July 2005 News

Kashmir's Solution Or Disposal

1 July 2005
The Nation
Prof Moazzam Tahir Minhas

Lahore: There was time when Kashmir was our jugular vein. It was our emotional vortex for a long time. It gave political governments their lease and military regimes their stabilising factor. To be candid our Kashmir strategy has been faulty from the day one. We treated both Kashmir and former East Pakistan as our property. This colonial concept resulted in the separation of our greater and better half of our country and the disillusionment of the Kashmiris. In spite of that we had a strong case on Kashmir in terms of legal and moral connotations. Unfortunately our foreign office foggies; especially after Agha Shahi spoiled it through their poor diplomacy. Myopic decisions were taken by Ayub at Bhutto's instance to go to war. Reckless military adventurism combined with political expediency ousted one (Ayub) and cleared the way for another (Bhutto), No wonder Ayub celebrated the dubious victory our India to stay in power but he (Ayub) was no match to Bhutto's political chicaneries and shenanigans. It is this movement which gave birth to the principle of recognised military takeovers. Apart from that asymmetrical power equation had its impact on Kashmir. Later day khakis extended active support to militancy. All this resulted in eroding whatever international support we had on Kashmir. Then after nuclearisation had its own impact on it (Kashmir) in its contribution to the freezing of borders. Again the rise or nationalism during the last few years in both the countries made an already complicated issue more complicated and uncertain. In this perspective came 9-11. And this gave the greatest blow to the Kashmir movement in its geo-political context. The freedom struggle was labelled as terrorism. The 'us' and 'them' syndrome left no choice for Musharraf except joining as frontline state of the coerced international coalition. Musharraf's U-turn was a compulsive necessity and in a way he corrected many a strategic blunder of the past governments. Then after strategic interests of the US in South Asia, Central Asia and Middle East forced India and Pakistan to realise the seriousness of the Kashmir issue and its dangerously expanding dimensions and its linkage with the ongoing Afghan conflict as well as the resistance movement in Iraq. In this changing global scenario, Musharraf seized the historical moment to solve this nuclear flashpoint much against the ballyhooed campaign of sell-out by the opposition. The basis of exuberant confidence of his Kashmir policy lies in his understanding with Manmohan Singh. That is his (President) greatest asset. But at the same time the President's Achilles heel is his optimism and undue haste. The President is reading too, much into the ongoing peace-process. Then, flexibility desire and will-power is onesided. The other side is always on the demanding spree and it has now triggered Baltistan controversy. Still the fact remains that dialogue is where it was. No doubt India wants to resolve the issue bilaterally but its insistence to accept held Kashmir to be its inalienable part leaves nothing for discussion. Surprisingly the refrain of Atootang during the ongoing dialogue is seen floating on the surface. So sheer wishful thinking will not do. It must give way to realism otherwise détente in South Asia would be short-lived. No wonder to begin with CBMs was a support activity but unfortunately we have made it an end in itself. Thus it is high time to shift towards timeframe. Open- ended discussion would only lead to frustration and cynicism. The slogan of irreversibility' has entrapping and evasive connotations. To link it with cross-border terrorism has backtracking tentacles. This has the potential to squeeze Pakistan in case things don't proceed on Kashmir as planned. It is not for noting that Karzai has blamed Pakistan for cross-border terrorism. There is a method in that madness. There could be times when on a cue from concerned quarters he could corroborate to Indian's reversion to deja vu on like flimsy pretexts. So we must, have something to fall back upon. In view of Indian's typical mindset with reference to the emergence of Pakistan, and fluidity of the US policies; the need for the triumvirate Geelani-Yasin-Shah could arise and their outright rejection would be impolitic. The truth of Kashmiris being the pivotal party is invariably far more nuanced in the international context but the reality is not recognised by India. Even their invitation to Pakistan could not be digested. Could there be greater CBM than this? Their visit has a tremendous political potential and could contribute to facilitate verdict for peace in the region. It is a concrete step forward towards peace after a long period of conflict and confrontation. Their visit has given a clear perception to the peace process and centrality to the dispute. In spite of division in the APHC factions there is a silver lining to the peace- process. It has two muscles - military as well as political. The mix of the two holds a bright promise for the political solution of the problem. Afghanistan suffered from civil war and anarchy after the Russian's ouster because it conspicuously lacked the political arm so essential to rebuild and harmonise the disparate groups of the community. No doubt the delegation consists of moderate leaders of the APHC. They are in line with the President in having the same political wavelength and are pragmatic and flexible; having shared understanding with the realities of the changed world and their region. Their attitude towards India is very much collected in spite of its continuing brutalities in the valley. But it must be remembered that APHC is not fully represented. Syed Ali Geelani is at variance with their thinking. He has substantial constituency of his own and was sometime Pakistan's favourite. He considers all this a trap laid by Indians to weaken resistance. By co-opting Pakistan in the peace-process, India is imposing its will on the Kashmiris. According to him peace-process is airy - having no roots in the ground. The much boasted bus service and ceasefire have little importance and can be reversed by India at its choosing. Only uninterrupted struggle with conviction and courage can only deliver. Thus to overlook Geelani for domestic reasons or international promptings is pregnant with numerous negatives and would be politically suicidal for the future of Kashmiris. He is the only person to serve the very important function of finding harmony between the military and political wings of the movement. Then promoting Mirwaiz is not result-oriented. His being, dubbed as Karzai speaks of his vaulting ambition. Bilal Lone has rightly warned the government; not to impose Sheikh Abdullah on us. Ironically our Establishment's penchant for raising favourites (once Geelani and now Mirwaiz) and changing them at will defies comprehension. Consistent policy and not capriciousness is a correct political bet. To move to extremes and U-turns is a poor substitute for lasting political gain. None knows better than the General that militants of yesterday are as important as the political mavericks of today. Again Mirwaiz's desire to bargain with India with full credential in the manner of Mandela and Arafat has to be accepted with reservation. The top priority of APHC should eliminate its divisive fissures by calling for intense intra Kashmiri dialogue. Unification alone can make them a recognised political force to be accommodated by India. For this, they shall have to develop the clout of Algerians, Vietnamese and Palestinians to win freedom and break the shackles. It has to be said that the real problem between India and Pakistan is distrust and suspicion. And this has historical perspective and refuses to go away. As simple an issue as Sir Creek is its victim even after the joint survey made in January last. It is a pity that the deliberations of eight lengthy sessions stretching our two years has just resulted in understanding each other. The difference between two view points, is simple. Pakistan wants the boundary to start on the basis of 1914 map, whereas India wants the line to run through middle of Sir Creek. This is against Thalweg principle in International law; especially when waters are unnavigable. The problem here is not the land. It is on the defining and demarcation of EEZ (exclusive economic Zone). Then rumour of oil and gas reserve is factoring into the impasse. The irrelevance of this all having nothing definitive is obvious. The much talked about spirit of accommodation and generosity of Manmohan Singh should be reflected in its solution. How long shall we continue to move from crisis to détente and back? The most vital question here is how to remove centuries old doubts and distrusts that are impeding our progress on the composite dialogue and peace-process. The simple answer is - through people-to-people contacts. Let it be said that present contacts are not that of people's making. They are government controlled and their breakthrough is just ceremonial and peripheral. The contacts should be massive having the spontaneity of the people. They must be comprehensively inclusive and participative, having its reach on the principal regions and provinces of both the countries. The relationship established in such a way will be stable, real and result-oriented. It will have an element of fulsomeness and resonance creative of wholesome and relaxed amiability to face the intense political pressure and other concomitant domestic restraint of their respective countries. The quintessence of what has been said above is that Pakistan should leave the policy of appeasement. There is no need to compromise on the principles. Pakistan has nothing to fear from the Indians. Its real problem lies in its domestic fanaticism. We have been supporting Kashmiris and should consistently support them. Our national agenda is more important than the foreign agenda. The input given by Islamabad Policy Research Institute on Kashmir recently is too valuable to be lost sight of. Shaukat Aziz has rightly said that Kashmir issue is too complicated to be solved in the near future, so the hasty solution being visualised by the President can lead to unrealistic solution. Besides that it would entail heavy political cost both in terms of country and leadership. The most difficult thing is to exercise the art of diplomacy in a tempting moment and the prudence lies in avoiding it. The best thing that our government can do is to step back and allow the Kashmiris to take the front seat.


Return to the Archives 2005 Index Page

Return to Home Page