Musharraf's Plan Is A Diplomatic Trap
26 November 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Daulat Singh
Jammu: The two day visit of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, to Jammu & Kashmir has had mixed reactions. While common man has welcomed his Rs. 24,000 crore package, the APHC did not come out with any positive comments. The APHC leadership was harking on the old theme that unless the government consults them on all issues, it is not worthwhile to engage in any meaningful dialogue with the 'Centre'. The APHC is being backed by Pakistan, and blames the Government for violence in the state. We all know the principal cause of violence in Jammu & Kashmir is cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan whose espionage-cum-covert operations outfit, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has raised groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad for the purpose, and is still maintaining the camps it had established for housing and training their cadre. Unfortunately, terrorist strikes continue in J&K despite the fact that the dialogue between India and Pakistan initiated by former Primer Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, has got underway. The Pakistan prime minister, Mr. Saukat Aziz, is in Delhi, and a roadmap for peace is being discussed. But nobody knows whether it is a genuine effort or a Musharraf 'booby trap'. It seems the UPA Government headed by Dr.Manmohan Singh and the Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, have come to a secret understanding to find a solution to the Jammu & Kashmir problem. Some steps announced by the Indian Prime Minister recently and plans suggested by President Musharraf are pointers to this direction. A week ahead of his visit to J&K, Mr Singh announced a major confidence-building measure by directing reduction of troops in the trouble-torn state. The decision follows the assessment that there is significant improvement in the security of the region. All concerned, from Congress to the National Conference to the ruling PDP and the Hurriyat, have welcomed Mr. Singh's statement on troop reduction. Everyone feels this will lead to congenial atmosphere for the Indo- Pak talks. 'It is a major step that generates confidence.' Said Mufti Mohammad Sayed. His daughter and PDP chief, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, said, 'This is the biggest confidence-building measure ever announced in Kashmir.' The Hurriyat, however, was guarded in its comments. Former Hurriyat chairman, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, was of the opinion that though a positive step, the measure should not remain limited to the borders only. It should have its impact on all the people living in the state. 'The reduction in numbers will not help if the forces don't change their behaviour,' he added. NC president Omar Abdullah said, 'We welcome the decision, but want this troop reduction to be carried out inside the Valley so that its impact is felt by the people'. Even the Pakistan Foreign office spokesperson, while welcoming the announcement, said that such steps would help in creating better confidence between the two countries. While we welcome the decision by and large, we would also like to understand the logic behind the move. Has militancy in the Valley reduced so drastically that it warranted troop reduction? The recent attacks on Mr Omar Abdullah and Congress leaders certainly do not spell out the optimism. Hardly a day passes without Army units not being attacked by the fidayeen. The terrorist infrastructure has not been only revived in POK but has also been further strengthened. Infiltration may be down, but this is more because of extreme cold and snows blocking the passes, and not because of any change of heart in the militants or their commanders in Pakistan. Yet the government wants to send the signal that the situation is improving. Even it is not bothered that by doing so, it may indirectly accept excesses committed by security forces in the Valley. The latest plan of President Musharraf is a slightly modified American plan, which was known as the Owen Dixon Plan. President Musharraf at an iftar party in Islamabad suggested that both India and Pakistan could identify some 'regions' of Kashmir on both sides of the LoC, demilitarise them, and grant them independence or put them under joint control of Pakistan and India or under UN mandate. The seven regions are Rajouri-Poonch, Jammu, Ladakh, the Valley, Kargil, Pakistan-held Kashmir and the northern areas. To begin with, if President Musharraf's proposals were to get through, they will redefine the geography of the region. India would accept the division of J&K along ethnic lines, something, which it has never accepted so far. A fundamental problem with General Musharraf's plan is that it violates the understanding between him and Mr. Manmohan Singh that any new proposal should not lead to 'redrawing of boundaries or the re-partition of India'. According to India, there are only five regions in J&K. It does not accept Rajouri-Poonch, Kargil and the so- called Azad Kashmir as separate entities. India also sees Gilgit and Baltistan as two separate regions. That General Musharraf's plan has the full backing of the Bush Administration was obvious when the former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage patted the Pakistani President during his recent visit to Pakistan. That Mr. Armitage chose to ignore India is another matter, but his comment that President Musharraf's proposal was forward thinking let the cat out the bag. In an interview to Pakistan TV, he said, 'I was very interested in the proposals that President Musharraf made. It looked to me that he was being very forward thinking. And I think he has caused a great deal of thinking, both in India and Pakistan. External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh has indicated that India is willing to listen to General Musharraf's plan. Does this mean the Government and the Pakistani President have arrived at some secret understanding? The UPA Government must tread carefully with Mr Musharraf: it should not fall into his trap. It is well known that whenever he is in difficulty at home, he springs such surprises. His latest proposal is geared more towards self-protection rather than solving any issue. The jihadis in Pakistan have declared that they will launch a nation-wide agitation against President Musharraf after Eid. Besides, the feedback, which Pakistani journalists have given to the General after their recent trip to J&K clearly indicates that Kashmiris are no longer interested in joining Pakistan. The people are fed up with Pakistan-sponsored militancy. And if they had a choice, their first option would be independent and undivided Kashmir. The APHC leaders, who met prime minister Aziz in Delhi were a divided lot, and all factions pleaded for participation in any future settlement of the Kashmir issue. Solving a complex problem like Kashmiri separatism will not be easy. Without bold steps, any movement forward is difficult. But this does not mean the UPA government must hand the Valley to Pakistan on a platter. Any solution to the J&K problem must have the acceptance of the entire nation. The best thing would be to have a full-fledged debate in Parliament on the likely solutions of the issue.