November 2007 News

No Shift Likely In Pak's Kashmir Stand

28 November 2007
The Times of India

New Delhi: There may have been a change of guard at the top in the Pakistan army but its long-standing 'confrontationist attitude' towards India as well as its policy to covertly control the 'terror tap' in J&K is unlikely to change. General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, handpicked by president Pervez Musharraf to succeed him as the new army chief, after all, has been 'deeply involved' with the crafting and calibration of Pakistan army's Kashmir policy right since the mid- 1990s. Gen Kayani, incidentally, is of 'Kashmiri ethnicity', though he was born in Pakistan's Punjab province. Internally, Gen Kayani will now play the central role in determining Musharraf's future - to prop him up or drop him like a hot potato if things go awry - in the days ahead. The Indian security establishment's broad assessment is that Kayani - considered to be 'a self-made, hardworking, largely apolitical professional' officer - will be 'loyal' to Musharraf at least in the 'near term'. 'But if things worsen, he might actually hasten Musharraf's political demise. The person who controls the army controls virtually everything in Pakistan,' said a top officer. 'Musharraf has been the army chief for the last eight years... Due to the generation gap between him and the existing top brass now, he does not have the same linkages with them. Kayani, after becoming army chief, will slowly but surely inspire more loyalty than Musharraf,' he added. Moreover, having served as ISI chief since October 2004, Gen Kayani will have almost full control over 'the dirty tricks' agency, which is 'a state within a state'. Then, of course, the third 'A' in Pakistan, America after Allah and army, is also favourably disposed towards Gen Kayani, who incidentally has attended the US army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. 'He is clearly favoured by the US,' said another official. Gen Kayani, on his part, is 'well versed' with dealing with India, whether overtly or covertly, ever since he was commissioned in the Baluch Regiment in August 1971. From being a young subaltern in the 1971 war to being the operational commander of Pakistani forces forward deployed along the border during the tense 10-month-long standoff with India in 2001-2002 after the terrorist attack on Parliament, Gen Kayani has seen it all. 'He has also been the GOC of Pakistan army's 12 Division, which has its HQ in Muzaffarabad and is known for its covert role in encouraging insurgency in J&K. Then, he was also the commander of the elite 10 Corps in Rawalpindi and later the ISI chief,' said the officer. The Pakistan army and ISI, of course, have been the prime drivers behind Islamabad's Kashmir policy to 'bleed' India with a thousand cuts. The army has, in fact, used the Kashmir plank to gain power and strength. 'Only continuing confrontation with India will allow the Pakistan army to maintain its dominant role in Pakistan's polity,' he added.


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