May 2005 News

The Surrealistic Peace Process

11 May 2005
The Daily Times
Ijaz Hussain

Islamabad: The Kashmir policy being pursued by the president does not augur well for the success of the peace process. No sustainable peace is possible unless it is firmly based on a national consensus on Kashmir. The president should remember that Kashmir has been the graveyard for many a government President Pervez Musharraf was ecstatic on the outcome of his recent talks with the Indian leadership, which he described as 'very successful' and 'beyond expectations'. The hyperbolic tone was subsequently followed by the Foreign Office spokesperson who termed the document resulting from the talks as a 'landmark statement'. When we look at the joint statement, it does not seem to support the claim. Indeed it is full of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), both old and new, Kashmir- specific and Pakistan-India-specific. However, on the substantive issue of Kashmir, it indicates no concrete progress, let alone a break-through, as it merely commits the two leaders 'to continue these discussions in a sincere and purposeful and forward-looking manner for a final settlement'. This commitment is no big deal. The Simla Agreement carried a similar pledge. It turned out subsequently to be harbinger of a false dawn. The joint statement carries no provision on ceasefire, no commitment to withdraw Indian troops from the Valley and no pledge to stop acts of state terrorism being perpetrated by the Indian security forces. Similarly, it registers no headway on Siachen, Sir Creek or Baglihar. Given these facts the claim of success 'beyond expectations' is amazing. When asked the other day to spell out the basis of the fantastic claim that he had made, President Musharraf explained it merely in terms of the sincerity of the Indian leadership in seeking conflict resolution on Kashmir. What naiveté! The surrealistic streak is not new. The president indulges it from time to time. At an iftar party in Islamabad last October he had made certain observations as 'food for thought'. Categorically rejecting the LoC as an international border, he had floated a step-by-step approach. He had proposed on the basis of local culture and demographic composition categorisation of various regions in Kashmir, followed by gradual demilitarisation of the state. In his scheme of things, this could lead to an India- Pakistan condominium, a UN mandate or independence. Any one reading the proposal would get the impression that attempts at implementation of the UN Kashmir resolutions including the Dixon and Graham proposals were never made, the Simla Agreement was never concluded and 9-11 was but a fiction. It is as if the Kashmir dispute has just started or General Musharraf has never read the history of Pakistan- India relations. No wonder the Indian prime minister rejected the proposal out of hand, curtly pointing out that India was opposed to any redrawing of the map. The kite flying appeared all the more intriguing after the Indian prime minister revealed that he had unambiguously told the Pakistani president that the exercise in exploration of possible solutions would have to be carried out without disturbing the boundaries. The joint statement says the peace process is irreversible. This is a clear climb down from President Musharraf's earlier assertion that a failure to resolve the Kashmir dispute will bring the normalisation process to a halt. This retreat was followed by another. The president renounced his earlier position - enunciated on a couple of occasions last year - in favour of fixing a deadline for resolving the Kashmir dispute. These summersaults should not come as a surprise. They mark a continuation of his earlier policy of gratuitous concessions to India including the renunciation of UN resolutions, abandonment of priority of resolution of Kashmir over normalisation and characterisation of armed resistance in Kashmir as terrorism. One could say that with the statement on the irreversibility of the peace process the U-turn on Kashmir is complete. Today's peacemaker, General Musharraf, was at one time a super hawk. His baptism of fire in India-Pakistan relations took place with opposition to the Lahore Declaration when he stayed away from the reception given by Nawaz Sharif in Vajpayee's honour. Subsequently, he subverted the incipient peace process by proposing the Kargil misadventure. He also showed no qualms about wrecking the Agra summit though his uncompromising attitude on Kashmir. How do we explain the General's transformation to a dovish leader? Several explanations have been proposed for it. There is the conspiracy theory according to which he is simply carrying out the American agenda. Then there is a belief that he is looking for a place for himself in history. Another theory is that the two attempts on his life have brought about a profound realisation of the danger that the jihadi culture poses to Pakistan. The catalytic event is said to have reinforced his conviction that in order to survive Pakistan will have to change and fit into the post-9-11 world. Irrespective of what brought about the transformation, the fact remains that President Musharraf's commitment to improved relations between India and Pakistan is the pivot on which the success of the peace process depends. The contours of the peace process are still not clear. Any solution will depend on the meeting of minds between the two adversaries. President Musharraf rules out the possibility of accepting the LoC as international border. Indians, for their part, are not prepared to redraw the boundaries. The president has tried to reconcile the contradiction by supplying the following interpretation: 'Boundaries cannot be adjusted, boundaries become irrelevant and the LoC cannot be made permanent. Take the three together now discuss the solution'. Many analysts believe that this leads towards the idea of greater autonomy on both sides of the LoC, with joint institutions and free movement of people and trade. But if this is what the president is aiming at, it is a far cry from his refrain of never accepting the LoC as a permanent border. The idea that as a result of globalisation borders have lost meaning is no more than a gimmick to rationalise the permanence of the LoC. One thing is certain. The shape of the solution emerging from the peace process will depend more on India's generosity than anything else. This is so because Pakistan has surrendered before the start of negotiations the few cards it had on Kashmir. Finally, a word about the fallout of the General's solo flight. Both India and the US are happy to deal with him. They believe that he can deliver on Kashmir (who says that military governments in Pakistan do not suit India?). But the assumption may turn out to be unfounded because, unlike India, the opposition and the general public in Pakistan are not involved in the peace process. They can reject the eventual deal. The attitude of the army is another unknown - the support for the General among the top brass, notwithstanding. Thus the Kashmir policy being pursued by the president and supported by the West and India does not augur well for the success of the peace process. No sustainable peace is possible unless it is firmly based on a national consensus on Kashmir. The president should remember that Kashmir has been the graveyard for many a government in Pakistan.


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