August 2003 News

The Buch formula to resolve Kashmir dispute

20 August 2003
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: M Yusuf Buch, a retired UN official and leading Kashmiri intellectual, has authored a Kashmir settlement plan which would bring about agreed demilitarisation, bring the Siachin confrontation to a close, end all armed activity, result in the release of political prisoners, ensure freedom of movement and speech, demarcate Kashmir into its five natural geographical cantons for the holding of referenda and give birth to a unified interim state assembly for a final disposition.A copy of the proposal obtained by Daily Times underscores that it is no more than a rough sketch and details would need to be carefully worked out. 'Its essence is that it neither favours nor rules out any conceivable solution - be it accession in whole or in part to either India or Pakistan or full or quasi-independence for any region or the separation of any two regions. All these matters it leaves to be decided in a graduated process by the representatives of the people of each region without any undue pressure,' according to the author.Buch, a Srinagar-born Kashmiri, has been personally associated with the Kashmir case at the United Nations literally from the day it was brought to the world body by India in 1948. He assisted and advised Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan during the great Kashmir debates and every Pakistani representative and delegation thereafter, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1960s. He also served as special assistant to Bhutto, Pakistan's ambassador to Switzerland and a senior aide to more than one UN Secretary General. Buch stresses that first of all the killings in Kashmir have to stop and points out that only a 'visible movement' towards resolving the basic conflict will lend credibility to a ceasefire. Because of the multiplicity of anti-occupation groups, it is the Indian government which will have to take the initiative by declaring a ceasefire from a specified early date. Once that is done, the Hurriyat Conference must issue a strong appeal to all fighting groups, local or foreign, to reciprocate. The Pakistan government must also urge all groups originating from its territory to end hostilities or face severe penalties and loss of popular support. During the initial phase, while leaving the existing administrative machinery in place in both Indian-held and Azad Kashmir, the two governments should agree to pull back their forces to an agreed distance form the border, drastically cut the size of their forces inside the state (both Pakistani and Indian administered Kashmir), start demilitarising Siachin, urge their nationals who support the insurgency to leave the state, facilitate the return of conflict-displaced citizens, release all political prisoners and declare complete freedom of speech and movement from one end of the state to another.Phase two of the Buch plan involves UN assistance which he terms 'indispensable in two respects'. The first is the definition of the five cantons or divisions that are the undivided state's natural constituents. The UN secretary general would be requested to set up a small group of non-subcontinental geographers to demarcate the five cantons. The second would be to set up the machinery for the supervision of elections to a Peoples' Provisional Assembly. On the convening of the assembly, each region would be asked to vote whether they wished the existing relationship with India or Pakistan to continue or to negotiate a relationship with either or both de novo. The region whose representatives vote for the status quo would cease to be subject to any international contention. Its affairs would fall within the internal jurisdiction of the government whose sovereignty it has accepted. Any region opting for a new relationship would nominate a small team to negotiate with the Indian and Pakistani governments the terms of the status of their region. Based on the outcome, this team would frame recommendations which would be submitted to a popular yes or no referendum in the region for final decision. Both India and Pakistan would be committed in advance to accept the result of the affirmative vote. The less likely negative vote would entail renewed negotiations.Buch points out that if India agrees to cooperate with the UN, it would raise its stature 'immeasurably' and, by helping to promote this effort at a final and acceptable settlement of the Kashmir dispute, the United States would 'shed some of the odium that it has incurred in the Iraq context because of its attitude towards the United Nations.'


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