The notoriety Parvez Musharraf earned by starting the Kargil War will not go away with his death on 5 February at a hospital in Dubai.
This is primarily because of the barbaric, inhuman manner in which his troops mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers. This went against the soldier’s code, and will never be forgotten, or forgiven.
Nonetheless, now that he is no more, it makes more sense to analyse him, and what he sought to achieve as leader of Pakistan, since some of the wheels he set in motion continue to rotate in India even today.
These moves also find echo in numerous tweets by prominent Indian politicians and ‘experts’, who eulogised Musharraf in condolence, for trying to secure a peace with India.
Such efforts at rank virtue-signalling are flagrantly distasteful, not least because they gloss over the serial attacks on India during Musharraf’s tenure. They are also factually incorrect, since, at no point till he gave up power in 2008, did Musharraf end the state sponsorship of terrorism against India.
And yet, the glowing, heartfelt condolences flow. Their common root is an audacious attempt by Musharraf between 2004 and 2007, to win a momentous concession on Jammu and Kashmir from prime minister Manmohan Singh, which would have been disastrous for India.
This is colloquially called the ‘Manmohan-Musharraf four-point formula’, and refers to a series of opaque negotiations between India and Pakistan, on equally opaque terms, which have never been formally disclosed by either government.
All we have is a brief reference in Musharraf’s 2006 book, ‘In the line of fire’.
Essentially, the four points Musharraf proposed to Manmohan Singh involved:
One, both countries granting political autonomy just short of independence to Kashmir (interestingly, he hints that Ladakh, Jammu and Gilgit-Baltistan might not make it to the final map of a reunified Kashmir). Though not specifically listed in the book, but by implication, non-provincial subjects, like citizenship, currency, tourism, water-sharing, or foreign trade, would be managed by a body which included Pakistani, Kashmiri, and Indian representatives.
Two, a demilitarisation of this autonomous Kashmir (Pakistan’s primary goal right from the 1948 war, following which, Nehru allowed the matter to go to the United Nations).
Three, the dissolution of the LoC, the Line of Control, which is the current boundary between India and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India does not recognise this as an international border.
And, four, again by inference alone, free trade, and the movement of people, between this reunited Kashmir, Pakistan and India.
In all four points, Musharraf focuses repeatedly on Srinagar, Kashmir and Kashmiris. The Hindus of Jammu, the Buddhists of Ladakh, or the Shias and Ismailis of Gilgit-Baltistan appear to be of little value to him.
So, by this plan, India would effectively give up one state of the union plus land access to Ladakh, Aksai Chin, and the Siachen Glacier.
Pakistan would be gifted a marvellous new land route to China, its ‘Iron Brother’.
Our forward positions in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh would become isolated outposts imperilled from three sides. And our frontlines would be pushed south to the plains, to now lie on a line running broadly from Pathankot, through Chandigarh, to Haldwani.
The political and strategic losses of accepting such a proposal were incalculable. Yet, in spite of this, what is unbelievable is not that Musharraf would propose something like this, but, that the Congress government of Manmohan Singh actually decided to consider it.
Between 1999, when he unceremoniously booted out Nawaz Sharif in a coup d’état, and 2004, Musharraf’s overtures to India found little traction.
Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed to a few symbolic gestures, and even to a summit at Agra in 2001, which was doomed from the start, but he never seriously entertained any proposals which would have forced India to compromise on its national security or interests.
But the moment the Congress formed a coalition government in 2004, Musharraf knew that he was in with a chance, even if it was a long shot.
According to various reports, two senior Indian and Pakistani diplomats carried out a series of secret meetings from 2004 to 2007 in other countries, to see if they could arrive at some workable formula.
What’s most shocking about this push for peace is that the four-point proposal did not contain a single reference to the dismantling of Pakistan’s terror infrastructure.
It was as if that vital aspect would somehow magically vanish the day India unilaterally gave in to Musharraf’s outrageous demands.
Now, neither government has officially acknowledged these meetings, but word on the street at the time was, that these discussions were an exercise in futility, because they did not answer a very basic question asked by our military to the political leadership: bearing in mind the centrality of the Kashmir valley to India’s strategic planning, what was our ‘Plan B’ if we gave it up?
How on earth were our armed forces expected to tackle the threat posed by two large, inimical, nuclear-powered neighbours working in tandem, if we withdrew from the very regions which kept those threats at bay?
Obviously, there was no answer. So, the four points floated prettily in a delusional orbit of puppi-jhuppi and aman-ki-asha, to the immense delight of our doves, while Islamist terrorist attacks on civilians mounted across India.
In this period, there were at least a dozen major bombings and serial blasts in eight states, which killed hundreds of Indian citizens, and maimed many more.
The massive expansion of Islamist radicalisation in India, even as Indian diplomats were forced to follow Musharraf’s dreams, cannot be quantified.
And yet, even today, there are those of the Congress persuasion, who continue to believe that a modified version of Musharraf’s four-point formula is still the right route for India to achieve peace with Pakistan.
As Dr Happymon Jacob, associate professor of Diplomacy and Disarmament at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, writes in his 2020 monograph for an American think tank, while the four-point formula might not be an ideal basis for future talks to resolve the Kashmir problem, it remains the best available basis for India to engage with Pakistan.
One can’t even laugh at such dangerous beliefs, because the political, military, and strategic ramifications of their incorporation into our foreign policy thinking, even if only in part, are too horrendous to contemplate.
The irony is that Musharraf floated his four-point balloon knowing full well that it would never work.
Having shot his bolt at the Agra Summit of 2001, hemmed in by America’s war on terror in Afghanistan, and India’s aggressive military mobilisation following the terrorist attacks on our parliament complex in December 2001, the Lok Sabha election results of 2004 were a godsend which bought him some desperately needed breathing space.
His arrow in the dark hit its mark in the usual corners of India.
Kargil was an audacious move, required by Musharraf to cement his power base, but everything else which followed, including simultaneously playing the Americans, the Indians, the Afghans, and Al Qaeda against the middle, was based on a recklessness born of desperation.
It is a wonder he survived at the top for so long.
Thus, the ghost of Musharraf lives on, not in Dubai where he died in exile, nor in the Pakistan his parents took him to as a child, but in certain academic and political circles of the Delhi of his birth.
May his soul find solace in that, even if India doesn’t.
Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!