December 2004 News

Options In Kashmir-I Issue Complicated By Entry Of Outside Players

22 December 2004
The Statesman
VK Madhok

Kolkata: What visible options remain available to India to resolve the Kashmir dispute? Can India exercise a military choice to take back PoK? What is a feasible road map for the future? These are issues which need to be debated promptly and answers found before it is too late. Because it is nearly a year ago that former Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee visited the valley on 27 August 2003. And now the present Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who was to visit Kashmir in the third week of September 2004, has postponed his visit. Further, the state of affairs in J&K remains tricky, explosive, grim and unpredictable. And therefore, it may be the right time to take stock of the situation there. Proxy war Although at the recent talks held between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in the first week of September 2004, a large number of confidence building measures were suggested, there was no breakthrough: both sides did not budge from their stands. With Pakistan focussing on Kashmir as the core issue, India continues to insist that cross-border terrorism must stop first before any meaningful dialogue can take place. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to retain 86,023 sq km of Indian territory. Which has been divided into Azad Kashmir, Northern Areas and nearly 1000 sq km ceded to China for construction of Karakorum highway. The proxy war continues unabated. There is seldom a day when one does not read about the use of IEDs, bombs and rockets. Or attacks on CRP, BSF and other headquarters by the militants. Or laying of ambushes on army convoys, camps and the resultant casualties. Further, the army has completed the first phase of fencing from the Chamb basin to the Gurez sector - nearly 580 km. There are reports of nearly 6, 000 J&K citizens who have been recruited in three Territorial Army battalions for employment along with the Rashtriya Rifles in J&K. LoC as border While periodic suggestions are made on conversion of LoC into an international border from none other than a former chief minister and even the present National Security Adviser, the LoC remains the most heavily mined and fortified border in the world, next only to North and South Korea. And the US continues to play the role of a 'facilitator' with Pakistan and the Hurriyat demanding third party mediation. In these complex circumstances, what are India's options? Of the many alternatives mooted, partitioning of Kashmir is one, a suggestion made by former chief minister Farooq Abdullah who came into power for the fourth time on 4 October 1996. He proposed that the present LoC be converted into an international border implying that PoK should be left with Pakistan. However, in the wake of intense flak that this proposal drew, he backtracked and retrieved his position by stating in January 1997 that India should take back PoK. On the other hand, Pakistan's continued insistence that J&K must have a plebiscite in accordance with the UN resolution of 13 August 1948 is not workable. The armed forces of Pakistan will have to withdraw in the first instance to implement this. The Pakistan army will never accept this. Besides, much water has flowed since 1947-48. For one, Pakistan has, as already mentioned, ceded a portion of PoK to China in 1962. India was not a party to this. And with the emergence of the new factor of a proxy war along with the Hurriyat Conference, a conglomeration of nearly 32 small and big parties, even if the UN resolution was to be accepted, these developments will make it impossible to implement it. US and Chinese roles Further, efforts have been made to hold Indo-Pak talks at the foreign secretary and foreign minister levels. But the ugly reality is that Pakistan has tried to buy time to prepare to face India as well as to resolve its internal problems. On the other hand, in India, it has become the norm to defer hard decisions. A factor which has made the issue extremely complex is the entry of outside players. The US has a number of interests in the region. It would like both India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute bilaterally. It considers J&K a disputed territory and does not, at least ostensibly, seek a voluntary mediatory role: a stance which suits Pakistan and APHC. Concurrently, there is a view that both the US and Pakistan want to install a government in Kashmir which is amenable to them. As they are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq with a view to checkmate Iran, Russia and China. China too has shown no intention to mediate. Beijing considers it a problem left over by history. But we need to note that at the time of negotiating the deal for a large tract of PoK, it had rejected India's demand for participation in the talks. Further, it has been arming Pakistan.


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