Before 9/11 my focus was mainly on internal consolidation and socioeconomic uplift. But 9/11 changed the world. It became so very violent. Suicide bombings became commonplace. I never favored the invasion of Iraq, because I feared it would exacerbate extremism, as it has most certainly done. The world is not a safer place because of the war in Iraq; the world has become far more dangerous. With westerners arguing about a possible “clash of civilizations,” is it any wonder that some Muslims fear a new age of the crusades?
I have given considerable thought to the present violence in Pakistan, the unstable conditions in our region, the destabilized condition of the Muslim world, and the violence around the world. Most unfortunately, all the violence is centered on the Muslims. These thoughts haunt me frequently.
The idea of “enlightened moderation” dawned on me in my study one night when I was meditating on all this. To stop violence, we need a global solution. The turmoil in the Muslim world arises primarily because of unresolved, long-standing political disputes that have created a sense of injustice, alienation, deprivation, powerlessness, and hopelessness in the masses. This situation is aggravated by the fact that by any measure, the Muslim countries have the least healthy social conditions in the world. Political deprivation, combined with poverty and illiteracy, has created an explosive brew of extremism and terrorism. Muslim societies must shun terrorism and extremism ifthey ever hope for emancipation and a release from these conditions. But at the same time their demand for a just resolution of certain political disputes must also be addressed.
Enlightened moderation is a two-pronged strategy that I sincerely believe is also a win-win strategy. One prong, to be the responsibility of the Muslim world, is the rejection of terrorism and extremism in order to concentrate fully on internal socioeconomic development. The other prong, to be the responsibility of the West in general and the United States in particular, is to put their full weight behind finding a just resolution of all political disputes afflicting Muslim societies. Justice for Muslims around the world must not only be done, but seen to be done. The Palestinian dispute lies at the core of international turmoil, as does the nuclear flashpoint of Kashmir, which needs urgent resolution if there is to be permanent peace in south Asia.
I have tried my utmost to promote this idea around the world. While many people have responded positively, actual progress has been slow in coming. My diplomatic efforts continue on two fronts. First, I am urging the world’s powers to exert the maximum pressure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the dispute over Kashmir. I believe both are ripe for a final resolution. Second, I am trying to move the Islamic world forward toward the implementation of as much of its prong as possible, even before the United States and the West produce tangible, just results in their prong. If we all agreed-the western and Muslim governments-this could become a coordinated pincer movement, instead of merely two prongs that either side may or may not implement or for which either side may do its part in its own good time and at its own pace.
I am very glad, and proud, that my proposals for enlightened moderation were adopted at the Islamic Summit of 2004 in Malaysia. This summit also rejected terrorism and extremism. My idea of restructuring the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to make it potent and dynamic enough to redress our collective socioeconomic problems was also adopted. Accordingly, a group of “eminent persons” nominated from nine member countries worked on restructuring the OIC. Further, at the Special Ka’aba Summit in Mecca in December 2005, this team was given the task of redoing the charter of the OIC. Thus the second prong is definitely progressing, however slowly. It is the pace of progress on the first prong that worries me, because the moment for resolving disputes is on us. If all concerned do not seize it now, the moment will pass and a great opportunity to bring peace and harmony
to the world will have been lost-a loss for which neither God nor history wi11 forgive us.
Some detractors misunderstand and misquote the essence of enlightened moderation, criticizing it as a flawed interpretation of traditional Islamic thought. It certainly is not. I have no pretensions to being an Islamic scholar, but I am a Muslim and I understand in my soul the essence and spirit of Islam even if I am not, intellectually, entirely familiar with its minutiae. (But then, who is?) In any case, enlightened moderation has nothing to do with Islam and its teachings. It has more to do with Muslims and their emancipation.
Peace in south Asia is crucial to pursuing the cause of peace in the world, including and especially the Islamic world. I have taken what can justifiably be called bold steps toward a rapprochement with India. The Indo-Pakistan dispute is a hindrance to socioeconomic cooperation and development in south Asia. As someone has aptly remarked, “When two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.” I have thought very deeply about our hostile relationship over the past half century and more: our wars, Siachen, Kargil, and the struggle for freedom in Indian-held Kashmir. The collective effect of all these military actions has been to force both sides back to the negotiating table-but from this point forward, military actions can do no more. There is no military solution to our problems. The way forward is through diplomacy. I believe India has also realized that it can no longer use military coercion against Pakistan. As early as 2001, I believed the time had come to turn over a new leaf
I saw the first opportunity for a thaw when India suffered a massive earthquake in Gujrat in early 2001. I telephoned Prime Minister Vajpayee to offer my sympathy, and Pakistan sent relief goods, including medicines. This broke the ice and led to an invitation for me to visit India. I landed in Delhi on July 14, 2001.
I generally perceived the mood in India to be upbeat. Wherever Sehba and I went, there was a strong show of warmth and affection, be it among the hotel employees we encountered, the officials we met, or the ordinary Indians and the several families now living in my ancestral home, Nehar Wall Haveli. There was a discernible air of expectancy. We reciprocated with equal warmth. I had gone to India with an open mind and in a spirit of optimism and accommodation.
After all the protocol and pleasantries on our arrival in Delhi on July 15, 2001, were over, Prime Minister Vajpayee met me in the historic city of Agra the next day. Agra is the site of the Taj Mahal, the famous Mughal monument to love, one of the wonders of the world because of its perfect symmetry and ethereal beauty. We began our formal dialogue on the morning of July 16, 2001. at followed was initially quite encouraging, but ended on a disappointing note. During two pro-longed interactions, before and after lunch, initially one-on-one but then joined by our respective foreign ministers, we drafted a joint declaration. This declaration contained a condemnation of terrorism and recognition that the dispute over Kashmir needed resolution in order to improve bilateral relations. The draft, I thought, was very well worded: balanced and acceptable to both of us. The signing ceremony was scheduled for the afternoon in the Hotel J. P. Palace where Prime Minister Vajpayee was staying and where we had held our dialogue. Preparations in the hotel were complete, down to the table and two chairs where we would sit for the signing ceremony. The hotel staff and all the delegates were truly exuberant.
I took leave of the prime minster to return to Hotel Amar Vilas, where we were staying, to change into my traditional shalwar kameez. After the signing ceremony I planned to pay a visit to the shrine of a highly revered Sufi saint in Ajmer Sharif. I found the hotel staff at the Amar Vilas equally cheerful and happy. We were approaching the climax of our visit. Instead, it was an anticlimax, when after barely an hour my foreign minster and foreign secretary informed me that the Indians had backed out. I could not believe my ears. “How could that be? Why?” I asked.
“The cabinet has rejected it, sir,” was the answer.
“Which cabinet?” I asked. “There is no cabinet in Agra.” I became very angry, and my impulse was to leave for Islamabad immediately. The two diplomats cooled me down, asking for some time to try a redraft. I allowed it, and reluctantly canceled my evening visit to Ajmer Sharif.
guage was different. They returned to the other hotel to make fair copies of the draft. I assured my wife, saying that the “Agra declaration” would hit the headlines the next day.
Yet this too was not to be. Just as I was about to leave for the signing ceremony I received a message that the Indians had backed out again. This was preposterous. I decided to leave immediately, but my foreign minister now persuaded me to call on Prime Minister Vajpayee before leaving. I consented to fulfill this diplomatic protocol, though much against my wishes. At the same time I sent word to the media that I would hold a press conference at the hotel. I later found that this was disallowed. No one from the media was allowed to enter either Vajpayee’s hotel or mine. So much for freedom of expression in “the largest democracy in the world.”
I met Prime Minister Vajpayee at about eleven o’clock that night in an extremely somber mood. I told him bluntly that there seemed to be someone above the two of us who had the power to overrule us. I also said that today both of us had been humiliated. He just sat there, speechless. I left abruptly, after thanking him in a brisk manner.
There is the man and there is the moment. When man and moment meet history is made. Vajpayee failed to grasp the moment and lost his moment in history. As my wife and I left, we could clearly see dismay and despondency on the faces of the hotel staff. When our car took the turn on the road just outside the hotel, I was surprised to see hundreds of media people lining both sides of the road, restrained by baton-wielding policemen. We went through this crowd for about 200 yards (180 meters), as flashbulbs went off continuously to capture my mood, which was anything but normal. This sad and ridiculous episode ended our first attempt toward normalization of relations.
We went through a period of extreme tension throughout 2002, when Indian troops amassed on our borders during a hair-trigger, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. We responded by moving all our forces forward. The standoff lasted ten months. Then the Indians blinked and quite ignominiously agreed to a mutual withdrawal of forces.
I tried another diplomatic maneuver at the Kathmandu South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Nepal, in January 2002. All of the region’s leaders were seated behind a long table on a stage, taking their turn to make speeches. As I finished my speech, and on the spur of the moment, I moved to the front of the table, con-fronting Prime Minister Vajpayee head-on, and extended my hand for a handshake. He was left with no choice but to stand and accept it. A loud gasp of awe (and I daresay admiration) went through the hall, full of stuffy officialdom, that the prime minister of “the largest democracy in the world” had been upstaged. But upstaging him was not my intention at all; unlocking the impasse that had developed at Agra was. I was pleased when this handshake had the desired effect. Prime Minister Vajpayee decided to visit Pakistan for the SAARC Summit in January 2004. We had a happy meeting and this time agreed on a written joint agreement, which has now come to be known as the Islamabad Declaration. We also decided to move the peace process forward through a “composite dialogue,” which includes the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.
Again, however, it was not to be. Before the composite dialogue could gain momentum, there were early elections in India and Prime Minister Vajpayee’s party, the Bharatia Janata Party (BJP), lost. A new coalition government was formed by Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party, with not her but Manmohan Singh as prime minister. That changed the entire scenario of the peace process. I wished we had not lost this opportunity, one year after Agra.
I put out diplomatic feelers with congratulatory telephone calls to the new prime minister and to Sonia Gandhi. I felt they were received very positively. I also thought it appropriate to telephone Vajpayee to urge him to continue supporting the peace process, which we had initiated, even from the opposition benches. He promised to do so.
I had my first meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the UN Summit in New York when he called on me at my hotel on September 24, 2004. It was an extremely pleasant encounter. I found the prime minister to be a very positive and genuine person with a desire to resolve disputes with Pakistan and establish good relations with us. Our joint statement after the meeting reflected a common desire to take the peace process forward.
My next meeting with Manmohan Singh occured when the Pakistani cricket team toured India and he invited me to one of the games. I accepted the invitation and went to a one-day match in Delhi on April 18, 2005. I traveled via Ajmer Sharif-the visit that I had missed after the Agra summit. This, I thought, was an auspicious beginning.
April 18, 2005, began with the cricket match. Unfortunately for my hosts, the match turned out to be an embarrassment for India because one of Pakistan’s star batsmen, Shahid Afridi, clobbered virtually every ball that the Indians bowled at him. Many of his hits headed straight for our VIP enclosure. Like any normal cricket fan I wanted to jump out of my seat shouting and clapping, but I had to control my enthusiasm in deference to my hosts. Before the match was over, we left for our discussions. It goes without saying that I was dying to get back to the exciting match. So during our official one-,on-one meeting I suggested to the prime minister that we go back to see the last hour of the match and also distribute the prizes. I made him agree in spite of his concerns about security. But then, as the meeting continued, my staff kept sending in notes informing me about the collapse of the Indian team when its turn came to bat. India’s entire team got out long before the end of the game. Tightly repressing any outward signs of my inner joy, I had to inform Manmohan Singh that the Indian team’s batting had been wasted and there was no point in another visit to the stadium. “Boys will be boys,” some might say, but they obviously don’t know cricket, or the importance of a match between Pakistan and India.
Still, our one-on-one dialogue was most productive. We discussed Kashmir in depth. We both agreed that we had to resolve the dispute and that we needed to find a solution “outside the box.” The prime minister did say that he could not agree to any redrawing of borders, while I said I could not agree to accepting the Line of Control as permanent. We had to find a solution satisfactory to both sides, and to the people of Kashmir especially. This meeting ended in a very positive joint declaration, which the prime minister read out to a gathering of the media. We decided to carry forward the peace process with all sincerity.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited me to dinner at his hotel in New York on September 14, 2005, during the UN General Assembly. The occasion started on a down note, with the Indians very upset at the tenor of my speech to the General Assembly. I thought they were being unnecessarily sensitive. The dialogue heated up quite a bit, perhaps because of my military gruffness, but our respective foreign ministers soon cooled the situation down. Dinner was served after about three hours of discussion, still in a tense atmosphere. The atmosphere improved after dinner, however, and we did manage to draft a bland joint statement. The media were fast to pick up the tense mood of the opposing sides and concluded that the meeting had not gone very smoothly. Still, I invited Manmohan Singh to Pakistan and he accepted readily. As I write this in June 2006, we are still awaiting his visit. The Indian cricket team toured Pakistan in early 2006. This gave India’s prime minister an opening but he didn’t take apparently because Indian officialdom felt that our discussions were far too serious to be mixed with something as “frivolous” as cricket. As it turned out, India won four out of five one-day international games. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have attended one of the games that India won, and we would have been even! Such intricate diplomacy with India has produced results. Our bilateral relations are better than they ever were. I have said repeatedly that the time for conflict management has passed and the time for conflict resolution has come-and come urgently, because such moments do not occur often or last long. We are moving on two parallel tracks: one track is confidence-building measures (CBMs), and the second is conflict resolution. My preference has always been to move along them simultaneously; but the Indians, it seems, want to move quickly on CBMs while only crawling forward on conflict resolution.
The initial signs of sincerity and flexibility that I sensed in Manmohan Singh seem to be withering away. I think the Indian establishment-the bureaucrats, diplomats, and intelligence agencies and perhaps even the military-has gotten the better of him. I feel that if a leader is to break away from hackneyed ideas and frozen positions, he has to be bold. He has to dominate the establishment, rather than letting it dictate to him. I am still waiting for Manmohan Singh’s “outside the box” solution. In the meantime, I have initiated many new ideas. We await responses or any counter ideas to solve the dispute over Kashmir, without which I strongly believe permanent peace in the region will remain elusive.
I have myself spent hours on many a day pondering a possible “out-side 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. The idea has four elements and can be summarized as follows:
First, identify the geographic regions of Kashmir that need resolution. At present the Pakistani part is divided into two regions: Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir. The Indian part is divided into three regions: Jammu, Srinagar, and Ladakh. Are all these on the table for discussion, or are there ethnic, political, and strategic considerations dictating some give and take?
Second, demilitarize the identified region or regions and curb all militant aspects of the struggle for freedom. This will give comfort to the Kashmiris, who are fed up with the fighting and killing on both sides.
Third, introduce self-governance or self-rule in the identified region or regions. Let the Kashmiris have the satisfaction of running their own affairs without having an international character and remaining short of independence.
Fourth, and most important, have a joint management mechanism with a membership consisting of Pakistanis, Indians, and Kashmiris overseeing self-governance and dealing with residual subjects common to all identified regions and those subjects that are beyond the scope of self-governance.
This idea is purely personal and would need refinement. It would also need to be sold to the public by all involved parties for acceptance.
Let me now say a few words about Afghanistan, another of our neighbors, and another source of tension in the region and around the world. Landlocked Afghanistan is dependent on Pakistan for access to the world. The Central Asian Republics (CARs) are also looking to the world for trade and commercial activity. This whole region will gain economically if Afghanistan stabilizes and allows free transit for trade and commerce through its territory. Pakistan would be a major beneficiary because all trade into or out of Afghanistan and beyond to the CARS would be dependent on Pakistan’s outlets and inlets-its roads, railways, and seaports.
I am convinced that a peaceful, sovereign, integrated Afghanistan is in the interests of Pakistan, our region, and indeed the whole world. We therefore wholeheartedly support the Bonn Process and are in favor of massive reconstruction in Afghanistan. We support President Hamid Karzai and his policies for bringing peace and a democratic dispensation to his war-ravaged country. Our combined fight against terrorism and extremism has to be fought with full vigor, perfect coordination, and complete cooperation.
Historically, Pakistan has always championed the Arab and Palestinian cause. Our stand against Israel has been confrontational. Interaction with Jews or the Jewish state has been taboo. We have been more pious than the pope on the subject of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, given that we are not Arab and that quite a few other Muslim countries, including Arab countries, have recognized Israel, at least to some degree.
I have always wondered what we stand to gain by this policy. It is a given that Israel, besides being the staunchest ally of the United States, has a very potent Jewish lobby there that could wield influence against Pakistan’s interest. Moreover, if the intention is to strengthen and pro-mote Palestinian rights, I thought more could be contributed through joining the dialogue rather than remaining on the sidelines. The change that has occurred in the political realities of the Middle East and the world after the end of the Cold War, and after 9/11, suggested to me that it was time to reconsider our policy toward Israel. I am aware of the sensitivity of this issue, domestically and in the Arab world, and I realize that we must tread carefully.
I tested the domestic ground first, by giving a careful statement that if Israel moved forward toward the creation of a viable state of Palestine-a state acceptable to the Palestinians-then Pakistan would reconsider its diplomatic stance toward Israel. As I expected, the media and the intelligentsia reacted very positively, whereas the man in the street could not have cared less. I was then approached by some representatives of the American Jewish community led by Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, to address the Jewish community in New York. It didn’t take me long to agree. Simultaneously, we saw discernible changes in the attitude of Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, toward the Palestinian dispute. He started the forced removal of Jewish settlements from Gaza. When I saw this on television, I immediately sensed an opportunity. I thought the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Israel could meet overtly. We considered Turkey the best venue for such a meeting and also thought that the good offices of the Turkish prime minister could be used to arrange it. It took just one day to organize all this. The Israeli’s eagerness to respond was very clear. My gratitude went to my friend the prime minister of the brotherly host country, Turkey.
The historic, groundbreaking meeting of the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Israel took place on September 1, 2005, in Istanbul. It was positive and was followed by my address to the American Jewish Congress in New York on September 17, 2005. The atmosphere was electric, and the reception given to me was very warm and welcoming. All the prominent figures in the American Jewish community were on hand. I met every one of them before the formal ceremony. This was a very big first: a Pakistani leader mixing with and then addressing the American Jewish community. The ceremony started with the Jewish ritual of breaking bread. Jack Rosen praised me in his opening speech. Congressman Tom Lantos read out and then presented me with a framed copy of the Congressional Record of the House of Representatives titled “Tribute to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.” My own speech was emotional, and I think it had the desired impact. New ground was broken. The domestic reaction was all positive, and the international response euphoric.
Following the PLO’s recognition in its charter of Israel’s right to exist, Pakistan now accepts Israel as a Jewish state and a de facto reality, but at the same time stands by its commitment to support a viable and independent Palestinian state that is acceptable to the Palestinian people. I think now we will be able to play a more effective, proactive role in a resolution of the Palestinian dispute and the creation of a state for the long-suffering Palestinians.
In our attempts to bring peace to the world, within the Muslim ummah, and to our region, I have followed a policy of peaceful coexistence with all. I believe in nurturing bilateral relations with countries with whom we have interests, unaffected by their relations with other countries. I have especially tried to get away from Pakistan’s Indocentric approach to relations with other countries. China remains our time-tested and sincere friend, irrespective of its developing economic relations with India. We are simultaneously developing broad-based and long-term relations with the United States, free from the effects of the warming up of relations between India and the United States.
In the Gulf, besides maintaining cordial relations with all states, Pakistan has always been very close to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These very special relationships continue. I have strengthened them through my personal contacts with the leaders of both countries.
Iran is our important neighbor. Our effort has always been to have close, cordial relations, but in reality we continue to have our ups and downs. The nuclear standoff between the United States and Iran, our separate relations with India, and our stands on Afghanistan do create complications in our bilateral relationship. Quite clearly we have to understand each other’s sensitivities in order to forge the strong friend-ship that our geography and our history dictate.
The twenty-first century will be driven by geoeconomics more than by geostrategy or geopolitics. Relations between countries are based on economic bonds-interaction in trade, joint ventures, and investment. Our foreign missions, I believe, ought to promote trade, especially Pakistani exports and investment in Pakistan. These are two areas that were virtually ignored in the past.
An attitudinal change had to be introduced in our diplomats to make them conscious of their new orientation. Our ambassadors had also to be made to work in unison with their own Ministry of Foreign Affairs plus the ministries of Commerce, Industries, and Investment, and the Export Promotion Bureau. Only a coordinated effort could produce results.
We launched this effort aggressively in 2000. We posted able commercial councilors in our missions abroad. I made it clear to the ambassadors that their performance would be judged by their success in generating commercial activity. We decided to diversify our market from our traditional focus on the United States and Europe to South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and China and within
our own region of south Asia. We used all diplomatic efforts to enter into preferential trade agreements and even free trade agreements. With our old and good friend China we achieved an “Early Harvest” program to give a special boost to trade. Such momentum was generated that our exports increased to $18 billion in 2006-an increase of 125 percent in five years.
I expected our ambassadors to sell Pakistan as a destination for foreign investment. They have started to deliver. Wherever I go, I have a dual agenda: to enhance political relations and to interact with the business community to attract it to Pakistan. A strong business delegation from Pakistan always accompanies me. As a result of such measures, investment has started flowing into Pakistan.