Hidden Indian agenda of third option on Kashmir
26 June 2001
The News International
LAHORE: Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's letter to General Pervez Musharraf was fascinating. Were its words true for their meaning, the letter could be the starting point to change the destiny of people of the Subcontinent. But the words looked too good to be true.The words did play their magic on people of Pakistan but back home, they had a backlash in India. The hawks and die-hards reacted. Since then, Indian government has issued a series of statements to control the damage and to clarify to the Indian public that the words didn"t have literal meaning, after all. Starting from a sublime mood, India has perverted the whole message through a number of backtrack tactics as usual.It is beyond doubt however that Mr Vajpayee's letter had left a euphoric impact on Pakistani public. Soon after it was published, people asked, "Is Mr Vajpayee really going to decide about Kashmir?". "If he does," they thought, "Pakistan and India will become two prosperous nations and a golden era of progress will be ushered." Another assessed, "Happy times for the Subcontinent will return". Yes, return. A few centuries back no poor could be born here. The India under Muslim rule was called the Golden Sparrow for abundance in everything. But now, no rich can be born.The euphoria started dissipating even before the itinerary of General Pervez Musharraf for a visit to India was finalized. The visit is already looking like an exercise in futility. Considering India's obdurate mood, the scope of talks will be at India's own choice. If not, it will be a photo-session and the General won"t be able to write a new chapter of peace in the region.The sudden spurt in Indian offer and its tapering down later by New Delhi is typical of its somersault behaviour. It leads one to think that Indian offer is only a loaded dice. India, at its best, wants Pakistan to forget about Kashmir. Even as a matter of principle, Pakistan should first take care of its burgeoning economy. The world thinks we are a foolish nation. If we are 140 million people and nearly one-third of us sleep without proper food or shelter, we should first look after them. But we are fighting for the right of people whose responsibility is with some other government. What Pakistan can give them if they become its liability? The world is right absolutely. The world also wants us to curtail our military expenditure and it wants us to wind up support for Jehad in Kashmir.During Kargil fight, the world saw photographs in international magazines of Pakistani forces fighting there. Pakistan Air Force was not ready to respond to Indian Air attacks at posts held by Mujahideen because the PAF knew it would amount to declaring a full-fledged war with India. Pakistan may have calculated every aspect of the adventure but it couldn"t perceive the quantum of threat from India. By now it has become more than obvious that if you rattle India's tail in Kashmir, it stings back venomously. Pakistan's image dwindled in the international community as a fallout of Kargil misadventure. The world thought a poor nation equipped with nuclear arsenal was disrupting the world peace.There are other reasons for a re-thinking to discontinue liberation movement in the occupied Kashmir. People of Kashmir are sick and tired of the perpetual presence of Indian forces for the last 12 years. They are equally fed up with Jehad movement. Kashmiri Jehad has turned into war of attrition. It is no more result-oriented. Indian government also knows this. That is why it started luring Kashmiri leaders in order to bring hostilities to a halt and open the channel of talks.One available option now is to put Kashmir on the backburner once again as it had remained during Gen Ayub Khan's period. Status quo on Kashmir would, therefore, mean ceasing of hostilities and cross-border fire so that both the nations could pay attention to their poor people. If we are ready to accept this as a reality, the world may think of pulling us out of the deep economic morass. This line of thinking was being pursued by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif when Mr Vajpayee drove to Lahore to open a new chapter of relations with Pakistan.There is however second option available. Ch Shujaat Hussain has learnt very lately about the Third Option. But he knows too little and only some of its exterior aspects. Both the countries have remained involved in Track-II talks. Third Option is their baby. But the option is not as simple as it is being looked at by our worthy politicians. On the face of it, it means division of Kashmir into three parts. The Hindu majority areas of Kashmir be accepted as a part of India, Azad Kashmir be declared as a part of Pakistan and the Valley comprising Kashmiri Muslims be declared as autonomous region under the United Nations.Even if Pakistan accepts the Third Option as persons like Ch Shujaat Hussain are proposing unwisely, it is not as simple as it looks on the face of it. Firstly, it will be given autonomous status to Kashmir just as Palestinians were given the so-called autonomy under Israeli suzerainty. Who will run the economy of the picturesque Valley? If it is given under the UN supervision, how the American influence in the whole region could be stopped from permeating into the Valley's neighbors - China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Central Asian States? India seems to be colluding with the US in a change-of-hearts game and China containment policy. The implementation of the Third Option would cut off Pakistan's link to China, sooner or later. There lies the beauty and the bait of Mr Vajpayee's letter.For Pakistan, this will be a package deal. In return for the deal, Pakistan's economy might have a powerful injection to regain its vitality, maybe for the time being. The whole deal will be a loaded dice. A Balkanised Kashmir - one part with Pakistan, the other with India and the third independent under the United Nations. If this division is accepted by Pakistan today, it would nullify Pakistan's avowed stand on Kashmir. A day will not be far off then when people of the independent Valley would ask for unification with their brethren in Azad Kashmir. This would be one scenario. Other scenarios can also emerge. How this is going to be fruitful for Pakistan in the long run?The thinking in some circles of Pakistan is that an autonomous Kashmir is a better option than the one under India's direct rule. If Pakistan moves away from its avowed standpoint, it would lose badly in later-day jolts and jerks. What would Pakistan do if re-unified Kashmir aligns with India? It is also being heard that the present regime wants to write a new chapter in Kashmir's history. The government is also planning to find ways to get rid of its heavy foreign debt.That is why General Pervez Musharraf wants to go to India with an open mind. He would want to know what is India's view and how it could be worked out. The option to maintain status quo in Kashmir is more appealing to India. The Third Option, seemingly, looks attractive to Pakistan but it is equally dangerous. If India shows inclination to go in for the third option, will the present military government be ready to take the responsibility for the decision on its shoulders? Who will face the allegations of bargaining on the Kashmir cause from the die-hard Islamists? How will Pakistanis reach a national consensus and who will guarantee a sidelined Pakistan. India would be supported by the US and Russia. Is the Camp David Accord on the Middle East a success story?Will the government be ready to have on its shoulders the burden of history. Gen Yahya Khan carries the major blame of dividing a united Pakistan although he was only an operator. The division of a powerful pre-1970 Pakistan had been planned somewhere else many years earlier. General Musharraf may be going to India to re-write current history but he should be fully aware of it in advance how his name will do down in history.