Monday, Apr 01, 2002
|Interview with Musharraf||By Malini Parthasarathy|
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THANKS TO the ban on direct flights between India and Pakistan, the route to the interview with the President of the country next door was long and circuitous, flying all the way out to Dubai to traverse the same airpath in the reverse direction all the way back across the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, skirting Iran and Afghanistan and finally back to the subcontinent. It is the first interview to a journalist from India after the deep chill that has set in between New Delhi and Islamabad since September 11, and more pertinently, December 13. Little of that frostiness is evident in the warmth that greets you in Pakistan with officials and people alike showing no trace of the animosity that has two armies grimly confronting each other on the border.
The drive to the interview late Thursday evening takes 45 minutes as we are to meet the Pakistan President,Pervez Musharraf, at Army House, the residence he has in his capacity as Chief of Army Staff, in the Army Cantonment area near Rawalpindi. Muralidhar Reddy, The Hindu's correspondent in Islamabad, who is accompanying me to the interview, points out as we drive on the highway to Rawalpindi that this is an area normally off limits to Indian journalists and that we are glimpsing rare terrain. At Army House, the wait is not long and Gen. Musharraf emerges, in informal attire. For someone who has been in the eye of the storm since September 11 and has found himself pitchforked to the centre of international attention, some unwelcome, he appears curiously stress-free and in fact eager to put his message across through this interview to a wider audience in India. So conscious was he of the fact that this interview represented an opening to public opinion in India that he was quick to seize upon examples that illustrated his arguments. That my own journey had taken a circuitous and time-consuming route was a point that he could not resist using in his own argument. With a gleam in his eye, he pointed to this as an example of how India is suffering more from the flight ban than Pakistan. And, when we concluded the interview, he was quick to note that in contrast to his readiness to give interviews to Indian journalists, the same was not true of the leadership in Delhi. Pakistani journalists had not been given the same access, he complained and pointed out that in giving this interview, he had chosen not to react in the same vein.
(Excerpts from the interview:)
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