Explained: General Pervez Musharraf's chequered history with India

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Deven Kanal February 06, 2023 17:00:33 IST
Explained: General Pervez Musharraf's chequered history with India

File image of Pervez Musharraf . AP

General Pervez Musharraf, who passed away in Dubai on Sunday, leaves behind a contentious and complicated relationship with India.

Born in undivided India, Musharraf’s family migrated to Pakistan after the Partition in 1947.

Musharraf seized power in a 1999 military coup and served as Pakistani president from 2001-2008.

Let’s take a look back at his chequered history with India:

Musharraf was born at a civic hospital in Delhi in 1943.

Ties to India

His family was middle class and his parents were Urdu-speaking Mohajirs.

His family shifted from their Nehar Wali Haveli in old Delhi to Karachi during Partition.

As per The  Times of India, the property was purchased by Musharraf’s grandfather Qazi Mohtashimuddin after his retirement as Punjab’s commissioner. It is now in ruins.

Musharraf went to Lahore’s Forman Christian College.

In 1961, Musharraf joined the Pakistan Army.

Explained General Pervez Musharrafs chequered history with India

Parvez Musharraf, 79, died on Sunday in Dubai from an incurable disease. File image/PTI

According to his autobiography Line of Fire, Musharraf had discipline problems in the army – his file marked with many red entries on several occasions.

He commanded artillery in the Mangla and Multan Corps.

Fighting against India

Musharraf fought in both the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars, the former as a second lieutenant and the latter as a company commander, as per The Times of India.

In 1990, Musharraf, then a brigadier in the Pakistan Army, attended London’s prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies.

As per FPJ, his classmates at the time included Major-generals BS Malik and Ashok Mehta of the Indian Army.

According to the report, he’d often outshine his classmates when it came to his studies.

Musharraf in his Master’s Degree thesis Impact of Arms Race in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent outlined three major reasons for Pakistan and India’s unending conflict – Hatred, Kashmir, and water.

As per India Today, Musharraf in his thesis noted that the hatred was ‘visceral’ and claimed Pakistan needed control over Jammu and Kashmir because its water flowed through it.

As per The Guardian, the thesis ended with an impassioned plea for the countries to settle their disputes, reduce military troop levels and increase spending to fight poverty.

The thesis earned him acclaim from Commandant General Sir Antony Walker, who called Musharraf one of his ‘finest’ students, as per FPJ.

However, Musharraf did not pay heed to his own thesis in 1998 when he was picked by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be Pakistan Army chief.

At the time superseding two of his seniors, Musharraf in his earliest interviews said he wanted to find a solution for the Kashmir problem “once and for all”, as per Rediff.

In 1999, Musharraf masterminded the Kargil conflict – seemingly behind the back of his ostensible s boss Sharif back – India and Pakistan’s most serious military engagement since 1971, which brought the two nuclear nations to the brink of war.

In Rediff interview years later, General VP Malik, who was Chief of Staff of the Indian Army at the time of Kargil, pointed to the failed Siachen operations Musharraf was involved in, as well as other actions he was involved in that failed, as the reason Musharraf conducted the Kargil operation.

While the Kargil operation itself was a bust – and began the beginning of the end for the Musharraf-Sharif relationship after the then prime minister agreed to withdraw forces after being pressured by Bill Clinton – what it did was internationalise the issue.

As Malik stated told Rediff, “What internationalized it even more was the nuclear hype around the conflict. The hype was more on their side. We never made any statements on using nuclear weapons. But on the other hand it helped reinforce the Line of Control. LoC is now becoming sanctimonious, a permanent border.”

Musharraf and his army also were suspected of having a hand in the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in 1999, as per BBC.

In October 1999, Musharraf deposed Sharif in a bloodless coup.

In July 2001, Musharraf declared himself as the president of Pakistan after the incumbent Mohammad Rafiq Tarar resigned.

Musharraf thus became the tenth president of Pakistan.

Ups and downs with India

After the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, Musharraf offered his condolences to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and relief supplies to India.

In his memoir, Musharraf claimed “that broke the ice and led to an invitation for meeting to visit India”, as per BBC.

But then Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said it was LK Advani who brought up  the idea of inviting Musharraf as an “act of statesmanship” by Vajpayee.

As president of Pakistan, Musharraf made two visits to India.

In July 2001, Musharraf travelled to India for the first time as president and met Vajpayee in the historic Agra summit. The summit collapsed after two days as both sides were unable to reach an agreement on Jammu and Kashmir.

However, as per Hindustan Times, Musharraf during the trip took the opportunity to visit his ancestral property in Daryaganj and speak to his ‘friends and neighbours’.

Musharraf on his trip also visited the Taj Mahal.

Explained General Pervez Musharrafs chequered history with India

Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf and his wife visiting the Taj Mahal in 2001. AFP

So impressed was Musharraf with the architectural wonder that the first question he asked on seeing the monument was ‘who designed it?’

That, according to noted archaeologist KK Muhammed, superintending archaeologist of the Agra circle in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2001.

In December 2001, just months after the Agra summit, the Indian Parliament was attacked by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.

The attack, which left 14 dead, led to a massing of India’s and Pakistan’s militaries along the border and the Line of Control.

In March 2002, an-under pressure Musharraf vowed that Pakistan will combat extremism on its own soil, but continued to claim that the country has a right to Kashmir.

The stand-off between India and Pakistan continued till October 2002.

In September 2003, Musharraf called for a ceasefire along the LoC during a UN General Assembly meeting. India and Pakistan later reached an agreement to cool tensions and cease hostilities across the border.

In January 2004,  Vajpayee and Musharraf held direct talks at the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad. Later that year, two countries’ foreign secretaries met.

This marked the beginning of the Composite Dialogue Process, in which bilateral meetings were held between officials at various levels of government (including foreign ministers, foreign secretaries, military officers, border security officials, anti-narcotics officials and nuclear experts).

In 2005, Musharraf made another trip to India.

On this three-day visit, Musharraf was gifted his birth certificate by then prime minister Manmohan Singh.

A retired senior civic official told ANI birth and death records were kept manually in the 1940s and even in the 2000s.

“It must not have been an easy job to look for the birth certificate of the 1940s after over 60 years,” the official said.

Musharraf also went to Ajmer Sharif during his 2005 India visit and paid obeisance at the Dargah of the famous Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti.

In July 2006, India-Pakistan relations received a fresh setback with the terror attacks and bombings on Mumbai’s local trains leaving over 200 dead.

In September 2006, Musharraf and Singh agreed to set up an India-Pakistan institutional anti-terrorism mechanism.

However, the summit would meet only once in Islamabad in March 2017, as per Indian Express.

Musharraf resigned in August 2008 after facing threat of impeachment.

Months later, India-Pakistan relations reached perhaps its nadir in recent history after the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai.

Musharraf visited India only once more in 2009.

Disputed legacy, say experts

Writing in The Print, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani called Musharraf a ‘man of paradoxes’.

“He said and did some right things, but could not always translate his rational-sounding pronouncements into policy. The contradiction between Musharraf’s avowed goals and the reality that he presided over confused some and frustrated others,” Haqqani wrote.

History will probably view him as a Pakistani patriot, limited by prejudices inculcated in the country’s military officer class, Haqqani added.

Former Indian high commissioners to Pakistan G Parthasarathy and TCA Raghavan described Musharraf’s legacy as “disputed” and said he realised after the disastrous Kargil conflict that nothing would change in Pakistan if it does not have good relations with India.

Raghavan said a phase of better relations between India and Pakistan began in 2004 with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the helm and it continued under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure until the terror attack in Mumbai in November 2008.

Asked about former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s claim in his book ‘Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove’ that India and Pakistan were close to finding a solution to the vexed Kashmir problem during the 2001 Agra Summit between Vajpayee and Musharraf, Raghavan said there was some truth in it.

“His tenure saw both the highs and lows in India-Pakistan relations,” he told PTI.

“Musharraf was the architect of the Kargil war, but thereafter he also realised that he needed to have good relations with India and made good progress in this regard, particularly with the softening of the LOC (Line of Control) and the beginnings of the cross-LoC movement of people and trade. So it’s a twin kind of a legacy,” he said.

“After he became president, I think, he realised that for stability in Pakistan, it needed to have a better relationship with India. Kargil, he planned it when he was the Chief of Army Staff. But thereafter, he realised that unless he has more stability in relations with India, nothing would change in Pakistan itself,” Raghavan said.

“I think his is going to be a disputed legacy,” he said.

Ambassador Parthasarathy too agreed with Raghavan’s analysis of Musharraf’s legacy.

“I personally knew Musharraf when I was the high commissioner. He was the man behind the Kargil conflict and he really believed that he would succeed in taking control of the entire mountainous areas in Kargil and affect our lines of communication.

“The Indian Army responded to it in a very strong manner which resulted in a disaster for him,” he recalled.

Explained General Pervez Musharrafs chequered history with India

Pervez Musharraf speaks in a televised address to the nation in Islamabad August 2008. Reuters

“Musharraf got a bad name at home because of the botched-up operation which was really his doing. There was some doubt about whether the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was fully aware of what was happening,” Parthasarathy told PTI.

The former Indian envoy to Pakistan suggested that the pressure felt by Musharraf led to the coup.

Musharraf seized power in the coup in October 1999, ousting the then prime minister Sharif, that had also triggered some concerns in India.

“And interestingly, he (after seizing power) found that hostility towards India is not working. We did have long discussions with him on Jammu and Kashmir on the back channel which showed some progress,” Parthasarathy said.

Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Subrata Saha, referring to the Kargil war, said Musharraf “walked on thin ice” and “paid the price” too by losing his stature within Pakistan itself.

“Quite erratic, he first disrupted the Lahore declaration by possibly surprising even PM Nawaz Sharif by waging the Kargil war. In 2001, he disappointed PM Vajpayee’s overtures for peace by breaking down the Agra peace talks,” he said.

“This was followed by the attack on India’s parliament in December 2001. Later during PM Manmohan Singh’s time, he made much hype about the four-point formula. There were too many sharp ups and downs in Musharraf’s strategic cond conduct and the inconsistencies made it impossible for India to trust the person,” he told PTI.

He attempted a comeback in 2012 which failed after he was arrested and put under house arrest.

A 2013 plan to return to power was dashed when he was disqualified from running in an election won by Sharif, whom he had deposed in 1999.

That was the end for Musharraf’s political ambitions.

In March 2014, Musharraf was indicted for suspending the Constitution on November 3, 2007.

In December 2019, a special court handed Musharraf a death sentence in the high treason case against him. However, a court later nullified the ruling.

The former military ruler left the country in March 2016 for Dubai to seek medical treatment when Pakistan’s Supreme Court lifted a travel ban on him to seek medical treatment.

Musharraf had been living in Dubai since.

With inputs from agencies

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