Karan Thapar: Let's then come to the key dispute: Kashmir. Steve Coll writing in the New Yorker says that the last non-paper drafted in 2007 worked out agreed principles for a settlement. What were those principles?
Pervez Musharraf: Those principles, basically, were three. One element was demilitarisation, which was my idea that we should carry out demilitarisation on the Line of Control and also within held-Kashmir. And on our side, reciprocal action. I was suggesting that the military, the Indian military, should move out of two or three cities like Srinagar, Baramulla etc.
So that was the demilitarisation part. A phased demilitarisation where you withdraw and get into some concentration areas and finally withdraw more. So it was a phased demilitarisation. The second element was...
Karan Thapar: Before you come to the second element, did you have a schedule for this phased demilitarisation?
Pervez Musharraf: Well, I was very keen but we had not yet worked out the schedule.
Karan Thapar: What was the Indian response to your idea of demilitarisation, particularly from the three cities that you called rear areas or cantonment areas?
Pervez Musharraf: I wouldn't say that it was hundred per cent positive or that they had given assurances or understanding. We did not move forward on that. We did not have any schedules. We had an agreement in principle on general demilitarisation.
Karan Thapar: So there was an agreement in principal on general demilitarisation but no agreement on how to implement it?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: So no agreement on schedule or time frame?
Pervez Musharraf: No.
Karan Thapar: The second principle was, as you were about to say, self-governance. Explain to me what that means.
Pervez Musharraf: Well, giving maximum governance to the people of Kashmir on both sides, on the Indian side as well as the Pakistan side.
Karan Thapar: Given that you have different structures of governance on the two sides of the LoC, did you have a common understanding of what self-governance means?
Pervez Musharraf: Well, we had to work out those nitty-gritty, the details.
Karan Thapar: Isn't that a lot of difference over there that still remained to be worked out.?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, that would have to be worked out, about self-governance. But one could have carried on with the existing structures on both sides and taken the people of Kashmir from both sides onboard.
Karan Thapar: You said an important thing, that although the principle of self-governance remained to be worked out on both sides, you could have begun by keeping the existing structures in place?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, we could have.
Karan Thapar: Was there any understanding on the devolution of power to both Srinagar and to Muzaffarabad?
Pervez Musharraf: You see, these were the elements which were being negotiated and there was a fair amount of agreement that we need to give maximum to the people of Kashmir so that they have a feeling of governing themselves.
Karan Thapar: There was an agreement on giving maximum?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: But was there any agreement on what the word 'maximum' meant?
Pervez Musharraf: Well, I think you are getting too much into the details. I do not remember that much. There was no total understanding, but we were moving forward. There was reasonable (amount of) understanding, I would say.
Karan Thapar: The third principle is what's called a joint mechanism. What was this joint mechanism?
Pervez Musharraf: Joint mechanism was to oversee that self-governance and also discussing whatever we have not devolved to the people of Kashmir. There were other elements and over-seeing that. There was supposed to be a body (comprising) Kashmiris on both sides and from Pakistan and India. That body would have been an over-watch on whatever we had decided.
Karan Thapar: Would this body have been an appointed council or an elected representative body?
Pervez Musharraf: Frankly, again, we did not go into such details of what exactly that body would be.
Karan Thapar: As you view this mechanism, the joint-mechanism or over-seeing as you call it, do you see it as a loss of sovereignty on both sides or a sharing of sovereignty?
Pervez Musharraf: As far as Kashmir is concerned? I think it is a sharing of sovereignty. It is not a loss of sovereignty for India and Pakistan. No I do not think so. It's a sharing of sovereignty. It is giving something more to the people of Kashmir.
Karan Thapar: If this had come to be what would have been the status of the LoC? Steve Cole says that the LoC as a border would have become irrelevant. It would have become a lot more like borders in the European Community today, which exist on paper but people can freely cross.
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, the problem was the Line of Control because there was a feeling that the Indian side wanted the Line of Control to be made permanent. On our side we thought that it is a dispute therefore a dispute cannot be a solution. So therefore the idea was to make the Line of Control irrelevant.
You can make it irrelevant when you have free passage of people and free passage of goods, trade. So that is what my idea was, that we must open up many, many routes and remove all obstacles in facilitating this movement. (Today) We have one route open but I am afraid that people hardly ever travel on that route because we made the bureaucratic details so difficult for them to move.
Karan Thapar: If you have a free passage of trade, of people, of communication, is Steve Cole correct in saying that this would have converted the LoC into something like the European borders in the European Community today?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes. Absolutely. That is what we wanted, that they should meet freely, move freely. And may I say another element that you have not mentioned that this would have been tried for a number of years, say about 15-20 years, and then we revisit what we have achieved and what needs to be amended, changed or we carry on in the same way.
Karan Thapar: So this would have been put in place on a trial basis and revisited after 15 or 20 years to amend or change?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: And you believe that on this whole gamut of issues, now I am particularly talking of the Kashmir gamut, withdrawal of troops, demilitarisation, self-governance and joint-mechanism, that you had understanding from the Indian side?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, there was an understanding on the principles but the nitty-gritty that you were getting into, a lot of work had to be done on the details of how to demilitarise, and where to take hundreds of thousands of troops and where should we be going? There were a lot of details required.
And when you talked of self-governance, yes, there were details of what self-governance to be handed back. There was on the Indian side, when we met Omar Abdullah, he was talking of maximum autonomy to be given. When we discussed self-governance and maximum autonomy, I realised that we were both talking almost the same language.
Karan Thapar: So there were meeting points, except that meeting-point that you are describing was not with the Manmohan Singh government but with Omar Abdullah who in those days, when you met him, was in the Opposition and not a part of the government?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: But you believe that these principles were agreed to on both sides?
Pervez Musharraf: I think the principles were agreed to on both sides and I had a fair amount of idea that they were agreed to by relevant Kashmiri people.
Karan Thapar: Kashmiri people, who had been consulted by Dr Manmohan Singh, or by you?
Pervez Musharraf: No, by me. I was consulting everyone.
Karan Thapar: Did you have the support of your critical corps commanders for this sort of an understanding?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, absolutely. I used to take everyone on board. I used to discuss all broad principles, what we are doing on everything, whether it was Siachen, Sir Creek or Kashmir.
Karan Thapar: Does that mean that Gen. Kayani, who at that time was the Director General of ISI, too was fully on board?
Pervez Musharraf: Of course! How could he not be on board?
Karan Thapar: What's your feeling, would he today stand behind and support the same agreement, the same principles?
Pervez Musharraf: I suppose so.
Karan Thapar: Why suppose so? Why are you not sure?
Pervez Musharraf: Because I cannot speak on his behalf. But I know that whatever we did, he was in knowledge of everything or whatever we were doing.
Karan Thapar: If suddenly today he were to not support what he had supported earlier, then that would be tantamount to a U-turn on his part, wouldn't it?
Pervez Musharraf: No, I would not like to comment on it. I would like to leave it to him to decide for himself.
Karan Thapar: Mr Kasuri has gone a step further. In February, he said to me that only did India and Pakistan on the back-channels have the agreements that you have now confirmed – and this is the first time any one in your position is confirming them, I want to underline that – but Mr Kasuri said that in addition India and Pakistan had also worked out how they would present these agreements to their respective people. He said: "we even privately discussed that neither side would proclaim victory because if you did that it would be destructive of the whole spirit of the agreement.”
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, I agree.
Karan Thapar: You had actually discussed how you would present this?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes. We did not get into the details of how it will be done but we did agree that we will present it in the best possible way as we deemed fit to our people so that they agree. We bring them on board and we must not start proclaiming victory on both sides because that becomes counter productive.
Karan Thapar: So neither side would score points off the other?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, yes.
Karan Thapar: And you believe that the Indians agreed to this?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, yes, absolutely. They had to because otherwise how do we move forward? I do not think it is possible.
Karan Thapar: Why then did a series of back-channel meetings – and I should for the sake of the audience point out that they lasted for two years and there were perhaps as many as twenty-four meetings in cities as diverse as London, Dubai or Bangkok – why did all of this not materialise and fructify?
Pervez Musharraf: The back-channels were not operative for just two years, they were held with Vajpayee. Even that time, the back-channels were going on. Much, much before two years.
Karan Thapar: So in a sense, did the back-channels begin because of the debacle at Agra where the two sides hoped to have an agreement and actually did not have any agreement at all?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: So the back-channel was a way of getting out of the Agra problem?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes.
Karan Thapar: But then why did all of this, which was so close to an agreement as you have said – and I believe in what you have said, I see no reason why I shouldn’t – not fructify in an agreement? What went wrong?
Pervez Musharraf: Well, I think the situation in Pakistan and the elections coming up in India.
Karan Thapar: The situation in Pakistan is your own domestic political problem?
Pervez Musharraf: Partially, yes and that is why we did not pursue it as strongly. Neither did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh show a desire to come and sign so that the agreement is finalised. I did not put any pressure on him to come to Pakistan. So it became dormant somehow. We got distracted.
Karan Thapar: You got distracted by your own domestic problems?
Pervez Musharraf: Well, to an extent, yes.
Karan Thapar: Is there still life in these agreements, is there still life in these understandings or is it now just water under the bridge?
Pervez Musharraf: There is no official exchange of documents, there are no official agreements which have been finalised and inked. So therefore I would say that again it depends on the leaders--we achieved a lot. There are people who know what we had achieved. We could go forward from there onwards. At the same time, leaders have to understand that there is a lot of give and take in the whole issue. It can't just be take and take.
Karan Thapar: I understand. There is a very important thing that you said. There are no official documents; this was just an understanding that you had reached on both sides.
If leaders on both sides have the spirit and are willing, they can revive this, they can take it forward. But equally, you are saying that if the leaders do not have that spirit, or are not willing, then these agreements would probably be forgotten and be finished.
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, of course, that's the position.
PAKISTAN’S EXISTENCE AND THE BATTLE AGAINST TALIBAN
Karan Thapar: Gen. Musharraf, let's turn to the situation inside Pakistan. In your assessment, to what extent does the threat from the Taliban undermine Pakistan's integrity and its unity?
Pervez Musharraf: I wouldn't say that it undermines Pakistan's integrity but it does cause a serious law and order problem and it is a nuisance to Pakistan. I don't think the integrity of Pakistan is threatened.
Karan Thapar: In a recent interview you said, and I am quoting: 'It puts our existence into jeopardy'. Today you are saying something quite different.
Pervez Musharraf: I don't think I ever said that, that it puts our existence into jeopardy.
Karan Thapar: To Najam Sethi in an interview to ‘Nai Duniya’.
Pervez Musharraf: No, I don't think I said that.
Karan Thapar: You genuinely said it, I promise you.
Pervez Musharraf: 'Puts our existence into jeopardy'? Well, I may have said it at that moment.
Karan Thapar: But you didn't mean it?
Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan's existence? The guarantor of Pakistan's existence is the armed forces of Pakistan. And they are the guarantors of Pakistan's territorial integrity. And I don't think anything can happen to Pakistan as long as Pakistan's armed forces are there.
Karan Thapar: Today, in your assessment, how strong is the Taliban? Both in terms of their popularity as well as in terms of their access to equipment?
Pervez Musharraf: Well, they are fairly strong because they have access to both money and arms coming from Afghanistan.
Karan Thapar: And what about their popularity? Are they gaining in popularity?
Pervez Musharraf: No, no I don't think so. They have lost in popularity because of whatever they have been doing and the army action now against them, the crackdown, the very strong action against them, is being supported by the population of Pakistan.
Karan Thapar: In April, General Petraeus speaking to the ‘New York Times’ said that the Taliban and al-Qaeda could “take down” Pakistan. A month later, the Pakistani scholar Ahmad Rashid writing in the Washington Post says “the Taliban has the potential to become a nation-wide movement within a few months”. So you disagree with that?
Pervez Musharraf: No, I don't think Ahmad Rashid knows much, very frankly. I don't agree with that at all.
Karan Thapar: And General Petraeus? The Taliban and Al Qaeda can “take down” Pakistan?
Pervez Musharraf: No I don't agree at all. The biggest disservice to Pakistan and the action against the Taliban and terrorists and al-Qaeda is when you undermine the ISI and the Pakistani army. As long as the ISI and the armed forces of Pakistan are there, nothing can go wrong in Pakistan.
Karan Thapar: So you are saying that as long as the armed forces are intact, there can be no threat to Pakistan from the Taliban or the al-Qaeda.
Pervez Musharraf: Absolutely not. Pakistan's integrity can never break up as long as the armed forces are there.
Karan Thapar: Are you also then saying to me that a lot of the concern in the West - particularly in America and Britain, and it's also shared by India - about the Taliban, about al-Qaeda is exaggerated and not justified?
Pervez Musharraf: It is very exaggerated. It appears as if they can take over Pakistan. How can they take over Pakistan? Either through force, which means they are going to defeat the Pakistani army, or politically, which means that they are going to win the next elections and topple the government. Both of these are absolutely not possible.
Karan Thapar: President Obama has come out with what he calls an Af-Pak strategy. Do you believe it is an adequate solution to the problem or do you believe it could end up exacerbating the problem?
Pervez Musharraf: I don't agree with this Af-Pak solution at all because we are being bracketed with Afghanistan. Afghanistan hardly has any governance, it is out of control. And also, I may add that there is an Indian connection there too in terrorism and extremism. There is extremism within India in the Muslim youth and it is developing linkages with others - the Kashmir issue too. Therefore if we want to finally deal with terrorism and extremism and solve it in its short-term and long-term perspective, we have to look at events in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am totally against this Af-Pak.
Karan Thapar: Are you suggesting that Af-Pak should be broadened to include Kashmir, maybe India as a whole?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, yes. Absolutely.
Karan Thapar: But then what would that do to the bilateral peace process between India and Pakistan? Wouldn't that shatter it?
Pervez Musharraf: We are talking about acting holistically against terrorism and extremism. Now if we were to only resolve Pakistan, Afghanistan and the borders and frontiers then it makes no sense because what you are talking about, these Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, they are all there because of Kashmir. And now they have sympathies with the Muslim youth because they think they are being alienated, they are under-privileged etc. So how does this get solved? As far as Pakistan is concerned, the same extremist organisations will have a lot to continue on the path that they are following. Therefore India has to be brought in. I am sorry to be saying this to you, but India has to be brought into the fold. I said this even when I went to India and I have been saying this in all my interviews. I don't mean to undermine India at all, but we have to take a holistic view of terrorism and extremism and solve it from the roots in the long-term perspective.
Karan Thapar: Isn't there a contradiction between what you said to me in part 2 of this interview and what you are saying to me now? In part 2 you were talking about the back-channels and the hope that if leaders are willing and if the spirit is there, these back-channels can be revived. Those were essentially bilateral understandings that would have led to solutions to problems between Delhi and Islamabad. Now you are talking about regionalizing or internationalizing the Kashmir problem by making it a part of Af-Pak.
Pervez Musharraf: The solution to Kashmir strikes at the root of extremism in our society. So if we solve the Kashmir dispute, we are contributing, very substantially, to a reduction of extremism in the Pakistani society.
Karan Thapar: But what I am pointing out is can you both hope to revive the back-channels that you talked about in detail and at the same time want to make Kashmir a part of Af-Pak?
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, why not? What is the problem in that?
Karan Thapar: One is bilateral, the other is multilateral.
Pervez Musharraf: I can talk of Kashmir and only Kashmir. The Af-Pak issue of dealing with terrorism and extremism is holistic and India needs to be brought into it. Why do organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad exist? How can we pull the carpet from under their feet? Basically they are there because of Kashmir and now also because of the situation with the Muslim minority in India. These things need to be resolved.
Karan Thapar: Can I clarify, what for many might just be confusing, which do you think is the preferential way of sorting out the Kashmir problem? By pursing the agreements which you thought you had on the back-channels - essentially bilateral talks - or by involving Kashmir and these issues as part of the Af-Pak policy and regionalizing them?
Pervez Musharraf: Bilateral is better. These are semantics. We are talking about strategies and what needs to be done. We have to resolve these, we have to bring India into the focus, what is happening to India and how is it creating negative effects in Pakistan. Now that happens to be Kashmir and also what is happening with the Muslim minorities. Now you are talking of detail and how we should deal with it. Well, if bilaterally we are making progress, let's leave it at that. I agree totally that bilaterally it would be better to resolve the dispute of Kashmir. My interest is that we have to resolve the Kashmir dispute, whether it is bilaterally, regionally, internationally - I don't care. Bilaterally is the best but if that fails, we should revert to what we were doing initially - internationalise the issue. Pakistan will have to go back to that trend. Then what will again happen in the future, I don't know.
Karan Thapar: So what you are really saying to Indian audiences and the Indian Government - who no doubt would be listening to you very, very carefully - is that if you had been in power in Pakistan today, you would have pursued the bilateral approach, you would have tried to revive the back-channel understandings, but if you found that there was no accommodating response from the Indian side, then you would have gone back to your original position of internationalising Kashmir and that would in a sense also have meant making it part of Obama's Af-Pak.
Pervez Musharraf: I think we are going into too many details. Certainly I have always stood for resolution of all disputes between India and Pakistan. Now, in that, the core dispute I have always said is Kashmir, and also Siachen and Sir Creek. Also, a water dispute is also coming up now unfortunately. These things should not be getting created. A solution is needed - whether bilateral or international. We were moving forward on the bilateral track, therefore I started moving along with it. There was a time when India used to say it believes in bilateralism, but whenever there was any bilateral discussion, Kashmir was an absolute no-go. So therefore Pakistan was left with no other choice but to internationalize the matter.
Karan Thapar: So what you are saying is that the bilateral approach being successful depends critically on India responding correctly and positively and if India does not respond positively, then the bilateral approach can't be pursued.
Pervez Musharraf: Yes, absolutely.