Tenet in Islamabad
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Copyright 2001 Financial Times Information
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Global News Wire
Copyright 2001 Kasturi Sons Ltd (KSL) 
Business Line

June 1, 2001

LENGTH: 1350 words


SOME CIRCLES in the US see a link between the recent high-profile visit to New Delhi of the US Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Richard Armitage, the unpublicised visit of the CIA Director, Mr George Tenet, to Islamabad where he had an unusually long meeting with the Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and the surprise decision of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to invite the General to New Delhi for talks without insisting on the stoppage of Pakistani support to cross-border terrorism as a pre-condition for a resumption of the bilateral dialogue at the political level.

Mr Armitage, who had spent some years of his career in the CIA/DIA and holds the highest Pakistani civil decoration that can be awarded to a foreigner for his role during the Afghan war of the 1980s, has a large circle of friends in the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate.

Mr Tenet had worked for some years as an aide to one of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees before he was nominated by Mr Bill Clinton as the CIA Director.

Significantly, he is one of the very few (the FBI Director is another) important appointees of the Clinton Administration to have been asked by the President, Mr George Bush Jr., to continue in his post despite the criticism by the Republican campaign of the functioning of the CIA and its failure to detect the preparations for Pokhran II nuclear tests of 1998.

These circles attribute this decision not to disturb Mr Tenet from his post to an important behind-the-scene role he has reportedly been playing since last year in working for a rapprochement between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel in West Asia and between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Mr Bush and his senior aides, who do not want the President to personally play an active mediatory role in West Asia or elsewhere similar to the high-profile roles played by Mr Clinton, reportedly felt that US interests could be better served by continuing to use the deniable, stealth services of the CIA chief.

It is said that Mr Tenet was involved in the secret goings-on that preceded the subsequently-aborted ceasefire between New Delhi and the Hizbul Mujahideen and in the events preceding and following the non-initiation of combat operations in Kashmir by the Government.

He operated directly as well as through Maj. Gen. (retd) Mahmud Ali Durrani who, like Gen. Musharraf, was a blue-eyed boy of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and is now a confidante of Gen Musharraf.

Maj. Gen. Durrani had in the past served as the ISI station chief in Washington and was responsible for the ISI's liaison with the CIA and the FBI.

Last year, Jamaat-e-Islami circles in Pakistan had alleged that he had, at the instance of the CIA, played a role, in consultation with Gen. Musharraf, in persuading the Hizbul Mujahideen to agree to a ceasefire.

However, the whole exercise was sabotaged by Lt. Gen. Mohammad Aziz, then Chief of the General Staff (CGS), who was not consulted by Gen.

Musharraf and Maj. Gen. Durrani. Gen. Musharraf had him subsequently transferred to Lahore as a Corps Commander.

It is claimed by these circles in the US that the Ramzan initiative of New Delhi (non-initiation of combat operations) was to have been reciprocated by the General with an order to his troops for restraint along the Line of Control (LOC) and action to moderate the activities of the jehadi terrorist organisations in Jammu and Kashmir which, in turn, would have been reciprocated by India with permission to the Hurriyat leaders to visit Pakistan.

While Gen. Musharraf issued the restraint order to his troops, he allegedly went back on his word to the CIA to issue a similar restraint order to the jehadis on the ground that this was being opposed by some of his Corps Commanders.

It is said to be correct that some of his Corps Commanders and retired military officers, such as Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul and Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, former chiefs of the ISI, had strongly urged that any restraint by the jehadis should be conditional on progress in a resumed political dialogue with India.

Lt. Gen. Nasir reportedly even urged that if the dialogue was resumed, any restraint on the jehadi organisations should be only as a quid pro quo to a similar restraint by New Delhi on the alleged anti- Muslim activities of the RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena, but his advice on this issue did not reportedly enjoy the support of other officers, serving or retired. It is claimed that in the face of this logjam, Mr. Tenet once again stealthily stepped into the scene through his recent visit to Islamabad and worked out a formula, which could be projected by both India and Pakistan as a vindication of their respective stand hitherto.

Ever since capturing power in October 1999, Gen. Musharraf has been repeatedly expressing his desire for talks at any place, any time and at any level.

Even if the forthcoming summit has really been midwifed by the CIA as claimed, this need not detract from the significance of the turn of events.

But one has to keep one's fingers crossed till the summit actually takes place. Gen Musharraf, sarcastically called in Pakistan Gen.

Retreat, had in the past repeatedly reversed decisions which were opposed by the jehadis. If the jehadis outside and inside the army continue to oppose the summit, it is to be seen whether he would resist their pressure and stick to his decision to come to India.

The summit would at least provide an opportunity to Mr Vajpayee to test the military dictator's sincerity and to judge whether the reasonableness projected by him is an act of desperation to move Pakistan out of its continuing diplomatic isolation and economic difficulties or just one more crafty move to catch India on the wrong foot.

In the past, India had had no qualms about negotiating with Pakistan's military dictators, but Gen. Musharraf cannot be compared to them: * The past dictators were either Punjabis or Pakhtoons, who hold the majority of the posts in the military. Gen. Musharraf is a Mohajir, who is looked down upon by the Punjabi officers as a Mohajir parvenu.

* As Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Jamaat-e-Islami leader, often points out, the past dictators seized power themselves, but it was Gen. Musharraf's subordinates who seized power in his absence and made him the ruler.

He, therefore, owes his gratitude to them and cannot easily over-rule them.

* The past dictators enjoyed absolute power, but Gen. Musharraf is only the first among equals.

* He has conceded more demands of the Islamic fundamentalists during his 19 months in office than Zia.

Till now, he has been extremely amenable to pressure from the Jehadis.

In recent weeks, significant sections of Pakistan's civilian bureaucracy and, particularly its economic managers, have been coming round to the view that the continued involvement in Afghanistan and J&K was coming in the way of its economic recovery and that the harping of the military leadership on the nuclear flashpoint theme in the hope of thereby internationalising the Kashmir issue was scaring foreign investors away.

There has been a dramatic drop in foreign investments since the General seized power.

The Corps Commanders, however, do not share this perception and continue to believe in their present policy of keeping Indian security forces bleeding in J&K in the hope of weakening them and keeping the jehadis fighting and dying at the hands of the Indian security forces in order to prevent their returning to Pakistan and Talibanising the country.

India should guard itself against any illusion that the summit could lead to peace in J&K.

What will really lead to peace is better governance and attention to the grievances of the people in the State, effective control of human rights violations by the security forces, and a willingness, capability and readiness to take the proxy war to Pakistani territory.

- B. Raman

(The author is former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India.)

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