'Most victims of Kashmir militancy are Muslims'
12 August 2003
The Daily Times
Shaukat Piracha & Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: Most of the victims of Muslim militants in Indian-administered Kashmir over the last 11 years have been other Muslims, Mani Shankar Aiyar, an Indian politician of the Congress party, said in an interview to Daily Times on Tuesday.Mr Aiyar is a member of the Lok Sabha, the Indian lower house of parliament, and one of India's best- known commentators and most outspoken critics. He was a close friend and adviser to the late Rajiv Gandhi. He is currently on a visit to Pakistan as part of a delegation that attended the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) peace conference in Islamabad. He opposes third-party mediation in the Kashmir dispute, but favours a plebiscite, subject to Pakistan fulfilling all the provision of the relevant UN resolution, including the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Azad Kashmir.Daily Times What next for India and Pakistan?Mani Shankar Don't ask us this question, ask our governments. Love is our message. We are from the opposition, and have told our government that if it wants friendly relations with Pakistan, we are with it. I have found that the members of parliament of your country have similar views. We have fulfilled our duty.DT You said the onus to establish friendly relations with Pakistan is on the BJP government. But the BJP is more flexible towards Pakistan than Congress.MS As I am in Pakistan, I don't want to say a single word about the political differences among the parties of my country. But I am really ashamed at the attitude of the BJP members, who exploit their visit to Pakistan for domestic political gains.There have been many stages in the last 57 years. I don't want to go into history, as I am looking to the future. We didn't put any precondition for dialogue. We held that cross border terrorism if stopped would result in a good atmosphere for the dialogue. The responsibility is the government's. If it goes for peace we are with it.DT Given that Pakistan has taken the lead in normalising relations with India and maintaining peace in the region, why does India continue to accuse Pakistan of cross-border terrorism and why doesn't it accept the deployment of UN observers along the Line of Control (LoC)?MS Do we need observers to see that our innocent children, women and people are being massacred? This is the truth whether you accept it or not. We are victims of this. In the last eleven years, the victims of terrorism have been innocent Muslims.Kashmir is a small valley, but the war is on the border. There is a Pakistani soldier to face an Indian solider. We have deployed our soldiers to safeguards our frontiers. It is totally wrong and baseless to say they are there for the genocide of the Kashmiri people. In a preplanned conspiracy, Pervez Musharraf sent his troops to Kargil in the guise of Mujahideen. What might have happened if our troops were not there? Our army is in Kashmir to save us.Once Najam Sethi came to India and described the condition of the people of Pakistan. I asked why if 120 million Muslims in Pakistan were living in such poor conditions, 30 million Kashmiris would choose to be part of Pakistan.DT Why don't you respect the long-pending UN resolution on Kashmir that the people must be given their right of self-determination?MS Who accepted the UN resolution first in 1948? Hindustan. And who rejected it? Pakistan. The UN resolution is based on three points. First, Pakistan would withdraw its troops from Kashmir. Second, India would reduce its forces to a certain extent. And third, there would be a plebiscite. You were not ready to take the first step, for you knew that you would lose the plebiscite. We waited three years for Pakistan's response. After 1965, when you attacked us, the UN Security Council didn't raise the issue of Kashmir, it condemned Pakistan for attacking India.DT The UN resolution on Kashmir talked about multilateralism instead of bilateralism on the Kashmir dispute. But India never accepted that part of the resolution.MS Who says the problem cannot be resolved bilaterally? I would say the process of resolution never started. And this is my point. Zufikar Bhutto and Indira Gandhi decided in 1972 that both sides must talk directly on the issue of Kashmir. Let me ask a question. Was any forum or working group formed between 1972 and 1989 to prepare for the official talks on the Kashmir dispute?A dispute is something in which a mediator jumps in to resolve the matter. We went to the UN, we complained about Pakistan's unlawful attack on Kashmir. We asked the UN to vacate Pakistan from the valley. We accepted 31 years ago in the Simla Agreement that whatever the disputes between the two countries, they must be discussed bilaterally. We accepted that we would discuss the issue of Jammu and Kashmir with you. Why should we accept Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed state when the Independence of India Act states that the Maharajas would decide the fate of the princely states? DT Three clear points in the Independence Act were that the fate of princely states would be decided according to the majority of the population, geographical continuity and will of the people. Now how would you justify your claim on Kashmir?MS No! The condition was not of the people's will but the will of the prince. The state is geographically continuous with both India and Pakistan. As far as the majority population is concerned, that was for British India. The plebiscite proposal never came from Pakistan. We held a plebiscite in Junagadh. Actually, we were against the formation of a state on the basis of religion. If religion is the foundation of the state, then why is there a border between Pakistan and Iran or Pakistan and Afghanistan?DT Does that mean you don't accept Pakistan? MS No! Never! We don't accept the two-nation theory. But I recognize the reality. Today there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan or Bangladesh. Let me say in one phrase that I do not accept the two- nation theory, but I do accept the three-nation reality. And we don't want to revert from that reality. We wish Pakistan a long life.DT What do you think about the communal violence in Gujarat that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Muslims? Did they not establish that the separate homeland for the Muslim was a must? Was that not due to the fundamentalist BJP government in the centre? MS There is no BJP government in the centre. There is coalition government, namely the National Democratic Alliance. And we, the Congress, are striving throughout India to prevent the BJP from forming a government, for we don't trust them. We condemned what happened in Gujarat in the strongest words. The government of Gujarat backed the rightists. We want to reveal the truth through the courts. It is the government's responsibility to get involved and stop the riots as soon as possible. And the criminals should be punished.