Pakistan, India 'agree' On US-backed Kashmir Plan
15 May 2005
Islamabad: Pakistan and India are engaged in serious discussion on American roadmap for Kashmir, prepared by US-based Kashmir Study Group, with official quarters here saying the South Asian nuclear rivals have agreed to strive for solution to the core issue in accordance with this plan. Farooq Kathwari, a Srinagar-born naturalized American furniture tycoon who heads the Kashmir Study Group (KSG), has made several visits to Islamabad and New Delhi in recent months to discuss his plan for Kashmir. The plan recommends soft Kashmir borders with free access between the two sides while leaving the Line of Control undisturbed. 'Kathwari, who has full support of the US Administration, has been in contact with President General Pervez Musharraf, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri and the top Indian leaders discussing the plan. 'After the recently held hectic discussions India and Pakistan have agreed to implement the KSG plan in next two to three years,' a well-placed diplomatic source confided to The Nation here on Sunday. 'The plan proposes that India would continue to have overall control of Jammu, Kashmir valley and Ladakh whereas Pakistan would retain control of Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas,' he said. He said the three regions in India - Jammu, valley and Ladakh - as well as the two regions under Pakistan's control would coordinate issues such as internal trade and transportation. An all-Kashmir body would be set up to coordinate in areas of broader interest such as regional trade, tourism, environment, and water resources, according to the plan, he added. Pakistan and India would be responsible for defence and foreign affairs of each of these regions, which would maintain their own police forces. However, these entities would have their own democratic institutions, citizenship, flags and legislatures. He said the citizenship of the entities would entitle citizens to acquire Indian or Pakistani passports, or use entity passports subject to endorsement by India or Pakistan. 'Their borders with India and Pakistan would remain open for people, goods and services,' the plan said. About the LoC, it said the Line of Control would remain until India and Pakistan decided to alter it, but both countries would demilitarize the areas included in the entities. He said what the US-based Kashmiri business tycoon has proposed to the two sides was to continue with this arrangement for at least 10 years after 2007. After that the Kashmiris would be allowed to decide the final settlement that they deemed fit to the core issue, he added. According to official quarters, initially both the sides continued to stick to their stated positions and were reluctant to publicly endorse any plan that would be seen as a negation of their respective stances. However, the increased US interest in the plan, forwarded by Mr Kathwari, has resulted in convergence of views on the roadmap on the part of Islamabad and New Delhi. In coming months more Kashmir-specific CBMs such as troops reduction, meetings of divided Kashmiri families and release of detained Kashmiris would be announced, they added. They said apart from this more road links would be established between Indian Held Kashmir and Azad Kashmir. Moreover, development projects would be initiated on both sides of the LoC by multinational firms with focus on tourism industry, they added. Farooq Kathwari formed Kashmir Study Group in 1996 and it comprises former senior officials of the US State Department and academics.