Stakes High for Musharraf in Historic India-Pakistan Summit

July 7, 2008 - 7:09 PM

New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - An upcoming weekend summit between nuclear neighbors Pakistan and India is considered a high-stakes event for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, analysts said on Wednesday.

"The failed summit would be more damaging to Musharraf, compounding his poor international standing," according to the Henry L. Stimson Center, a leading American think tank.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf are scheduled to hold talks in the Taj Mahal town of Agra on Sunday. Musharraf would begin a three-day visit to New Delhi on Saturday, July 14.

Kashmir on the agenda

"We are prepared to discuss all the issues," Indian foreign office spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said.

"The prime minister's invitation (to Musharraf) amply outlines India's desire to address the core concerns of people of both countries and we will address all the issues, which will include Kashmir," Rao said.

The discussions will be based on the broad framework of a "composite dialogue which sets the tone for future direction," Rao said. He said trade and commerce were part of the issues India was willing to negotiate.

Pakistan, however, insists that the dispute over Kashmir -- the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan -- is the "core" issue that needs to be addressed before all others.

India argues that confidence-building measures and ways of reducing nuclear tensions should be equally as high on the agenda.

The American think tank said Vajpayee "has clarified his intentions by his surprise invitation for summit. But what about Musharraf? This is the key question overhanging this summit. Is he now ready to chart a new course for Pakistan's betterment, and if so, can he deliver?"

According to the Stimson Center, "Dynamic Pakistani generals who take over the responsibilities of governance usually shy away from subsequent risk-taking, having no domestic mandate to pursue major course corrections".

"Will Musharraf be any different in this regard?" it asked, and answered, "We shall certainly know at least a little -- and perhaps a great deal more -- about the answer to this question at Agra."

The Stimson Center said Musharraf and his fellow senior officers "are now well acquainted with the dreadful state of Pakistan's economy, and the grave consequences this has for their country's future, as well as for the modernization of Pakistan's armed forces."

"The solutions to these ills cannot be found in continued, deep enmity with India or in association with militant groups."

The Stimson Center observed that cross-border infrastructure projects have the potential to be of mutual economic benefit, while also improving prospects for regional security.

It noted that the gas pipeline project running from Iran through Pakistan, terminating in India's energy-hungry western states, could benefit the economic growth of all parties, as long as all act responsibly.

Large sums of money needed from the international community to make the pipeline a reality were unlikely to be forthcoming without "meaningful guarantees" of responsible behavior.

The Stimson Center said it hoped the Bush administration would support the project, unlike the previous Clinton administration, which strongly opposed the pipeline.

"If economic projects mandate co-operation and improve the health of national economies in regions of nuclear danger, they deserve US support," it said.

It also hoped the summit would address the issue of nuclear risk reduction and warned that "the early stages of nuclear competition are always the most dangerous".

"The Agra summit gives both leaders an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to reduce the dark shadow cast by weapons of mass destruction over the subcontinent," the Stimson Center said.

Indian defense analyst General V.P. Malik said, "As a military ruler who supervised the last military takeover and benefited from it, Musharraf's stakes are not only national, but also personal. They are very high indeed."

"What we can expect at the summit are not solutions, but confidence-building measures that will bring down the temperature and allow more meetings and dialogue. These CBMs should be political, economic, social and, most importantly, military, which will prevent another conflict at any level -- sub-conventional, conventional or nuclear."

Musharraf masterminded the armed conflict in mountainous Himalayan terrain of Kargil in 1999. The two neighbors have fought thrice since Independence in 1947.