Reversing The Tide Of History: Kashmir Policy - An Overview-II
6 August 2004
Karachi: In the nineties, the Kashmir resistance added a new dimension to the struggle there and brought renewed international focus on the India military occupation of Kashmir and its repression of the Kashmiri people. The cost of the heroic struggle in human life and limb has been enormous. As India tried to impose a 'Punjab type' solution in the occupied Kashmir, it blamed Pakistan for sponsoring militancy through 'recruitment and armed training' of Mujahideen. The outside world also believed that the Kashmiri struggle was kept alive largely on account of massive support to militancy from outside. International human rights organizations extensively documented India's excesses against innocent Kashmiris but also focused on the violence caused by Mujahideen groups against civilians. India exploited this situation by linking the Kashmiri struggle to the prevalent global concern against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. The Jihadi organizations in Pakistan facilitated the task of Indian propaganda by publicly boasting their operations in the Indian Held Kashmir. As India got a sympathetic ear from the international community on the issue of 'terrorism supported by Pakistan' it succeeded in bringing enough pressure on Pakistan to back off from its support to militancy in Kashmir. It also tried to deflect the international attention from its own repressive policies in Kashmir by engaging in a fruitless dialogue with Pakistan. The period from 1997 to 1999, however, witnessed significant developments in the form of several summit-level meetings between the two countries on the sidelines of the UN sessions and other regional and international conferences. For the first time in their 50-year history, the two countries agreed formally on pursuing an integrated and structured dialogue to address their outstanding issues, including Kashmir. In their June 23, 1997, agreement reached at the foreign secretary-level meeting in Islamabad, India and Pakistan laid down an eight-point agenda and a mechanism of working groups dedicated to each subject. Kashmir figured prominently in the agreed agenda and mechanism. In their meeting in New York on September 28, 1998, the prime ministers of Pakistan and India 'reaffirmed their belief that an environment of durable peace and security was in the supreme interest of both India and Pakistan, and of the region as a whole'. While expressing their determination 'to renew and reinvigorate efforts to secure such an environment, they agreed that the peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, was essential for this purpose'. The Lahore Declaration of February 1999 marked a genuine breakthrough in the history of the two countries, covering the full spectrum of their relations and issues. It recognized that 'an environment of peace and security is in the supreme national interest of both sides and that the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, is essential for this purpose'. It also recognized that 'durable peace and development of harmonious relations and friendly cooperation will serve the vital interests of the peoples of the two countries, enabling them to devote their energies for a better future'. The two countries solemnly agreed to 'intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir' and also to 'intensify their composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda'. (Islamabad agreement of June 23, 1997) During Kargil crisis, Kashmir was, no doubt, put on world's centre stage, not as an issue of unimplemented right of self-determination but as a 'nuclear flash point' with grave implications for global peace and security. In less than a year after their overt nuclearization, India and Pakistan were at the brink of a full-scale war which some feared 'might plunge the world into its first nuclear exchange'. The West blamed Pakistan for the crisis and considered India as the aggrieved party. The US not only accepted the Indian claim that 'Pakistan-supported forces' had crossed across the Indian-held side of the LoC but also demanded 'complete withdrawal without preconditions'. India felt emboldened by this international understanding of its position and started demanding that Pakistan cease 'cross-border terrorism'. Major powers, including the US, UK, France, and Russia, have been urging compliance by Pakistan without any anxiety over India's repression in the occupied state. Even after Kargil, the region remained under dark war clouds. While the world was focusing on the post- 9-11 campaign against terrorism, India in a blatant show of brinkmanship moved all of its armed forces to borders with Pakistan as well as the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. Intense diplomatic and political pressure by the US, in coordination with other G-8 countries, averted what could have been a catastrophic clash between the two nuclear capable states. A cease fire at the LoC in November 2003 with several other mutual confidence-building measures, including Pakistan's assurances of not letting its territory to be used for any terrorist activity or cross- border infiltration as well as constant pressure from influential outside powers led to the resumption of the stalled India-Pakistan dialogue in January this year. The January 6 Islamabad joint statement is now the basis for the new bilateral approach in the current normalization process, which, it is hoped, will lead to a peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides. This agreement in itself was based on two varied assumptions: For India's Vajpayee, it was the prevention of 'violence, hostility and terrorism' that will sustain the 'composite dialogue'; for Pakistan's Musharraf, it is the 'positive results' that must emerge from 'a sustained and productive dialogue'. In actual effect, the success of the on-going 'composite' dialogue and the normalization process would be predicated on the fulfilment of these two basic assumptions. Given the past experience, deep-seated mistrust and volatile history of relations between the two countries, one must be careful in drawing euphoric conclusions. India is still questioning Pakistan's sincerity in curbing cross-border activity. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage also endorsed the Indian claim by publicly declaring during his recent visit to New Delhi that 'Pakistan had not done enough to dismantle militants' training camps in its territory'. The fact conveniently being ignored is that India itself has yet to demonstrate its 'sincerity of commitment.' It is not giving up its adamant claim that Kashmir is 'an integral part' of India and seems to be pushing normalization of relations with Pakistan without any meaningful progress on Kashmir. Its human rights violations in occupied Kashmir remain unabated. India is also using the current bilateral dialogue to ease international concerns over tensions in a nuclearized South Asia and to show that Pakistan and India can do business together and, hence, no third-party mediation or UN involvement was necessary. Pakistan has already shown utmost flexibility by making some extraordinary commitments to seeking resumption of the 'composite' dialogue. These include strict adherence to the 'bilateral' track and assurances of not letting its territory 'to be used to support terrorism in any manner.' India must understand that Pakistan's extraordinary flexibility as well as the momentum of normalization between the two countries will be difficult to sustain in the absence of a more serious and result- oriented dialogue with a clear road map for resolving the outstanding issues, particularly the Kashmiri conflict. Both countries will have to make a determined effort for resolving their disputes through peaceful means. This is not an easy task. Besides the complexity of the issues involved, the two countries have domestic and external challenges to reckon with. In the ultimate analysis, the success of their dialogue process would depend entirely on the freshness of political approach that both sides would be ready to bring in with sincerity and seriousness of purpose. What should be clear to them by now is that in today's world, there will be no military solution to their problems. If recent global events have any relevance, the lesson is that wars aggravate, not eliminate problems There are other disputes that are part of their dialogue agenda and need to be addressed through fairness and equity. Among the major outstanding issues, the Siachin, the Wullar Barrage and the Sir Creek issues are all retarding the process of bilateral normalization. Hopefully, these would be amenable to quicker solution if both sides manifested political will to move on with constructive endeavours. In Siachin, the two countries are engaged in a costly and meaningless conflict. This area was under Pakistan's control until India militarily occupied it in 1987, in clear violation of the Shimla Agreement. An agreement was reached in 1989 for withdrawal to positions conforming to the pre-Shimla period. India now needs to implement this agreement. No more discussions are needed. The Wullar Barrage or the Tulbul Navigation Project as it is described by India was commenced in clear violation of the Indus Waters Treaty. The Sir Creek dispute should never have arisen in view of the unambiguous Rann of Kutch award. This dispute is now holding up India-Pakistan maritime delimitation causing several legal and humanitarian problems. One thing is clear: beyond the UN resolutions, there is no compact formula or tailor-made solution available for addressing the Kashmir issue. In recent years, a number of options have been publicly talked about at diplomatic and academic levels. These notably include: i) status quo or legitimization of the Line of Control; ii) partition of Kashmir with adjustments across the LoC; iii) plebiscite under the UN auspices; and iv) independence of Kashmir. There have also been suggestions that in view of the complexities involved, the Kashmir issue may be put on the back burner, while the process of India-Pakistan normalization can move on in all areas, especially trade, tourism, people-to-people contact and friendly exchanges. This cosmetic approach can never work as normalization between India and Pakistan will take place only if the root causes of their conflicts and tensions are eliminated through a peaceful settlement of the outstanding disputes. Status quo in any form is a non-starter. Foreign Minister Kasuri has rightly said that status quo is part of the problem and not a solution. Plebiscite remains the only viable approach to which both India and Pakistan had committed themselves in terms of the UN Security Council resolutions. The possibility of partition of the State of Kashmir with adjustments across the LoC has been discussed as a serious option on many occasions in the past with both India and Pakistan showing conditional amenability. As a follow-up to the UN Security Council Resolution 80(1950) of March 14, 1950, the UN Representative for India and Pakistan, Sir Owen Dixon had proposed some formulas departing from the principle of the overall plebiscite. He proposed partial plebiscite by sections or areas and their allocation according to the result of the vote. The 'Dixon Plan' also conceded that some areas were certain to vote for accession to Pakistan and some to India. These should be allocated accordingly, without a vote. Thus, Pakistan was to retain the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir whereas Laddakh was to be assigned to India. The Plan envisaged a division of Jammu between the two and a plebiscite in the Valley of Kashmir. Pakistan did not accept this plan on the ground that the future of the entire state was to be determined by a single plebiscite. India agreed to the plan conditionally: i) the area of the state where there is no apparent doubt of the wishes of the people should go to India or Pakistan without a plebiscite; ii) the plebiscite should be limited to those areas where there is doubt as to the result of the voting; iii) the demarcation should have due regard to the geographical features and requirements of an international boundary. Sir Owen Dixon then proposed another plan involving a partial plebiscite in a limited area, including the Valley of Kashmir and partitioning of the remainder of the state. Both Pakistan and India agreed with this plan but with such conditions which were not acceptable to the other side. The possibility of 'partition-cum-plebiscite' was also raised at the Liaquat-Nehru meeting in New Delhi in July, 1950, in which both sides were ready to explore ideas beyond their original positions. During this meeting, Sir Owen Dixon reportedly sought to elicit positive response from both sides on partition of the state with a limited plebiscite in the Valley and some specified areas. In a bilateral context, Bhutto-Swaran Singh talks in 1962-63 were the only high level India-Pakistan negotiations dedicated to exploring 'a political solution' of the Kashmir dispute, which, as both sides agreed, was to be 'honourable, equitable and final' taking into account the need for: i) delineation of an international boundary in Jammu and Kashmir; and ii) disengagement of the forces of India and Pakistan in and around Kashmir, and the removal of all tensions. During those talks, Pakistan accepted the partition of the state but urged that territorial division should take into account the composition of the population of the State, control of rivers, requirements of defence and other considerations relevant to the determination of an international boundary and acceptable to the Kashmiri people. India was also ready to accept the partition of Kashmir while urging that the division should take into account geographic, administrative and other considerations, and that the settlement should involve the least disturbance to the life and welfare of the people. Both countries also agreed that the settlement should embody, in a solemn declaration, their determination 'to live side by side in peace and friendship and to solve al other problems peacefully and to their mutual benefit; and that ways and means should be considered for removing the major irritants between the two countries.' It is important to recall that in their reaction to Sir Owen Dixon's proposals as well as during Bhutto-Swaran Singh talks, both Pakistan and India were prepared to accept less than their basic positions and a partition plan based on geographic and ethnic lines. More recently, the Kashmir Study Group (KSG), a US based think tank under the chairmanship of a Kashmiri businessman, Farooq Kathwari, and with the obvious encouragement of the American establishment, has launched a proposal called 'Kashmir - A Way Forward' for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. This proposal was also, in essence, based on the 'partial plebiscite-cum- partition' concept which India and Pakistan had almost accepted multilaterally (Dixon Plan) and discussed bilaterally (Bhutto-Swaran Singh talks). The KSG proposal in its original version envisaged partition of Kashmir in three parts: one comprising the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir to stay with Pakistan and the other consisting of Jammu and Laddakh remaining with India whereas the Valley of Kashmir will be reconstituted, through a plebiscite, as a sovereign entity (but one without an international personality). Since this proposal came under severe criticism in India, the KSG came forward with a modified version recommending that 'a portion of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir be reconstituted as a sovereign entity (but one without an international personality).... through an internationally supervised ascertainment of the wishes of the Kashmiri people on either side of the Line of Control'. 'This ascertainment would follow agreement among India, Pakistan and representatives of the Kashmiri people to move forward with this proposal. The sovereignty of the new entity would be guaranteed by India, Pakistan and appropriate international bodies.' 'The new entity would have its own secular, democratic constitution, as well as its own citizenship, flag, and a legislature, which would legislate on all matters other than defence and foreign affairs. India and Pakistan would be responsible for the defence of the Kashmiri entity, which would itself maintain police and gendarme forces for internal law and order purposes. India and Pakistan would be expected to work out financial arrangements for the Kashmiri entity, which could include a currency of its own.' 'The borders of Kashmir with India and Pakistan would remain open for the free transit of people, goods, and services in accordance with arrangements to be worked out between India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiri entity. 'While the present Line of Control would remain in place until such time as both India and Pakistan decided to alter it in their mutual interest, both India and Pakistan would demilitarize the area included in the Kashmir entity, except to the extent necessary to maintain logistic support for forces outside the state that could not otherwise be effectively supplied. Neither India nor Pakistan could place troops on the other side of the Line of Control without the permission of the other state'. The KSG proposals have not found any sympathy in India, nor would they be readily acceptable to Pakistan. For tactical reasons, both continue to stick to their long-held declaratory positions and are reluctant to publicly endorse any plan that would be seen as a whittling down of their respective stated positions. Meanwhile a view has emerged that the Kashmiri people now prefer what is commonly known as third option - independence. Many Kashmiri political leaders only talk of freedom and make no public reference to their desire for accession to Pakistan. Both Pakistan and India are averse to this option but if the people of Kashmir are the final arbiters of their destiny, their will and choice must remain supreme. It would be premature for either India or Pakistan to indicate a preference for any of the options available or proposals made or discussed at any level in the past. But if India and Pakistan take a fresh look at the proposals which they discussed at early stages of the dispute under UN- sponsored negotiations or high-level bilateral talks, they could find a common ground to evolve a mutually acceptable road map for a possible solution. In recent years, India and Pakistan have been claiming 'flexibility of approach and sincerity of commitment' in their quest for a peaceful settlement of all outstanding bilateral issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. They have also been talking of the need to move beyond their respective stated positions and to find a 'practical and achievable' solution of the Kashmir issue which would not be based on conversion of the LoC into a permanent international border and which would take into account the legitimate interests of India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people. If these are not platitudes and cliches, both countries must start reversing the tide of their adversarial history by mutual consolidation of CBMs, maintenance of an atmosphere free from 'violence and terrorism', and substantive progress towards a peaceful settlement of all outstanding problem, including the Jammu and Kashmir issue. The 'linkage and simultaneity' of progress in all these areas would be of crucial importance. The writer is a former foreign secretary.