An Unworkable Roadmap
7 July 2003
Lahore: IT sounds rather strange for the President to keep repeating the idea of having a roadmap for Kashmir on the pattern of the Middle East roadmap handed down to the two disputing parties by Washington. On more than one count, it is inappropriate to show any eagerness for it. For one thing, the Middle Eastern proposal is an obvious formula for perpetuating injustice to the Palestinians. Howsoever promising the start its implementation might make, it is bound sooner rather than later to come up against Israeli intransigence on the questions of settlements and repatriation of refugees. The Palestinians' good faith and the high hopes its framers might pin on it for the peace to return to the region would be of no avail. For another, the objective conditions in Palestine are radically different from those prevailing here. While Tel Aviv is as ruthless as New Delhi in suppressing the freedom struggle and has, likewise, made the lives of Palestinians miserable, the Jews in Israel also remain in constant fear of losing their lives at the hands of suicide bombers. Contrary to this, the Indo-Kashmir scene presents a totally different picture. The people of India, cut off from the trouble spot by a vast distance, have no such concerns about the safety of their lives, especially as their 700,000-strong armed forces in the Valley keep the Kashmiris under their jackboots. Hence the Indian leadership is in no hurry to resolve the dispute, as its Israeli counterpart ought to be. For us, its early resolution is no doubt important but there is no justification in pursuing it with haste that might lead to an unsatisfactory outcome. Another important thing is that New Delhi has turned down the very idea of a roadmap. The President definitely has a point when he says that dialogue with India not covering the Kashmir dispute is untenable, indeed, unacceptable. But the four steps of his roadmap make no sense. There could no peaceful alternative to the first one, 'begin talks'. The Indians could probably be persuaded to shed their aversion to treating Kashmir as 'the central problem' dividing the two of us. But there is certainly going to be a deadlock on the third step, if the present points of view of the parties are kept in view. How can we 'eliminate whatever is unacceptable to the people of Kashmir, for India and for Pakistan' and move to the final step, a 'win-win' situation? The Kashmiris would like to exercise their right to self-determination and Pakistan would go along with them favouring UN-sponsored plebiscite for the purpose. But would India give up its insistence on a solution within its Constitution? Obviously, there is no meeting point in them. Justice and democratic ideals demand that aspirations of the people of Kashmir to decide their future should carry the day. Roadmaps with stalemates built into them will lead nowhere.