4 May 2005
Lahore: IT is quite strange that Islamabad should be presenting a formula for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute whose two strands cancel each other out. On the one hand, there is the absolutely justified insistence that ascertaining the wishes of the people is a prerequisite to any settlement, while on the other there is an incomprehensible proposal of adopting means other than the plebiscite to determine the Kashmiris' aspirations. One wonders what better or even equally credible method there could be to find out whether they wish to join Pakistan or India. The argument that a plebiscite, which is a means of granting Kashmiris the right of self- determination, is New Delhi's pet aversion that has forced Islamabad to think of other ways, has to be weighed in the context of its desire to keep holding on to Held Kashmir under any circumstances. And as it is convinced like the rest of the world that a free choice, lying at the root of a UN-sponsored plebiscite, would see a disgraceful end of its illegal occupation, it would not countenance any such suggestion. Pakistan has had enough experience of its strategy of declaring thoroughly rigged and dragooned elections as equivalent to having ascertained the people's wishes about their future. The Western press and leaders have been acquiescing in this palpable chicanery, talking of India as 'the greatest democracy' and the puppet Held Kashmir Assembly as representative of Kashmiris. It appears that Pakistan, notwithstanding the Foreign Office spokesman's assertion to the contrary at Monday's press briefing, is under strong external pressure to reach some sort of a settlement with India to create a climate of peace in the Subcontinent. Otherwise, it has been taken in by the lure the economic and commercial ties with India holds, ignoring the glaring reality that its control as an upper riparian state is leading to the diversion of water, which is the real lifeline of our economy. Whatever the rationale of our volte-face. It would mean leaving the people of Kashmir, who have undergone untold suffering over the years, in the lurch, as Syed Ali Geelani has argued more than once. Islamabad realises that peace on India's terms, which at best make the LoC as permanent border, would be counterproductive. To believe that the Indian leadership is making sincere efforts, as the spokesman would have us believe, to resolve the Kashmir dispute, amounts to deceiving oneself. It has succeeded in persuading us to establish people-to-people contact, restore economic ties and, in sort, normalise relations before any meaningful approach could be made to the core issue. And now Islamabad has given up the idea of a timeframe. Normalised relations and absence of timeframe are the two ideal postulates India has for long been working on to frustrate attempts at tackling the dispute straightaway. Raising the Baglihar dam in contravention of the Indus Waters Treaty once again proves its insincerity. Having known that India repeatedly plays dirty tricks on Pakistan, it is difficult to understand the logic of falling victim to delusions of its honest intent.