Mechanism To Settle Kashmir Dispute Was Ready: Sartaj Aziz

25 November 2009
Daily Times
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: Former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz claimed on Wednesday that India and Pakistan had devised a mechanism to settle the Kashmir dispute way back in 1999 – but the fall of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government in India, followed by the Kargil conflict, knocked down any possibility of an understanding. Aziz launched his book – titled ‘Between Dreams and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History’ – on Wednesday highlighting significant events in Pakistan, including military interventions, political upheavals, the dismemberment of Pakistan, the Kargil conflict, Indo-Pak relations and the situation in the region. Talking exclusively to Daily Times, the former minister said he met his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh in Colombo in March 1999 – a month after Vajpayee’s famous Lahore trip. “We noted the recommendations of American Kashmir Study Group. We discussed conducting a plebiscite, district or region wise instead of in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding that the idea was to narrow down the problem to the Kashmir valley and adjoining areas. The components of the solution included the integration of Azad Kashmir with the Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan. Similarly, India would annex the Jammu and Ladakh regions, leaving the Kashmir valley and some adjoining areas for further discussion. “We had discussed giving the Kashmir valley maximum possible autonomy, and also set a timeframe of four-to-five years for the implementation of the solution,” said Aziz.