May 2003 News

Will It Eventually Be IB Instead Of LoC?

5 May 2003
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak

Jammu: The Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and its future have been brought into sharp focus, thanks to a loaded move in the power corridors of America. True, the two issues-the troubled line dividing Indian Kashmir and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and its eventual status in the event of a rapprochement between the two countries-have been in the news for years now, particularly after the Clinton administration was reported to have encouraged Track-II diplomacy to create public opinion in Pakistan and India, especially Kashmir, in favour of divisioning of J&K with some adjustments on the Line of Control. But the process was not pursued after the new set-up with George W Bush as US President came into being in Washington. Significantly, however, some among those who had got involved in the process during the Clinton regime kept alive their contact with 'important' individuals in New Delhi, Islamabad and Srinagar. One of them is none other than Bill Clinton-aided US-based Kashmiri expatriate, Farooq Kathtwari. Kathtwari continues to maintain contact with his 'friends' in Delhi, Islamabad and Srinagar. The US administration's vital component is Central Intelligence Agency, better known as CIA. With its scanner 'here, there and everywhere', the CIA is generally known for its interest or involvement in areas that are 'hot'. And 'hot' is Kashmir since India's partition in 1947. If earlier certain foreign individuals and groups, inimical to India in Kashmir, encouraged publication and circulation of maps showing Kashmir as part of Pakistan,the CIA perhaps wished the India-Pakistan friction to continue. Significantly, however, the CIA, like the rest of the US agencies, was set thinking anew and planning anew after the scenario drastically changed with the open, continuous threat from Islamist terrorists to America during the past two years. In plain language, the CIA began to redraw the map of Jammu and Kashmir. Before the Prime Minister's Srinagar announcement about his extending hand of friendship to Pakistan, and before Pakistani rulers expressing their willingness to build bridges with India, there was talk, subdued though, about the future status of Line of Control. But the CIA's clear signals vis-a-vis the would-be geographical features of the LoC were allowed to go out only after Pak Premier Zaffarullah Khan Jamali's telephonic meeting with his Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee. And the CIA's new map describes the territory east of the LoC as 'Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir' and the region to its west as 'Pakistan-controlled areas of Kashmir'. A definite change in the US perception, this exercise suggested. Until recently the United States accepted Islamabad's standpoint that the whole of J&K is 'disputed' territory. Going by the re-designed CIA's map, Washington seems to have changed its earlier position on J&K. The LoC has special importance for the US administration in its on-going war against terrorism. Washington has, on more than one occasion, accepted the fact that terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be stamped out without bringing to an end infiltration into the State from across the border. In fact, the term 'LoC in Jammu and Kashmir' has found an important place in Washington's lexicon. Circulation of the CIA's new map on Jammu and Kashmir has come at a time when the talk on future status of LoC has been revived. India will not quit Kashmir. Pakistan doesn't want the territory occupied by it to be grabbed by India. This reality is known to and fully understood by the United States. Since Washington, like several other countries, is for peace in Jammu and Kashmir and for end of dispute over it between India and Pakistan, can the latest CIA exercise be taken as a pointer to the shape of events to come? Does it suggest that India and Pakistan can be influenced in support of converting the Line of Control into International Border (IB) with 'some' adjustments on the Indian side of J&K ? A firm reply cannot be expected at a time when the situation is fluid. 'Wait and watch', is common refrain these days here, there and everywhere.


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