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Musharraf: The architect of Kargil intrusion

Who can forget Musharraf’s advice to Indian Cricket icon M S Dhoni in February 2006?

ASHOK TUTEJA | New Delhi |

Gen Pervez Musharraf had an aura that no Pakistani politician or General could perhaps match.

Musharraf, the architect of the intrusion by Pakistani troops in Kargil in May 1999, became the President of Pakistan after dislodging the Nawaz Sharif government in a bloodless coup in October the same year.

And the countries he first visited soon after he took charge were Pakistan’s close friends, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This writer, who was then posted in the UAE, was able to have a brief chat with the General after he addressed members of the Pakistani community in Abu Dhabi.

”I want peace with India but there is no question of any compromise on Kashmir,” he said without giving a straight reply when this writer asked him why he undertook the Kargil operation and underestimated the Indian Army while keeping the political leadership in Islamabad in the dark about his action.

He was visibly upset by the question but preferred to maintain a stoic silence when told that the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had felt cheated by the Kargil intrusion soon after he went on a historic bus journey to Lahore in February 1999 to mend fences with the neighbouring country.

Musharraf had this great ability to attract media attention. It was in July 2001 that Vajpayee made another attempt to improve ties with Pakistan by inviting Musharraf for a summit in Agra. New Delhi was a little sceptical about whether Musharraf would accept the invite, given the reality that he was the brain behind the Kargil incursion. However, he sprang a surprise on India and agreed to visit Agra. But his ”infamous breakfast” meeting with senior Indian Editors on the margins of the summit played spoilsport and the much-anticipated summit ended in a disaster.

But it was quite clear that Musharraf did not want any trouble in ties with India as long as he was at the helm. Just when the India-Pakistan relationship again faced rough weather in 2005, Musharraf extracted an invite from the Indian leadership for an India-Pakistan Cricket match in New Delhi.

The Indian establishment, then led by Dr Manmohan Singh, was again apprehending the visit would end in a diplomatic fiasco like the Agra Summit. But Musharraf was quite cautious this time around and avoided anything that could land him in a controversy. He was quite excited to visit the Neharwali Haveli in Daryaganj area of the Indian capital where he was born. The New Delhi visit drew worldwide attention and Musharraf became a darling of the Indian media too.

Who can forget Musharraf’s advice to Indian Cricket icon M S Dhoni in February 2006? The Indian cricketer played a winning knock for India at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore after which he conjured praises from Musharraf who was a big fan of Dhoni’s hairdo and even asked the legendary cricketer to not change it. “I saw a placard which said ‘Dhoni, have a haircut’. If you want to take my opinion, you look good with this hairdo. Don’t have a haircut,” Musharraf told Dhoni.

It was in February 2007 when Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh came close to clinching a deal on Jammu and Kashmir through back-channel diplomacy. Just when finishing touches were being given to the pact, Musharraf quit office after facing a serious threat of impeachment from the country’s governing coalition.