New Expert, New Kashmir Formula
1 September 2003
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
Jammu: Bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan over outstanding issues-Kashmir is one of them-has yet to start. But the game of floating proposals or advancing suggestions vis-a-vis the Kashmir dispute between the two nuclear states seems to have got quite interesting, with characters from India and Pakistan playing differently at different times. Indeed, these characters have had the benefit of more-than-necessary publicity in the two countries. History bears testimony to the fact that it all started with Owen Dixon's meeting with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, on June 10, 1950. Dixon, who had acquired high repute as judge of Australia's apex court, the High Court, came to the subcontinent as United Nations mediator on Kashmir on May 27, 1950. Dixon had his Kashmir formula publicised not only in India but also in Pakistan. And following his meeting with Dixon on July 26, 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru agreed with his (Dixon's) definition of the Valley of Kashmir as the area within the top of the watershed of the mountains surrounding it. But Nehru did not concede Dixon's argument that the eastern boundary of the strongly Muslim territory to be allotted to Pakistan would have to be well east of the cease-fire line (now known as Line of Control). The July 20-25 Nehru-Liaquat parlays in Delhi under the aegis of Owen Dixon failed. But Dixon immediately hit upon the partial plebiscite idea-the Dixon plan, as it is still nostalgically recalled in Kashmir. More than two decades later, in 1978, Jammu and Kashmir State was categorically told about 'American plan' on the region's would be geographical features. In the last week of April 1978, as the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was on an official visit to the United States of America (USA) to ensure, among other things, that Washington evinced greater interest in promoting support to and friendship with New Delhi, an American, named Nelson Rockfeller, arrived in Kashmir on a 'secret' mission of much importance. His arrival in Srinagar followed his brief stay in Delhi. Officially, Nelson Rockfeller travelled as Governor of New York and a former Vice President of the United States. Unofficially, he was a contact of the US State Department. His 'secret' mission was to find out reaction from Sheikh Abdullah, than Chief Minister, to the American move to seek an Indo-Pakistan settlement on Kashmir by dividing the State along the Line of Control (LoC), after minor adjustments. Four years later-that is after the death of Sheikh Abdullah in 1982- the people of Jammu and Kashmir in particular and rest of Indian population and Pakistan in general got a new Kashmir formula, loosely called 'Farooq plan'. Yes, author and architect of this formula is none other than Farooq Abdullah. In plain language, the 'Farooq plan' envisages settlement of the Kashmir issue by allowing the present Line of Control to be converted into the international boundary. The 'Farooq plan' has takers even among the Kashmiri Muslims, although the fact remains that the idea of partition, first proposed by Owen Dixon, is baced by figures ranging from the hardline secessionist leader of Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to the Prime Minister of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Sikandar Hayat Khan. During the Kargil war in 1999, India's back-channel negotiator, R K Mishra, was reported to have discussed the idea with his counterpart in Pakistan, Niaz Naik. And in a recent interview, Naik claimed that the idea was 'being considered seriously by the White House.' The idea has been named as 'Chenab formula'. Doda sits on the faultline that partition-enthusiasts seek to convert into a border, the Chenab river. The areas to the north of the Chenab in Doda tehsil (Jammu region) have a Muslim majority. And those to its south are mainly Hindus. Kishtwar tehsil (Jammu province) is again dissected by the Chenab, with the northern valley systems of Marwah and Wadwan populated by Muslim majorities. To the south, the Macchel valley systems, and the tehsil of Bhaderwah, are Hindu-dominated. Now, we have a new Kashmir expert with his new Kashmir formula. It is called the 'Buch formula'. Author of the formula is Mohammed Yusuf Buch, who has had his significant achievements as a 'competent' aide of Pakistan's prominent personalities, namely, Zaffarullah Khan and ZA Bhutto. Yusuf Buch is a Kashmiri intellectual. He cannot be ignored, considering the fact that he has had association with Kashmir case at the United Nations from the day it was brought to the world body by India in 1948. A media report from Washington says that Yusuf Buch's Kashmir formula wants: (a) India and Pakistan should agree to pull back their forces to an agreed distance from the border, (b) the two countries should drastically cut the size of their forces inside the State (both Indian Kashmir and Pak-controlled Kashmir), (c) bring the Siachen glacier confrontation to a close, (d) release of all political prisoners in J&K, (e) declare complete freedom of speech and movement from one end of the State to another, and (f) demarcate Kashmir into its five natural geographical cantons for the holding of referenda and give birth to a unified interim State Assembly for a final disposition. Buch has rejected the Line of Control as a solution because, in his opinion, the 'line of conflict' cannot be a solution. The Buch formula may not be acceptable to all in India and Pakistan. But Yusuf Buch has projected two points New Delhi and Islamabad should not ignore. First, it is irrelevant to settling the Kashmir problem as to how India and Pakistan are placed in current power alignments because alignments, he aptly points out, can change while the settlement is to be 'permanent'. Second, Buch has urged India and Pakistan to look at Kashmir not as a dispute between the two of them but as a problem of both of them.