Still Go­ing Strong

Ad­dress­ing and de­bat­ing global chal­lenges fac­ing In­dia to­day, the Hin­dus­tan Times Lead­er­ship Sum­mit 2012 hosted a sin­gle prom­i­nent Pak­istani per­son­al­ity: former Pres­i­dent Gen­eral (R) Pervez Mushar­raf, to pro­pose a pos­si­ble way for­ward.

Southasia - - Summit - By Arsla Jawaid Arsla Jawaid is As­so­ciate Ed­i­tor at SouthA­sia Mag­a­zine. A Bos­ton Univer­sity grad­u­ate, she holds a Bach­e­lors de­gree in In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, with a fo­cus on for­eign pol­icy and se­cu­rity stud­ies.

The an­nual Hin­dus­tan Times Lead­er­ship Sum­mit aims to bring to­gether lead­ers and thinkers to dis­cuss and de­lib­er­ate the fu­ture of the world and present con­crete mea­sures to ad­dress the grow­ing chal­lenges that the global com­mu­nity and, In­dia in par­tic­u­lar, faces. The Sum­mit hosts lead­ers from pol­i­tics, busi­ness, law, mil­i­tary, aca­demics, en­ter­tain­ment, sports and the lit­er­ary world to at­tend and par­tic­i­pate in a high pro­file, ex­clu­sive event. Hin­dus­tan Times has a rich his­tory of host­ing world lead­ers who keep pace with an ever-chang­ing world and rec­og­nize that to­day’s prob­lems can­not be solved with yes­ter­day’s as­sump­tions.

The Hin­dus­tan Times Lead­er­ship Sum­mit 2012, held in Novem­ber this year, re­volved around the theme, “What’s Next?” The two-day event hosted pan­els of ex­perts and ad­dressed an ar­ray of is­sues rang­ing from In­dia’s domestic pol­i­tics, en­vi­ron­ment, for­eign re­la­tions, tech­nol­ogy, ed­u­ca­tion, lit­er­a­ture, sports and, of course, the in­domitable Bol­ly­wood film in­dus­try. Prom­i­nent speak­ers in­cluded former Pres­i­dent of Pak­istan Pervez Mushar­raf, former Prime Min­is­ter of Thai­land Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, former U.S Sec­re­tary of De­fense Wil­liam Co­hen, Chief Min­is­ter of Kash­mir Omar Ab­dul­lah, former In­dian diplo­mat Mani Shankar Aiyer, geo-strate­gist and au­thor Parag Khanna, crick­eters Kapil Dev and Ajay Jadeja and ac­tors Shahrukh Khan and Ka­t­rina Kaif, amongst oth­ers.

While a spec­trum of is­sues and chal­lenges were de­bated, Indo-Pak re­la­tions were cer­tainly at the fore. And who bet­ter to speak on such ties than Pres­i­dent Mushar­raf who did so much dur­ing his Pres­i­dency to im­prove re­la­tions with In­dia. De­liv­er­ing the key­note ad­dress ti­tled, “Unit­ing South Asia: the way for­ward,” Mushar­raf spoke to a packed au­di­ence on the sec­ond day of the Sum­mit. His quick wit, con­fi­dent de­meanor and can­did com­ments, in­stantly won over the crowd de­spite be­ing in­tro­duced as a ‘dic­ta­tor,’ by mod­er­a­tor and veteran jour­nal­ist, Karan Tha­par.

In his trade­mark style, to set the record straight, Mushar­raf calmly re­sponded, “I wasn’t a dic­ta­tor. Just be­cause you wear a cer­tain dress doesn’t make you one. Dic­ta­tor­ship is a state of mind. I don’t agree I was a dic­ta­tor... let’s agree to dis­agree.” Once the air was cleared, Mushar­raf’s eight years in power were dis­cussed, a res­o­lu­tion on Si­achen and Sir Creek was de­bated and, of course, the elephant in the room: the pres­ence of Osama bin Laden on Pak­istani soil, was ques- tioned. Mushar­raf ve­he­mently de­nied the com­plic­ity of the ISI and the Army in the mat­ter, stat­ing with a wry sense of hu­mor that, “Even the CIA could not see 9/11 hap­pen­ing. Were they sleep­ing? You should al­low the ISI to sleep once (in a while).”

Speak­ing on Indo-Pak re­la­tions, the former Pres­i­dent was hope­ful that progress could be made and stressed upon the need for the right niyat, or in­ten­tion, the need to limit the role of bu­reau­crats and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and the ur­gent need of a ‘lead­er­ship func­tion’. Speak­ing on In­dia’s in­flu­en­tial po­si­tion in South Asia, he said, “Com­pro­mise should come from the big­ger party. In­dia should have a big heart be­cause it is the big­ger coun­try. When the smaller party makes the com­pro­mise, it can have neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions.” As Mushar­raf’s words re­ver­ber­ated through the au­di­ence, Omar Ab­dul­lah, Chief Min­is­ter of Jammu and Kash­mir, could be seen nod­ding his head in ap­pre­ci­a­tion as the former Pres­i­dent de­parted amidst thun­der­ing ap­plause, only to be fur­ther swarmed by in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal me­dia per­sons.

It is ironic that a pres­i­dent who has been ab­sent from power for four years and lives in self-im­posed ex­ile in Lon­don, con­tin­ues to at­tract as much pub-

lic at­ten­tion in In­dia as he would in Pak­istan if he were to re­turn one day. It must be noted that dur­ing Mushar­raf’s ten­ure, Indo-Pak re­la­tions showed con­sid­er­able thaw­ing and rapidly edged to­wards diplo­matic and po­lit­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion.

Re­ceiv­ing high-pro­file pro­to­col from the In­dian au­thor­i­ties, Mushar­raf had no qualms in vis­it­ing pub­lic venues, such as lunch­ing at the Haldiram Mithai out­let at Con­naught Place, and ea­gerly min­gling with lo­cals. The pub­lic, from young chil­dren to the el­derly, in­stantly rec­og­nized him and warmly wel­comed him with ap­plause and hand­shakes. Un­like other “great Pak­istani politi­cians” who con­fine them­selves to op­u­lent sur­round­ings and choose to re­main iso­lated from the gen­eral pub­lic, Mushar­raf seems more com­fort­able when amongst the masses. His rea­son­ing finds its ba­sis in the fact that he is in­deed not a bu­reau­crat or politi­cian but rather a mid­dle-class, army man. Un­like other mil­i­tary fig­ures who have ruled Pak­istan for more than half its his­tory, Mushar­raf’s strong re­spect and de­vo­tion to the Army has in­stilled a sense of hu­mil­ity in him and a spirit of ca­ma­raderie with mil­i­tary men, re­gard­less of bor­ders. This was no more ev­i­dent, when Mushar­raf in­vited his en­tire se­cu­rity en­tourage and staff to sit next to him and dine to­gether at Haldiram. Whether it is min­gling with the In­dian masses or at­tend­ing a pri­vate din­ner hosted by the Hin­dus­tan Times, Mushar­raf re­mains a valid and rel­e­vant po­lit­i­cal per­son­al­ity with in­creas­ing clout and in­flu­ence in the realm of geo-pol­i­tics.

Dis­en­chanted with the po­lit­i­cal sta­tus quo and not en­tirely con­vinced by its fu­ture op­tions, some in Pak­istan ar­gue that the coun­try “Khan” not af­ford an­other ex­per­i­ment but rather needs a leader who is acutely fa­mil­iar with po­lit­i­cal di­plo­macy and har­nesses his ex­pe­ri­ence in mil­i­tary strat­egy. The strate­gic game in South Asia will rapidly change in the years to come and such lead­er­ship traits will be tested. Elec­tions in Afghanistan, Pak­istan and Bangladesh are ex­pected to be held within the next two years and will un­doubt­edly usher in tremen­dous changes. For its sorry part, the U.S will con­tinue to wage an ide­o­log­i­cal (and un­winnable) war in Afghanistan, dic­tated not by the State De­part­ment but rather by ir­re­spon­si­ble poli­cies rec­om­mended by the Pen­tagon. As NATO troops with­draw from Afghanistan by De­cem­ber 2014, whether the coun­try will be able to sus­tain it­self or will mo­men­tar­ily im­plode, re­mains un­cer­tain. If not con­tained, ter­ror­ist net­works op­er­at­ing within Pak­istani bor­ders will deal a se­vere blow to re­gional sta­bil­ity and will pos­si­bly dis­rupt peace pro­cesses un­der­taken with both of Pak­istan’s neigh­bors to the East and West.

The Hin­dus­tan Times Sum­mit con­cluded on the note to de­velop strong lead­er­ship equipped to ad­dress a myr­iad of grow­ing chal­lenges faced by In­dia. For their part, In­dian pol­i­cy­mak­ers and aca­demics rec­og­nized the need to cul­ti­vate re­la­tions with Pak­istan and adopt a multi-di­men­sional lens to view bi­lat­eral ties.

Pervez Mushar­raf

Wil­liam S. Co­hen

Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra

Omar Ab­dul­lah

Ka­t­rina Kaif

Dr. Erik Jones

Kapil Dev

Parag Khanna

Mani Shankar


Shahrukh Khan

Dr. John Kay

Abhijit Ban­er­jee

Ajay Jadeja

Ana­tole Kalet­sky Sukhbir Singh


Ajit Ku­mar Do­val

Vir Sanghvi

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