May 2003 News

Kashmir dispute may be frozen

11 May 2003
The Nation
Absar Alam

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India are inching towards a tacit understanding to freeze the core Kashmir dispute for the next few years at least while scaling down dangerous military standoff and improving trade, transport and diplomatic ties between the two countries, The Nation has learnt through reliable sources Sunday. In pursuit of this understanding Pakistan has already given two major concessions to India by not insisting on UNSC resolutions and the assurance to choke cross border infiltration and roll back so-called militant camps. 'Both goodwill gifts were delivered through Armitage,' a senior Pakistani official disclosed. Pakistan has also taken China into confidence on the latest developments in the region. For years Beijing has been encouraging Pakistan to 'freeze' the Kashmir issue and focus more on its economic development as was done successfully by China on its Hong Kong and Taiwan policy. 'I will rather use the word float,' a well-connected, senior Pakistani politician told The Nation when asked about the 'freezing' proposal. The politician, who has full knowledge of Pakistan's present and past peace trysts with India, predicted that no major breakthrough would be achieved between India and Pakistan this time on the issue of Kashmir. 'We are back to square one (Lahore Accord) and with so much loss of life and credibility,' he said. Although Pakistan has been wary of the sincerity of recent Indian peace overtures, and hence did not lift ban on the over-flight of Indian planes and the import of sugar, Armitage's 'bench-pressing' diplomacy has done wonders to win over Pakistani policy-makers hearts and minds to make compromises. In return to these key concessions, Armitage, during his visit to New Delhi, has tried to convince India to normalise the tense border situation, initiate dialogue with Pakistan, and co-opt Kashmiris as third party, the sources claimed. 'According to the will of Kashmiri people' would be the new slogan that Pakistani establishment would sell to its people to shield against a possible backlash at home. 'Now Pakistan will not push for the implementation of UNSC resolutions.' The sources claimed that military-dominated foreign policy especially in key areas like India and Afghanistan and marginalisation of the foreign office over the years, has not served the interest of the nation well, hence the need to now abandon the established positions and reorient our policies. Diplomatic circles believe that to solve Kashmir issue both sides would have to move away from the stated positions and show flexibility. Pakistan, they believed, has done a lot by promising to wrap up militants' camps, if any, in its territory, and putting the UNSC resolutions in cold storage. By giving so much ground to India at the first stage, sources said, Islamabad had actually retreated to its February 1999 position when Vajpayee and Sharif signed the Lahore Accord. 'The diplomatic disaster for Pakistan is that India has lost nothing in the process but Pakistan's stand on Jehad in Kashmir has weakened following the 9-11 terror attacks and it also lost goodwill among the Indian masses and the government created by the Lahore Accord. 'In 1999 India was talking to Pakistan without asking Pakistan to end cross-border infiltration,' he said. The desire for peace in South Asia on both sides was so strong that despite Kargil crisis, another Summit between former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee was being scheduled for October or November 1999. 'But the military coup of October 1999 derailed the peace process,' the sources claimed. 'Those would have been serious negotiations from positions of equality,' he said, 'but now Pakistan's position has weakened vis--vis India.' In Agra the talks failed to end the differences between them as the both sides did not move from their stated positions. India refused to accept Pakistani demand to accept Kashmir as core issue and insisted upon Islamabad to eliminate cross-border terrorism. 'It will be a great political and diplomatic achievement for Pakistani government if India could go back to pre-Kargil position.' Political analysts believe that a consideration is strengthening within Pakistani establishment and Indian hardliners that Kashmir issue could neither be resolved through militancy or by ruthless, repressive state control. 'State terrorism and militancy options have run their course,' the senior politician said, 'both sides would have to drag on the dialogue process to change hostile public opinions which would be in the best interest of the two nations.'


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