Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  
Front Page

'If Vajpayee, Musharraf bring peace, they will deserve Nobel'

If Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf succeed in settling the Kashmir issue and bring peace to the region, they will deserve the Nobel peace prize, a leading American columnist said Thursday.

"Shrewdness" on the Indian side and "desperation" in Pakistan have come together to produce a potential Nobel Peace Prize for "the two uncommon leaders," the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland wrote in his column.

On pressures on Musharraf, he said: "Unsuccessful error campaigns tend to consume themselves. Cutting off outside support and finance turns the bombers and killers against their onetime sponsors and then each other. Their movements split and suffocate -- if those who have resisted them know how to seize the moment to stop the conflict when it comes."

"Vajpayee acts as if the moment may finally have come to Kashmir. The Indian leader has inched his way steadily towards an accommodation with Pakistan by alternating threatening military moves and visions of mutual economic benefits built on peace," he said.

Hoagland quoted Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha as telling him during his Washington visit this week: "There has never been such promise and support for peace in both countries as there is now. I see a groundswell of support for peace" on both sides.

Sinha, he said, declined to speculate on why Pakistan suddenly dropped many demands that in the past blocked peace on Kashmir.

He stuck to the positive tone that Vajpayee and Musharraf adopted in Islamabad on January 5 when they agreed to pursue an agenda and timetable for formal talks.

Musharraf, said Hoagland, has impressed Indian officials by moving in recent weeks to rein in the interlocking network of terrorists, military and intelligence officials and nuclear scientists who have made Pakistan a centre of regional instability and of nuclear proliferation over the past two decades.

"New Delhi now practises something like a 'trust but verify' strategy (a Russian phrase which Reagan used to quote frequently while referring to the Soviet Union and which now Bush quotes on North Korea) towards Musharraf that the former General has finally earned."

Outside pressure or mediation from the US has had almost no immediate role in this "embryonic engagement" for the two countries, said Hoagland.

Washington's "lavish support for Musharraf, given without holding him to past promises to cut off cross-border terrorism and dismantle terrorist camps in Kashmir," said Hoagland, "in fact may have delayed this moment.

By so personalizing its economic and political support instead of designing it to help Pakistan return to democracy, the Bush Administration encouraged the general to play a balancing game as long as he could.

"But assassination attempts that rely on inside knowledge focus the mind in special ways. Two such attacks on the Pakistani leader's life seem to have convinced him that his most immediate threat does not come from New Delhi.

It comes from extremists in or near his own regime, who apparently gave terrorists the intelligence that enabled them to bomb Musharraf's convoy on December 14 and 25."