Kashmir Pact Was Just A Signature Away23 April 2010
Times of India
Lahore: For most people, Kashmir is an intractable problem dividing India and Pakistan. What they don’t know is that the two countries have actually an accord on Kashmir ready and had almost unveiled it in 2007. Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who was Pervez Musharraf’s foreign minister from 2002 to 2007, on Friday told The Times of India of this hush-hush deal that was cobbled together through secret parleys held in India, Pakistan and several foreign capitals for more than three years and could have resolved the sub-continent’s thorniest security and political dispute, had not the anti-Musharraf upsurge triggered by the sacking of the chief justice convulsed Pakistan. Kasuri said he has never spoken of this track-II success earlier, other than saying that he knew of a possible way to resolve the Kashmir problem that was acceptable to both countries. Kasuri said in an exclusive interview that negotiators from Islamabad and New Delhi had quietly toiled away for three years, talking to each other and Kashmiri representatives from the Indian side as well as Kashmiris settled overseas to reach what he described as the 'only possible solution to the Kashmir issue'. He said the two sides had agreed to full demilitarisation of both Jammu & Kashmir as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which Islamabad refers to as Azad Kashmir. In addition, a package of loose autonomy that stopped short of the ‘azadi’ and self-governance aspirations, had been agreed on and was to be introduced on both sides of the disputed frontier. 'We agreed on a point between complete independence and autonomy,' he said. Kasuri said that both countries, realizing the sensitivity of such a deal, had agreed not to declare victory or tom-tom the negotiations. He said that hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Gilani was the only Kashmiri leader who refused to come on board. 'He would accept nothing but merger with Pakistan, which ironically is something we too wanted but knew wasn’t practical. I once had a seven-to-eight hour meeting with him and even Musharraf met him but he refused to budge,' Kasuri said. He refused to give details of the stance other moderate Kashmiri leaders adopted. Kasuri said almost all the actors on the Kashmiri stage were on board the accord that was to be signed during a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Islamabad that was scheduled for February-March 2007 but never happened. 'I advised the president that inviting the PM at that time would not have been possible. And that we should wait for a more peaceful moment to announce the plan otherwise all the hard work of three years by the two sides would be wasted,' he said, referring to the time when Musharraf was under siege by a country-wide lawyers’ campaign that had transformed itself into an anti-dictator movement. He said that since the Opposition was on a roll against Musharraf at that time, any peace plan would have been rejected by them as a 'sell-out to India'. Kasuri - who is from one of the country’s pre-eminent political families and whose father drafted Pakistan’s constitution - refused to give details of other aspects of the solution or name Indian officials involved in the deal, saying that since he felt it was the only way Kashmir could be resolved, it could be starting point of next round of talks. He said the reason PM Gilani had appointed Riyaz Mohammed Khan, the foreign secretary under Kasuri, as the track-II special negotiator was because he was one of the key architects of the secret Kashmir pact.