A day after Musharraf’s resignation, Pakistan is grappling with a crucial question -- what next? Meanwhile, there have been mixed reactions among Pakistan’s neighbours to Musharraf’s stepping down. While experts in India have expressed concern about the future of bilateral relations, the Afghan government has welcomed the move and said Musharraf’s departure will have a positive effect on the region.
The big question now in Pakistan and in the neighbouring countries is what lies ahead after Musharraf
Official India has shown reserve in its reactions to Musharraf’s resignation. Anand Sharma, the Minister of State for External Affairs, was diplomatic: “We wish Pakistan stability and we [hope] that peace prevails there and democracy strengthens.”
The Indian media for their part have highlighted the fact that in recent months Musharraf had pretty much become a lame duck, implying that his resignation at this point will not make much difference to India anyway.
But overall, Musharraf’s departure is being considered as a bitter loss for India. Yet it had taken a while for the country to warm to the general initially. The 1999 Kargil War between the two countries, which immediately preceded Musharraf’s coup, had been considered by many a military adventure for which Musharraf was responsible.
Nevertheless, in recent years Musharraf had clearly set a peaceful course with India in motion. He was prepared to make compromises. Above all, he was considered a reliable dialogue partner.
Bleak future for Indo-Pakistan relations
But Indian observers, generally, have expressed misgivings about the army’s influence in Pakistan.
There are already some fears in New Delhi that the civilian government might not have the troops, and especially the secret services, under control.
The retired army general and security expert Ashok Mehta is only one of the sceptics: “The situation inside Pakistan will be extremely unstable and the future of Indo-Pakistan relations is going to be rather bleak.”
Improved relations with Afghanistan expected
Meanwhile, relations with Pakistan’s neighbour to the west -- Afghanistan -- have become increasingly bleak. Here, the impression is that things can only get better.
Sultan Ahmad Bahin, the spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, outlined Kabul’s hopes:
“We hope that Pervez Musharraf’s resignation will strengthen Pakistan’s civilian government. We are hoping for a stable, democratic government in Pakistan that is committed to the rule of law. We hope that the developments will contribute to strengthening the fight against terrorism and that Pakistan will make more efforts to cooperate better with the international community and the Afghan government.”
Many in Afghanistan believe that Musharraf only paid lip service to the fight against terror whilst in practice supporting the Taliban in their fight against the Afghan government.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s army chief Kayani paid a visit to Kabul.
Pakistan has traditionally nurtured its best neighbourly relations with the People’s Republic of China. This “all-weather friendship” is not based on any kind of common ideological interest but on common concerns regarding India. The relationship has always stood the test of time so there seems little reason for Beijing to worry about Musharraf’s departure.