New Ideas On Kashmir
23 November 2005
Lahore: IF Pakistan has a large repertoire of proposals to resolve the Kashmir dispute and is, at the same time, also ready to endorse any suggestion that one could care to make for this purpose, India appears equally determined to keep mum about them. The situation lends itself to a possible conclusion that shows the former suffering from the Kashmir-fatigue syndrome and the latter smug in its illegal occupation of Held Kashmir and in no mood to listen to an undefined and confusing array of ways to solve the riddle. Islamabad's attempt to base settlement of the issue, irrespective of the shape it might eventually take, on its being in consonance with the aspirations of the people, seems at times to be a meaningless adjunct. Pakistan needs to clearly state that while it is eager to find a solution of the core dispute to close the chapter of over half-a-century of mutual enmity with India and pave the way for peace to prevail in the Subcontinent, its keenness should not be interpreted to mean that it is ready to compromise on ascertaining the wishes of the Kashmiri people in a free and fair manner. Without spelling out its stand in such clear-cut terms, the impression that it was willing to sacrifice the Kashmiris' interests would gain ground. It should be quite obvious that a settlement that does not take into account their interests would lack durability and keep the climate of tension between the two alive. India has shown a dismissively non-committal reaction to Pakistan's proposal to demilitarise Kashmir nor to the idea of self-government. Both these proposals have, however, found a responsive ear in Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat. The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson termed them 'very important ideas' stating that if India responded positively, the modalities could be discussed. Perhaps, it would be more appropriate for Islamabad to spell them out for New Delhi to judge them on their merits. Besides, the people in Pakistan as well as Kashmir would be keen to know in detail what self-government and demilitarisation really entail. Should India accept demilitarisation, which seems unlikely, it would provide much-needed relief to the innocent people in Held Kashmir, who are brutalised very day for their desire to escape the clutches of foreign rule. New Delhi could only consent to demilitarise the Valley when the Indian leadership undergoes a real change of heart and feels the need to settle the dispute justly. It has as yet given no indication that it was even considering that possibility. The spokesperson avoided comments on the proposal to establish a United States of Kashmir floated by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, which he repeated in a panel discussion recently. But as Islamabad appears to be all out to discuss the merits of any idea pertaining to dispute's resolution, it would not be averse to talking about it. On the other hand, New Delhi has not swerved from its stand. It is time Pakistan reassessed its position of shifting postures, which may be harming the cause. Under no circumstances, it should give up its principled policy on the Kashmir issue whose fair solution is vitally important for us.