September 2003 News

LoC likely to stay, barring minor changes: Schaffer

27 September 2003
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Former US ambassador Teresita Schaffer said here on Friday that the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir was 'almost certain to remain in place' and even if the territorial divisions of the last 50 years do not change, the political relationships would have to do so.Speaking at the Asia Society, the head of the South Asia programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that a settlement will need to create some kind of special status for Kashmir, but it must address Pakistan's 'chronic insecurity' while putting an end to Pakistani efforts to change the contours of the region. 'A successful settlement should be peaceful, practical, and honourable for all participants - India, Pakistan, and Kashmiris,' she added.Ms Schaffer was one of the three speakers invited to take part in the Upadhyaya Lecture series 2003, sponsored by a right-wing Indian-American group. While the Indian speakers took the expected hard line against Pakistan, holding it responsible for creating the Kashmir problem and exporting violence and terrorism to India and Indian-administered Kashmir, Ms Schaffer's balanced approach was later described by a member of the audience as the 'saving grace' of the one-day event. Another of the speakers who took a more even- handed view of the dispute was Peter Bergen who recently published a book on terrorism and often appears on CNN as an expert on the subject.Ms Schaffer said the idea of a 'special status for Kashmir' could in principle encompass anything from autonomy within India and- or Pakistan to virtual independence. She said the proposal circulated by the Kashmir Study Group (KSG) in 1998, of which she was a member, is one possible example. It was developed by a team of four former officials, two each from India and Pakistan, with some assistance from four American members of the study group. The proposal calls for the creation of a 'sovereign entity without international personality' in Kashmir, with responsibility for domestic affairs but not for foreign affairs or defence. The Line of Control would remain in place, the entity would be largely demilitarised, and all displaced persons would have the right to go back to their homesteads. Ms Schaffer, who served at the US embassy in Pakistan during the Zia years, said the study group proposal deliberately omits many important details. It was intended as the skeleton of a settlement, not a detailed plan, she explained, adding, 'perhaps its most important idea is the concept of shared or partial sovereignty'. She stressed that though this term may sounds unfamiliar, there were many international precedents for it, including the powers of states in the United States, restrictions on land ownership in a number of places, including parts of India, and internationally-sanctioned arrangements for parts of a number of countries. 'In the five years since it was drafted, the KSG proposal has provoked both praise and criticism. Perhaps its most important accomplishment, however, is to demonstrate that it is possible to develop a peace proposal outside the limits of the traditional positions of India and Pakistan. Describing a possible settlement is a difficult task, but far more difficult is the challenge of developing a process to reach agreement. This will require persistence, and an open mind, and most of all, leadership and political will on the part of leaders in India, Pakistan and Kashmir. It deserves to be their top priority.' Ms Schaffer said on the Indian side of the Line of Control, political ferment and alienation from India, as well as the insurgency, are centred chiefly on the Kashmir valley and some Muslim-majority districts in the northern part of Jammu. In the rest of Jammu and Ladakh, India's sovereignty is generally not contested by local residents, and political unhappiness is more centred on these areas' distaste for being subordinated to the Muslims of the valley. The displacement of the Hindu population from the Valley creates yet another layer of unhappiness and dislocation on the Indian side of the state. Pakistan's interest in Kashmir is centred on the Valley and perhaps the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu. While Pakistan's formal position calls for a plebiscite throughout the old princely state, most Pakistanis have no interest in absorbing Kashmir's non- Muslims. On the Pakistan side of the LoC, Pakistan's continued rule is not seriously contested, she added.She said in order for the Kashmir issue to be settled, there must be an arrangement that the governments of India and Pakistan, and a critical mass of the Kashmiri people, are prepared to live with. With the experience of the past half-century, and especially with the experience of the five years since India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, some other aspects of a settlement have come to seem almost inevitable. She listed them as the unlikelihood of any significant change in the map of the state, some kind of special status for Kashmir and measures to address the chronic insecurity that has plagued Pakistan. This would put an end the 'irredentist Pakistani behaviour' that has been such a burden for India. Ms Schaffer said the status quo in Kashmir is 'unstable and dangerous to the region and the world, and needs to change, but the change will be political rather than territorial'. There are any number of arrangements that could bring about the necessary political change, and they do not necessarily need to apply in precisely the same way to all parts of the state. Various formulas could be worked out to create autonomy while preserving the association different parts of Kashmir now have with India and Pakistan. On the Indian side, this might mean reviving a more vigorous interpretation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, or creating a looser association among the different sub-regions of Kashmir and establishing a new formula for broader self-rule for the Kashmir Valley, or any number of other variations. There could be similar arrangements on the Pakistani side. She said, 'Pakistan needs to come out of a settlement confident that its security is not under chronic threat, but also prepared to live with the new status quo between itself and India. Reaching a Kashmir settlement would be a central part of a broader effort to create a new India-Pakistan relationship. Anchoring that settlement with appropriate understandings and guarantees from the international community would help to ensure its longevity. There are many ways of providing the security dimension that a viable settlement needs, ranging from bilateral security commitments to either or both of the national participants to formal multilateral acknowledgement of the settlement in the UN or another international forum. But the principle is important to make clear that the international community supports the mutual undertakings and adjustments that form the settlement itself, and will not accept their being violated.'

 

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