October 2004 News

Musharraf's Retro Look

27 October 2004
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi: Verily, it has been said, there is nothing new under the sun. Neither is Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's idea of giving independence to the Kashmir Valley. Of course, he hasn't quite put it that way, but that indeed is the implication of his proposal to 'identify the region, demilitarise the region forever and change its status… [which can then have] independence, condominium where there can be a joint control or there can be a UN mandate'. What the general has proposed is a modified version of Sir Owen Dixon's 1950 plan, which in turn has resurfaced in various forms in recent years. Dixon, a noted jurist, was appointed UN mediator in 1950 and was the first to actually acknowledge that Pakistan had violated international law when its forces crossed into Kashmir in 1947. Yet, his Cold War spectacles blinded him from following the logic of this determination. He realised that J&K was not a single entity, but a collection of polities brought under the political control of the Maharaja. He proposed that the plebiscite be held on a regional basis and the area allotted to whoever won the vote there. His alternative proposal was to first demarcate the state into regions certain to go to India or Pakistan, and then hold a plebiscite in the remaining portion. This way India would get Jammu and Ladakh, and Pakistan, 'Azad Kashmir' and the Northern Areas, requiring the plebiscite to be held only in the Valley. India was willing. But Dixon's insistence (on Pakistan's urging) that it be conducted after a demilitarisation of the Valley and it being placed under a UN mandate was unacceptable to New Delhi. This was not only because India's status in J&K was backed by international law, but also because of security, an issue that was important then, as it remains so today. Just how long will an independent Kashmir survive is anybody's guess. But considering that it has taken the entire might of the Indian army to keep it away from Pakistan in the past 57 years, our guess would be: several hours. Notwithstanding what Hindu philosophy teaches, international relations, like everyday life, moves in a linear fashion. Instead of looking back for a solution, the general would be well advised to look ahead.


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