A Non-plebiscite Resolution Venture
2 December 2004
Syed Mohammad Tariq Pirzada
Lahore: Basking in the afterglow of his meeting with the Indians, the President's hundred yard dash of non-plebiscite options comes, though not without repeated clarifications, at the heels of some five long decades of frustrating leadership failures in our country's somber history. The Musharraf doctrine offers a flexible package of options, which, if the two sides - Islamabad and New Delhi - agree, could, in his view, eventually, lead to a permanent resolution of the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Prior to his October 25 Iftar dinner address in Islamabad, the President summed up the basis, and the direction of his resolution thesis in an earlier interview with the Indian newspaper, Asian Age. He came up with the following. 1. 'There can be no military solution to the dispute' over Jammu and Kashmir, as 'I know that Pakistan cannot dictate terms to India', says the President, 'nor India could dictate terms to Pakistan'. So the military leadership has reached a decision that a military conflict over Kashmir is not a viable option for lack of necessary capacity. 2. 'It is important for India and Pakistan to move away from their 'stated position' on Kashmir', as the President's framework offers to 'eliminate all those options on Jammu and Kashmir that were not acceptable to either side, and focus on those that were left behind'. Having ruled out a military solution, the plebiscite, and the Indian claim on Kashmir's integrality - the known stated positions - the president puts forth his Kashmir formula that seeks (a) to Identify regions therein, (b) to demilitarize it, and (c and d) to change its status simultaneous with discussion of resolution options. The gist of the President's October 25 address is to divide Kashmir into 7 regions, of which two (Azad Kashmir, and Northern areas) are controlled by Pakistan, and the other 5 (the Kashmir valley, the Muslim cum Hindu Jammu, the Budhist Laddakh, the Shiite Muslim Kargil-Dras area, and the area of leepa, are under the Indian administration. The two countries have to decide as to (a) which regions are to be kept by each side, and (b) which regions could be granted autonomy. The Musharraf option allows the autonomous region to, either, operate under the UN trusteeship, or be jointly run as a condominium. Should these regions be divided on religious, linguistic, or geographic lines is a matter that could be left to be bilaterally decided, according to President, who also disclosed that the two countries have been quietly working on different possibilities, and the next meeting between him and Mr Manmohan Singh would only be focused on these options. The President told the Indian Prime Minister in New York to quit talking about plebiscite, and the conversion of LOC into a permanent border. The following concerns require a lot of rethinking before the options become a verdict: Settlement at any cost . The whole issue of Kashmir is, either, being so handled, or, is giving the appearance of being so handled as though it is no longer the supreme national security interest of our republic, as though it is no longer a part of the unfinished agenda of the creation of Pakistan, and as though the overall national progress is stalled by the burden of this conflict; that some how Kashmir is to be blamed for all the problems, especially, poverty and underdevelopment in Pakistan, and India, and that it's early resolution can usher in an era of prosperity. The lame argument is now being advanced to rush to any kind of settlement irrespective of the cost. The argument clearly overlooks permanent leadership crises, and massive state- mismanagement as being the root cause for the nightmarish problems. Framing a clash between the issue of progress and the fundamental security interest in Kashmir, is the form of statecraft that not many nations would want to practice to shape up their future. The fact is that going down in history, as the architect of resolution over Kashmir, is quite tempting, yet the architecture of compromise may not help secure such a place. Package of options: Under the President's option, both Pakistan and India have to decide as to which regions of Kashmir are to be kept by the two sides, and which are to be granted autonomy. But a careful study reveals that his sincere solution, called an option, could, some how, develop into a proposal for the conversion of LOC into a permanent international border in the end with some minor adjustments. The President proposes an autonomous region that could either be independent, or UN-supervised (trusteeship style), or a condominium (a jointly administered region). Thus, in order for such an region to exist, it's border would have to run, roughly or exactly, along the LOC. Since the President's plan, as further articulated in his address to the Northern Area Legislative Council, seeks to retain the area of Kashmir under Pakistani control, the border of the proposed entity along the LOC would straight away result in the conversion of LOC into a permanent border between the new neighbor and Pakistan. On Monday, November 8, the foreign ministry's spokesman did allude to the 'option of discussion on LOC conversion into permanent border' as an option open to debate. The LOC-conversion into an international border, even though it is accepted for the establishment of a new entity, autonomous or free, shall still be the conversion of LOC into an international border, to which the nation is, and the President claims to be, so vigorously opposed. Indian response: No doubt, the Musharraf-Manmohan show was impressive, yet the Indians knew what they were doing on the sidelines of UNGA in New York. Through a joint statement of discussion on all options, they played to the galleries - the world audience - arousing euphoria in Islamabad that India had been forced to agree to consider all options on Kashmir. It cannot be disputed that the Musharraf-advisors could not have tendered a worse advice for their boss to scrape the plebiscite option on air in the hope that India would also reciprocate by renouncing its position on the Line of Control. Well the Indians did not. The Manmohan response in November 21 newspapers: 'any drawing of the international borders is not acceptable to us. Any proposal that smacks of further division is not acceptable to us'. End of discussion on any thing other than the status quo that might not include a lot beyond some border adjustment, if and when it came to that very point. The President admits in his November 20, SAFMA address that 'we want to move forward on Kashmir but nothing is happening from the other side', which is a quick realization forcing the President to declare that 'Pakistan had never left its stated position on Kashmir, and that it would not do so unilaterally'. Some misplaced confidence in the officially mandated, yet quietly pursued bilateral talks on Kashmir, also seem to have led to the assumption in Islamabad that the Indians could be drawn into a resolution dialogue based on options other than the status quo. The other conclusion is also hurting that the end of freedom movement, and the withdrawal of its support by Pakistan, could be a catalyst for India to give up its national security interest in Kashmir. The danger is that the failure of high stakes diplomacy, such as the one now underway over Kashmir, could rather lead to re-ignite the possibilities of military confrontation, the prevention of which is, apparently, the foremost goal of Musharraf's non-plebiscite venture. It was a sad moment in the nations history that while its leadership volunteered to abandon the plebiscite, a distant host, the President of Maldives was busy defending self-determination for the Kashmiris as he welcomed the visiting Prime Minister of Pakistan.