June 2003 News

Advani Says India Ready For 'give And Take' On Kashmir

13 June 2003
The Indian Express
Pradeep Kaushal

Chicago: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said here on Thursday night that India was ready for a compromise on Jammu and Kashmir, but what these compromises may be had to be determined through talks. He was delivering a lecture on 'Democracies against Terrorism: India-US Cooperation', organised by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations at Hotel Hilton Towers. Deviating from the written text of his speech, Advani told an elite gathering there could be a compromise on Jammu and Kashmir. 'We have to see what kind of compromises are possible even now,' he said, adding talks could help decide these compromises. 'There has to be some give and take to achieve peace. However, we have to pledge that we would resolve the issue through peaceful means.' The remarks by Advani, a hardliner on the issues concerning Pakistan, marked a turning point in the behind-the-scenes efforts to bring about a settlement between New Delhi and Islamabad on the crucial Kashmir issue. Advani was not accessible after the lecture to throw more light on his remarks, but it was clear that the two sides were looking at a window, somewhere in between the hard positions taken by them, to resolve the issue. India is bound by a unanimous resolution by Parliament declaring Jammu and Kashmir, including the area held by Pakistan, an integral part of the country. On the other hand, Pakistan continues to reject India's position, demanding a right to self-determination for the people of the state. Since a solution has to be acceptable to both sides, one formula closest to both countries is the conversion of the present line of control (LoC) in the state into an international border. The idea acquired credence when the US successfully pressured Pakistan to make terrorists vacate the Kargil hills and retreat into the Pakistani side of the LoC. Though the conversion of the LoC into an international border would be the most pragmatic solution, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Advani require guts to push it through. To start with, they would find themselves prisoners of their own rhetoric, after having advocated a firm stand for decades. To cap it, they have to contend with the hawkish Sangh Parivar rank and file, who can be trusted to reject it. It is clear that the US is set to play a key role in the effort. In another speech, later at night, Advani told members of the Indian community that he had told US President George W. Bush: 'It is your responsibility to make the peace initiative of our Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee meaningful (sarthak). Pakistan has to create an atmosphere conducive to a dialogue. And President Bush has assured me that he would do so (persuade Pakistan).' Going beyond Pakistan, Advani tried to project India as a country surrounded by terrorists from all sides. He pointed out that in the north, India had to contend with Maoist insurgents of Nepal, who operated 'with impunity and with devastating consequences for friendly Nepal'. This, according to him, had implications for the security of both India and Nepal, which had open borders. He claimed that there had been reports of contacts between the Maoist insurgents and the Shining Path guerrillas in South America. In the east, he said, insurgents groups from India sought refuge in both Myanmar and Bangladesh and received support from anti- India elements there. In the south, even though 'we are cautiously optimistic of the peace process in Sri Lanka', the threat of terrorism persisted, according to the Deputy Prime Minister. 'We live in a tough neighbourhood,' he told the audience.


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