Mediator reveals blueprint for peace in Kashmir
24 December 2000
The News International
Dubai: Details of what is going on between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris were revealed by Mansoor Ijaz, a private US mediator trying to push the peace process in Kashmir. Here are some questions The News put to him and his answers: Q: What are the next steps envisioned in the blueprint for peace in Kashmir as you see it? A: The process of empowering both civilian and militant Kashmiri voices remains the central objective of our efforts at present because a strong Kashmiri provides Pakistan and India with face-saving exit strategies. In mid-January, political and militant leaders will meet in Islamabad. Their key objective will be to set a common political agenda for talks with New Delhi and to take Gen Musharraf into confidence about the merits and rationale for their decision to talk to Delhi. There will also be a clear effort made to deal with the so-called mercenary problem whether or not to allow non-indigenous Pakistani-backed insurgents a seat at the peace table. Once the internal agenda is agreed upon and the various Kashmiri parties are united on a message and a delegation, Indo-Kashmiri dialogue can begin. New Delhi''s talks with Islamabad, inaugurated perhaps with a Musharraf-Vajpayee summit by March during which meaningful Indian troop withdrawals are formalised, will begin virtually at the same time. Once ground ceasefire modalities are worked out, and pending progress of the Indo-Kashmiri bilateral negotiations, the Kashmiris will be free to suggest Pakistan''s inclusion either partially or wholly in political dialogue aimed at a permanent solution. Delhi understands this as a condition for beginning talks with the Kashmiris. Trilateral negotiations at onset are not, as Islamabad is now stating openly, a necessary condition for dialogue with New Delhi. This modification in Pakistan''s stance from conditions added in the aftermath of August''s failed ceasefire is itself an open indication of the respect Gen Musharraf has for the Kashmiri people''s wishes to achieve peace. Q: You have been in constant contact with the Indians and the Kashmiris in recent weeks. What does the decision of the Kashmiri leadership to talk to India, and vice versa, imply for Pakistan? How should Pakistan react? A: Pakistan is a Party to the dispute. But Gen Musharraf is rapidly, flexibly and correctly adapting the Pakistani position to the reality that Islamabad''s pursuit of Jihad-based resistance in Kashmir has not worked. As head of state rather than just head of the army, his responsibility to the larger interests of the Pakistani people go far beyond the narrow pursuit of an ideological war that is decimating an innocent population while deeply scarring the image and vitality of Pakistan as a nation. Principled resistance has turned into violent hatred and the Kashmiri political leadership has now said enough is enough. That is why Gen Musharraf is wisely preparing the people of Pakistan for a policy of maximum flexibility in its negotiating stance. By doing so, he accommodates growing Kashmiri willpower to test India''s sincerity for peace and resolution while maintaining a firm bottom line that protects Pakistan''s security interests. Q: You have had frequent interactions with the Kashmiri leadership. Do you see a conflict brewing between pro-Pakistan and pro-independence Kashmiri leaders and if so, how serious could this become in the final analysis? A: In the embryonic stages of any conflict resolution process, there are many differing agendas which have to be fused together to create a united position. The internal rifts you suggest exist will disappear the moment APHC leaders travel to Islamabad and take militant factions with differing objectives into confidence. They simply cannot negotiate with Delhi unless there is a united stance. The issue facing Hurriyet and Hizb is not unification of purpose and agenda, but rather how to insure the Kashmiris are a Party to the dispute rather than Mediator between Pakistan and India. Vajpayee''s BJP hawks could pull their support if the Kashmiris are seen as Pakistan''s pawns. Conversely, Islamabad could lose its already precarious moral centre of gravity with the Kashmiris if, during the Hurriyet visit to Islamabad, they are not empowered by Gen Musharraf to act as a Party vs being relegated to the role of a Mediator. Q: What signs, if any, do you see that Pakistan''s extremist and so-called Jihadist forces are now in retreat? Are more moderate forces who seek a reasonable solution gaining the upper hand? A: The most visible sign of change in militant thinking was last weekend''s gathering of the various Mujahedeen factions, including notably Hizb leader Syed Salahuddin, in Saudi Arabia. They are carrying formulae for discussion and committee approval among the Jihad''s Arab backers that will serve as the basis of their discussions with Hurriyet leaders in mid-January, and possibly with Delhi thereon. The coordination of Kashmiri militant and political moves is vital to the success of any future talks. Equally critical is re-establishing the authority of the Kashmiri resistance''s political wing by weaving together the militant agenda with a clear, objective-oriented political agenda for talks with Delhi. Pakistan has lived its tortured history with a military ceiling on civilian authority. The Kashmiris have learned this formula, in the end, does not work. Q: Why do you think the Indian leadership has softened its stance on talks with the Kashmiris and Pakistan? Does it really want a solution in which both sides can claim victory and still resolve the dispute? A: The Kargil affair created a structural anomaly India had not seen since independence: the army became uncomfortably more vocal in civilian political affairs that affected national security. This dangerous trend for a functional democracy would be reversed with a solution in Kashmir. Additionally, because India has genuine potential to become a regional economic power, and the energy rich Persian Gulf wants to provide large amounts of power generation capacity while the West develops its export markets, New Delhi''s long-term strategic planners view Kashmir as a potential poison pill to economic revitalisation in which radicalism''s roots could spread to other parts of the federation. From what I have seen, there is meaningful flexibility in the Indian position to find a solution that addresses each party''s fundamental concerns. Q: As a private American citizen mediating this peace effort, how do you envision the final Kashmir settlement will look? A: If Islamabad is prepared to demonstrate maximum flexibility, it is highly unlikely that a pragmatic Gen Musharraf can maintain UN plebiscite resolutions as the best mechanism to resolve Kashmir. Given recent reactions in the Valley to the Jihadist movement, Islamabad does not need the embarrassment of the Kashmiri people voting against accession to Pakistan. Equally, Delhi knows it cannot maintain Kashmir as an integral part of its territory. Western theorists and interested third parties who have proposed elaborate Balkanisation schemes fail to understand the delicate fabric that holds Kashmir together as a people with a unique genetic similarity. These divide-and-conquer proposals simply won''t work, even if supported by the US State Department. The only viable deep concession left is preparing a third option that allows the Kashmiris a pre-determined right to self-rule at some date certain in the future, with the option going to both Islamabad and Delhi to win them over in an interim period of, say, five years. Details to follow. Q: Are there any other countries involved in the efforts to bring Pakistan and India to the peace table? If so, can you elaborate on their role? A: The most notable of these is Saudi Arabia. As a long time ally of Pakistan''s, as home to conservative Islam''s wealthy spectrum of followers and as a potential large-scale supplier of energy needs to India, the Saudi government is taking an active role in finding mechanisms to moderate the Jihadist movement in Kashmir. It is no accident that Jaswant Singh, India''s foreign minister, will visit Riyadh in early January just a week after militant Kashmiri leaders return from Jeddah and a week before Hurriyet leaders are scheduled to meet Salahuddin and company in Islamabad. The Saudis have vested interests in both Pakistan (the Bomb) and India (oil sales), and a flare-up over Kashmir serves no one''s greater interests. Equally, while Jihad is a fundamental concept in Islam, it is clear that Riyadh would prefer to keep the pot boiling at a lower temperature than Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen seem willing to tolerate.