'India will continue to do business with Mush'

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New Delhi, Dec 15: India will continue to do business with Pakistan's civilian President Pervez Musharraf who remains a ''credible interlocutor'' (on the peace process between the two countries), National Security Advisor (NSA) M K Narayanan has said.

''...I think we will do business with him. We've done business with him in the past and I think we will continue to do business with him,'' the NSA said in an interview. Expressing confidence in President Musharraf's commitment to the peace process, Mr Narayanan hoped that it would be taken forward as progress on various issues is ''three quarters cooked.'' ''I think there are things in the pipeline, things which are cooking, which are half cooked or three quarters cooked, which we would like to take forward,'' he said.

Asked whether President Musharraf would be able to convince the other power centres in his country including the Army and a civilian Prime Minister who would be elected after the January elections, Mr Narayanan said ''that's a question mark.'' He, however, hoped that if President Musharraf overcame all the obstacles, he would have credibility and acceptance that would make it easier for him to do so.

''We've dealt with him in the past and that experience, as the Prime Minister has said, has not been something we have been uncomfortable with. So we will go forward with that,'' Mr Narayanan said in an interview with CNN-IBN to be telecast at 2030 hrs tomorrow.

To a question on whether President Musharraf would remain a ''credible interlocutor for India,'' the NSA said ''yes, by and large he will remain a credible interlocutor to that extent. We will do business with whoever has the stamp of approval in Pakistan.'' Mr Narayanan said it was likely that the relationship between the civilian President and the new Chief of the Pakistan Army chief would remain cordial.

Asked whether President Musharraf would have trouble adjusting to the triumvirate of power, Mr Narayanan appreciated the way President Musharraf had handled previous struggles and expressed confidence that in the short term at least, he would succeed.

Expressing ''respect'' for President Musharraf's handling of his problems the NSA said ''there is a certain amount of grudging respect for the manner in which President Musharraf has managed to overcome his previous struggles.'' ''He's moved from a military President to a civilian President.

He has managed to see there is no boycott of the election to the Assembly. To some extent he has managed to ride (it out). At least definitely in the short term it should be possible (for him to succeed).

Mr Narayanan said in the longer term, President Musharraf's future depended on the army standing united as well as loyal to him.

''I don't see any sign of cracks in the system.'' To a question on new Army Chief General Ashfaq Kiyani, Mr Narayanan said he was not a stranger for India.

The impression about him is that he's a professional soldier and not a man with great political ambitions. That could build a smooth relationship between the civilian President Musharraf and the army chief.

When pointed out that Gen Kiyani was earlier chief of the ISI, which is notorious for fomenting terrorism in India, the NSA said ''I don't think the ISI has changed under Kiyani one way or the other. There was possibly a tactical restraint, imposed from outside, possibly by President Musharraf. But that applied only up to a point.'' ''In terms of the larger issue of mentoring the Lashkar, the Jaish, the Al Badr, I don't think there was any fundamental change.

How far was General Kiyani as head of the ISI responsible for this...? When asked if that meant India had no problem with General Kiyani as Pakistan's new army chief, Mr Narayanan said he didn't believe that Gen Kiyani would ''indulge in an adventurous action against India...He's too professional a soldier to attempt it.'' About the forthcoming elections and how India looked upon the possibility of Ms Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister, the NSA expressed scepticism on whether Ms Bhutto could deliver on her promise although he hoped she would.

He was speaking about the pronmises made by Ms Bhutto in a television interview that she would close down all terrorist training camps and extradite Dawood Ibrahim if she became the Prime Minister.

''If she lives up to her promises, most certainly. But it's difficult to believe she will. One has to go by what she did in the 90s so one is sceptical. Her track record is not necessarily something that would make us believe that she will follow to the letter and the spirit of what she has said.... I find it extremely difficult to believe that Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, if she becomes that, will have a free hand in doing all the things that she wishes to do,'' Mr Narayanan said.

UNI

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