May 2001 News

For Pak, peace means plebiscite in Kashmir

26 May 2001
The Hindustan Times
Saurabh Shukla

New Delhi: In less than 24 hours after New Delhi delivered to Islamabad a formal invitation for an Indo-Pak summit, the High Commissioner of Pakistan to India, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, has forcefully reiterated his country's demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir. In an exclusive interview to the Hindustan Times, the Pak envoy made it clear that Islamabad's willingness for a bilateral dialogue did not signify any change in its fundamental position on the issue. "What we have in mind," he emphasised, "is the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions for a settlement acceptable to a majority in Jammu and Kashmir." Ostensibly more blunt than what the obtaining situation demands, Mr Qazi declared: "A plebiscite is what we have in mind. It didnít happen earlier because India didnít agree to it." He said the 1999 Lahore Declaration and the 1972 Simla Pact didnít contradict the position that J&K had to decide its final disposition in favour of India or Pakistan in accordance with the UN resolutions. The generally soft-spoken envoy's observations on the mode of resolution of the Kashmir question were reminiscent of the position Pakistan had taken in earlier rounds of bilateral negotiations. The then Pak foreign secretary Shahryar Khan's much-hyped January 1-3, 1994 talks with Indian counterpart J N Dixit had broken down amid identical hyperbole. A few weeks later, Parliament passed a resolution reaffirming Kashmir's status as an integral part of India. Coming ahead of a formal acceptance by Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Mr Vajpayee's carefully worded dialogue invite, Mr Qazi's comments seemed a preview of sorts of the position Islamabad might take at the proposed Summit. "Our position is not going to change with the bilateral dialogue it is based on the right of self determination of the people of J&K." On the Hurriyat's involvement in the talks on Kashmir, the Pak envoy strongly pitched for a trilateral process involving India, Pakistan and the multi-party conglomerate dominated by Pak-inclined outfits. "We support the inclusion of Hurriyat," he remarked, adding: "It may not be that they all sit at the same table. But a guarantee should be there to enable participation of the organisation that represents the interest of the Kashmiri people." The Pak envoy wasnít through yet. He said the K C Pant-led dialogue initiative was flawed because it treated the Hurriyat at par with other Kashmiri groups known for toeing New Delhi's line. Mr Qazi insisted that any settlement of the Kashmir question has to be acceptable to the Kashmiri people: "We are quite confident that if they are given the right to self-determination (through a plebiscite), they will act in favour of Pakistan." The Pak High Commissioner concluded by arguing that but for an accident in the history of British India, Kashmir would have been part of Pakistan in the normal course. In his view, New Delhi's description of Kashmir as an internal Indian matter had reduced the prospects of a solution as mentioned in Article 6 of the Simla Pact.


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