Reactions To Proposals
28 October 2004
Lahore: While a serious debate is yet to begin on President Musharraf's proposals on a Kashmir solution, these have elicited contradictory reactions. The initial Indian response has been guardedly critical. New Delhi maintained that while it was prepared to discuss the proposals, no good would come out of conducting talks through media. While there was no formal comment from the ruling Congress leadership, its Held Kashmir representative ruled out any discussion on the status of the occupied areas. Speaking for the BJP, former foreign minister Jaswant Singh termed any transfer of sovereignty or territory 'totally unacceptable.' The novelty and radicalness of the proposals have elicited mixed reactions from Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the LoC, but the trend seems by and large negative. While reacting cautiously, Syed Ali Gilani and Maulana Abbas Ansari have expressed reservations. Mr Gilani observed these were liable to be interpreted as a weakening of Pakistani resolve to support the Kashmiri freedom struggle, and that there is no hope of the acceptance of any solution not in conformity with the UN resolutions. Maulana Ansari has termed unacceptable any suggestion tampering with the geographical entity of Kashmir. He has however conceded that the observations could be discussed. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Mr Abdul Ghani Bhat have on the other hand termed the suggestions a 'positive development' and 'a new approach.' Mr Javed Mir too has referred to them as path breaking while noting that General Musharraf did not insist on Kashmir becoming a part of Pakistan. Mr Shabbir Shah has welcomed General Musharraf's rejection of the LoC as permanent border. Jamiatul Mujahideen has however opined that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved except through the exercise of the right of self-determination. Among the AJK leaders Sardar Qayyum has characterized the proposals as realistic. Sardar Sikander has however complained they were floated without taking the Kashmiri leadership into confidence, while The AJK JI has rejected them out of hand. The MMA and the PML(N) leaderships have maintained that General Musharraf has no mandate to suggest any solution. During his meeting with General Musharraf in New York last month Dr Singh had maintained that no Kashmir solution can be based on redrawing boundaries or another partition. While the Indian side has yet to display any flexibility, General Musharraf has indicated it is possible for Pakistan to retreat from its stand, prompting the Press Trust of India to taunt that Islamabad has realized the position hitherto held by it was neither 'sustainable nor practical.'. With the Indian side remaining adamant, not yielding ground even on relatively minor issues like the Wullar Barrage, one wonders if there is any chance of the proposals making headway. The President should also note how neatly the domestic reaction has split on partisan lines. If any initiative is to succeed, it must be on the basis of a broad national consensus, and for that it is essential that the government does not drive the opposition to the wall. The President himself would be the best judge of the current position.