May 2003 News

The Weather At Srinagar

9 May 2003
The Nation
Dr Ijaz Ahsan

Lahore: For quite some time PTV has been giving out weather forecasts for Srinagar along with those for Pakistani cities. This is not right. Srinagar is not a Pakistani city. This is unnecessarily provocative and should stop. On the mountains around Srinagar the ice is melting, and in the context of Indo-Pakistan relations including Kashmir, everything is in the melting pot. What should be our approach? One thing we must remember. No one gets all that he wants. Gandhi wanted the whole of India, Jinnah wanted the whole of Pakistan, neither side got all he wanted. East Punjab, West Bengal, and most of Assam were separated from Pakistan and a compromise solution was arrived at. Quaid-i-Azam was a realist. He accepted the situation. Over here India has always wanted to retain the whole of Kashmir as its 'inalienable part'. Pakistan has always wanted a plebiscite that would certainly give the whole of Kashmir to Pakistan. If the events of 1947 are any guide, neither side may be able to get all that they want. When anyone mentions a third option we Pakistanis see red. But surely Pakistan itself was a third option, as shown above. A third option may therefore have to be considered again. As is obvious to everyone and has been proved by the experiences of 1965 and 1999, we cannot conquer Kashmir by force. Nor can India held it down indefinitely by armed might. That is why both sides are at long last coming to the negotiating table. One of the options is for Muslim-majority Azad Kashmir to remain with Pakistan, Hindu-majority Jammu to remain with India, and the valley to decide its fate by a plebiscite. If the Indians are really fed up of the insurgency in Kashmir, they could possibly agree to this. For Pakistan this would be a better option than another scheme that is being talked about, namely for the Line of Control to become the international border. Chances for a solution have never been brighter. Both India and Pakistan are being led by their extremists: India by the BJP and Pakistan by its Army. Only these ultra- rightists can negotiate a settlement; if anyone else were to try, they would immediately be dubbed as sell-outs. Vajpayee appears keen on a resolution of the issue. The fundamentalist hawks in the VHP and BJP will do their best to prevent such an eventuality, but hopefully their designs will be thwarted. Let us hope and pray for the success of the imminent parleys, so that the billion or more people of the two countries can live in peace and get out of the trap of grinding poverty. Road and rail links are being restored. This will be greatly welcomed by separated families in both countries, who have suffered a lot during the past two years as pawns in the game. Pakistan is in no hurry to restore permission for overflights, because the number of Indian flights going over Pakistan is much greater than the opposite. Also, with restoration of overflights the Indians will be able to fly to Afghanistan, which Pakistan would understandably not be too keen to facilitate at this early stage of the latter country's reconstruction. Mr Khurshid Kasuri has been leading the foreign ministry capably. His remark that trade could be discussed before Kashmir was perhaps spoken a little too early. However, it seems to me Pakistan is so keen on moving towards the talks that be felt: let us somehow start the talks. However, we will have to be very careful lest we concede more than we gain. India has all along been saying it will not tolerate any kind of interference from any quarters. However, with the arrival of Armitage and Christina Rocca, as everyone can see, the US is overseeing all that is happening between India and Pakistan. Yet we must remember that most of what the US is doing would appear to be on India's behalf. Because of its sheer size and the interlinking of its burgeoning economy with that of the US, India has become perhaps America's most important partner in the commercial field. The US is therefore jealously guarding India's interests. If both India and Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons, the US would not have come anywhere near the subcontinent and would have left India to bludgeon the Kashmiris into submission as best as it could. The world-wide fear of nuclear war in the subcontinent is a very important reason for the efforts being made for Indo-Pak rapproachment. We have offered to make the subcontinent a nuclear- free area. Some have criticised this action, because if these weapons are removed, Indian conventional military superiority will assert itself. However, it seems to me India is not going to give up its nuclear arsenal in a hurry, so we should for the time being continue with this stand. If India should at any stage agree to a nuclear-free South Asia, we should then change our demand from South Asian denuclearisation to universal nuclear disarmament. Actually, India will likely never agree to denuclearise the subcontinent and will carry on insisting on universal nuclear disarmament, so we don't have to worry too much on this score.


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