January 2004 News

From Confrontation To Compromise

11 January 2004
The Dawn

The India-Pakistan joint statement on the normalization of relations has aroused undue hopes which need to be tempered with a bracing scepticism. It has also aroused unnecessary fears in some minds which need to be dispelled. If President Musharraf`s confidence that history has been made is a hyperbole, Qazi Husain Ahmad`s suspicion of a conspiracy hatched to undermine the freedom struggle in Kashmir represents the other phobic extreme.

The leaders of the two countries agreeing to start a composite dialogue which they feel confident would `lead to a peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues including Jammu and Kashmir to the satisfaction of both sides` neither makes history nor smells of a conspiracy. In Pakistan the opinion is unanimous on the resumption of talks with India without pre-conditions. Pakistan has also been long asking for a third-party mediation on Kashmir, again without conditions or confining it to the ambit of the UN resolutions. The joint statement issued last Tuesday makes no departure from that position.

In fact in substance and in approach to the solution of the disputes, it is similar to the Lahore Declaration of February 1999 which was stalled by the Kargil episode. That the joint statement does not mention the UN resolutions should in no manner detract from the agreed objective of the dialogue which is `peace, security and economic development for our peoples and future generations.` In any case the settlement has to be to the `satisfaction of both sides.` Pakistan, in the course of the dialogue, may reject a settlement which does not conform to the UN resolutions but then shall have to find another path leading to peace which it needs more than India does for the prosperity of its people.

The 1948-49 UN resolutions are not binding, India is not willing to comply with them and the UN is not at all inclined even to try to enforce them. Pakistan, too, is conscious of the fact that the holding of a plebiscite in the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir subject to the conditions envisaged 55-year ago would now be impossible. A reference to the resolutions in any statement or document is thus redundant or at best symbolic or sentimental. The ensuing argument would only waste time. The conditions which could not be met then could not at all be met in the circumstances of today.

All that the persuasion, pressure, wars and insurgency in Kashmir supported by Pakistan have been able to achieve is to make India agree to talk about a settlement. Our insistence on plebiscite or self-determination should not drive India back to its rhetoric of Kashmir being its integral part. As Prime Minister Jamali said in an interview on BBC the other day India and Pakistan both have to come out of their shells and shed their egos to find a solution which can be only in the nature of a compromise somewhere between the two extremes of integral part and self-determination. That also seems to be the current thinking of the people of Kashmir as a majority of their representative body, Hurriyyat Conference, is also about to begin negotiations with India.

Fifteen years of insurgency had cost them, by minimum count, 50,000 lives and enormous privations but has brought the goal of `azadi` - independence - no nearer. Azadi to them certainly meant shaking off the Indian hegemony but whether it implied accession to Pakistan is doubtful, the mass anguish reflected in that slogan in fact points to the contrary. The effort and hope, nevertheless, should remain that Pakistan`s national interest and aspirations of the people of Kashmir will ultimately coincide giving India no chance to exploit their differences. The critics of the government`s effort to normalize relations with India without recalling the UN resolutions on Kashmir and at the same time undertaking not to support the rebels of the Valley (for that is what is implicit in the wording of the joint statement pertaining to terror) need to realize that on both these counts the position of Pakistan is weak and vulnerable both internally and externally.

A majority of the people in the smaller provinces resent, and their leaders openly protest, the dedication of vast resources to the armed forces and nuclear weapons only to confront India while they wallow in poverty and ignorance. The economists and businessmen, too, blame the tension and uncertainty caused by the Kashmir policy for the industrial investment and trade remaining much below the country`s potential. The jihad in Kashmir had the blow-back effect for Pakistan in the form of militancy which has hampered the growth of democratic institutions and liberal values. The emigration of the talented youth and minorities has impoverished the society and the influx of the armed thugs has brutalized it. The sentiment for continuing armed struggle in Kashmir and implacable hostility towards India is now confined to a small but opulent circle of self-styled exponents of the ideology of Pakistan and yet they hold the country, its systems and leadership hostage.

In this environment it is commendable for Benazir Bhutto, most tormented in the Musharraf regime, to have lent her party`s support to his India and Kashmir policy. The religious elements on whom Musharraf bestowed most favours, on the other hand, threaten not to let even the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service run till the people of Kashmir have won the right of self determination. The need for the realignment of political forces in the country is thus made obvious if the new policy is to succeed. Internationally, Pakistan is precariously perched on the edge of the community of nations. If it is not under economic sanctions or has not been declared a terrorist state it is because America and its allies need Pakistan, and so does China, in fighting terrorists in the region.

It is on this consideration alone that Pakistan has also escaped the severe consequences of the suspected sale of nuclear technology by its scientists breaching the international safeguards. The path to peace and moderation now chosen by Pakistan has won it goodwill of all people at home and abroad who are wary of violence. The lamps lit by the orphaned Muslim children of Gujarat (India) convey that message touchingly and more powerfully than the statements of all the world leaders put together.

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