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Book makes waves in India

September 26, 2006

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NEW DELHI, Sept 25: President Pervez Musharraf’s autobiographical book, released in New York on Monday, is making waves in India, inviting lacerating rebuttals and sceptical previews on Kargil and other controversial issues, but former army chief V.P. Malik was emphatic that it should not be banned.

Several Indian media outfits were flashing the hardback copy of In the Line of Fire’on Monday, after it was scooped by The Hindu on Saturday. In the melee that followed, inconsequential printer’s devil too, like ‘Islambad’ instead of ‘Islamabad’ as dateline in the preface, became a topic for discussion.

A Hindi version of the book titled ‘Agnipath’ after an Indian movie featuring Amitabh Bachchan, has been delayed by a couple of days. Even this has become subject of speculation, with some anchors claiming that the Indian prime minister’s office had somehow got involved.

Former army chief V.P. Malik, who supervised India’s response in the mid-1999 Kargil standoff, rejected Gen Musharraf’s claim in the book on how the conflict began, but said the book should not be banned.

Gen Musharraf had surprised the Indian army in the run up to the conflict, Gen Malik said in a TV discussion. “Now he has surprised us again with a new preposterous allegation that we were about to attack (across the LOC).”

Former Indian national security advisor Brajesh Mishra was quoted as saying it was ‘a tissue of lies’ for Gen Musharraf to claim that Indian manoeuvres were responsible for the Kargil conflict.

The Hindu carried excerpts from a chapter devoted to ‘out of the box’ solution to the Kashmir dispute. The solution has four key elements, which he presents in his 368-page book.

The first element is identification of the geographic regions of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir that need resolution.

This means specifically addressing the question whether all five regions or ‘provinces’ — the Northern Areas and ‘Azad Kashmir’ comprising the Pakistan part and Jammu, Srinagar, and Ladakh in the Indian part — are “on the table for discussion or are there ethnic, political and strategic considerations dictating some give and take.”

The Hindu said the second component of the Musharraf solution is demilitarisation of “this identified region or regions” and curbing “all militant parts of the freedom struggle.” This would give “comfort to the Kashmiris who are fed up with fighting and killing on both sides.”

The third is the introduction of “self-governance or self-rule in the identified regions.” This would enable Kashmiris to “have the satisfaction of running their own affairs without having an international character and remaining short of independence.”

The fourth element is setting up “a joint mechanism with a membership of Pakistanis, Indians and Kashmiris overseeing the self-governance and dealing with residual subjects common to all identified regions and those subjects that are beyond the scope of self-governance.”

It quotes Gen Musharraf as saying: “I have myself spent hours on many a day pondering over a possible ‘out of the box’ solution…The idea that I have evolved which ought to satisfy Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris involves a partial stepping back by all.” He clarifies that “the idea is purely personal and would need refinement and selling to the public by all involved parties for acceptance as a via media.”