Lecture on 'Possible options on Kashmir'
11 December 2005
The News International
Lahore: The seasoned Indian columnist Kuldeep Nayyar has called for granting autonomy to Kashmir while retaining defence, foreign affairs and communications within respective governments to move ahead with the settlement of the core issue. Delivering a special lecture on 'Possible options on Kashmir' under the aegis of Eqbal Ahmad Foundation and South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) Sunday, he said that peace and dialogue had to take the lead instead of wars and hostility between both the countries. He emphasised that the division of Kashmir on the basis of religion would not be acceptable to the people of India because they were trying to establish a largely secular and democratic country. There would also be no compromise on the two-nation theory, he said. The mindsets of the commoners in India, he claimed, were not contaminated and they could not digest anything easily that could lead to the division of the state. The settlement of Kashmir issue along religious lines would also give an opportunity to Hindu-nationalist parties like BJP to target the loyalty of 150 million Indian Muslims, he said. He said that both countries could not afford partition of Kashmir as it would mean going back to 1947, in which over one million lives were lost. The proposal of independent Kashmir was also not acceptable to either India or Pakistan, he opined. Nayyar agreed that human rights violations were taking place in Indian-held Kashmir while the killing of Muslims in Gujrat was also a sad part of recent history. Therefore, both parts of Kashmir could be granted autonomy for the larger interest of the region. He said that the legislators elected from Indian-administered Kashmir could then sit in the Pakistani parliament and vice versa in the days and years to come. However, this appeared as more of a dream in the present circumstances, he stated. He said that the LoC must also be softened to allow interaction of Kashmiris on both sides adding that the region would have to be demilitarized sooner or later. He, however, observed that the Indian troops could only withdraw if the alleged infiltration and militancy from the Pakistani side came to an end. He said that making the LoC a permanent border could also be discussed and claimed that former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Butto had agreed to this proposal during an interview with him after the debacle of East Pakistan. 'However, he could not elucidate it because of the tough circumstances in wake of the fall of Dhaka', he said. Giving account of other historical junctures, he said that Kashmir could have become a part of Pakistan from the very outset but Pakistan became impatient and sent its troops to the valley. He said that Shaikh Abdullah of National Conference decided to side with India to become the part of a pluralistic society instead of a religious Pakistan. Similarly, former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif also talked of the formula for the division of Kashmir in an informal meeting during the ice-breaking tour of Indian PM Vajpayee to Lahore. However, this was not taken forward seriously by his Indian counterpart Prakash Singh Badal, he said. He also maintained that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Jawahar Lal Nehru had agreed to make LoC a permanent border during their meeting for Simla agreement but this could not be announced because of the crucial phase confronting Pakistan at that time. If the recent development between India and Pakistan going back to that particular proposal, a permanent solution might emerge, he pointed out adding that Kashmir was not the only problem between both the countries but only a 'symptom of the disease.' The people in India and Pakistan, he believed, had not accepted each other during the previous years and the hate material in textbooks also had played a major role in this regard. He said that there was a genuine concern in India over the catastrophic quake in Pakistan and people wanted to help. He hailed that there was no opposition to Indian help offer on this side of the border. Similarly, the bomb blasts in India were taken as a routine terrorist act. This was contrary to the previous practice where the attack on Indian parliament was alleged on Pakistan, he opined. This, he believed, augured well for the future and also showed that both countries wanted to move forward despite their failings during the past 50 decades. He urged both the countries to jointly lead the fight of the deprived nations against the West and imperialist designs instead of resorting to unnecessary skirmishes with each other. The guest of honour on the occasion and former foreign minister Sardar Asseff Ahmad Ali, on the occasion, said that Pakistan had budged from its decades old stated position on Kashmir but India had not shown any flexibility on even other issues like Baghliar, Sir Creek etc, let alone core issue of Kashmir. He regretted that both countries had a history of 'tragedy of errors', in which Pakistan had also made follies while India had shown treacheries. However, India was now turning to the opportunistic policy after the previous tendency of coercive diplomacy and arm-twisting. He said that India had failed to give confidence to Pakistan about its ambitions for the long-term peace in the region but there had been no single meeting on Kashmir or other important issues like nuclear arms etc in the two years after the Islamabad Declaration. India, on the other hand, seemed to have global power designs and that was evident from its recent announcement of making inter-continental ballistic missiles. He said that Pakistani government, under leadership of President Pervez Musharraf, had shown flexibility on Kashmir issue but India failed to match the gesture. The Indian government had not made any effort to break the consensus on Kashmir on its side adding that the allegations of infiltration in Kashmir could be easily clarified by third party monitoring of the 750-miles long LoC at the level of SAARC or UN. Responding to the remarks of Kuldeep Nayyar that India was a democratic and secular country, he recalled that the secular government of PM Narsimha Rao made no attempt to stop the razing of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya despite having the capacity to do so. Asseff said that both countries had to share the blame for lacking the will to find other alternative than on Kashmir instead of use of force. He maintained that there was no military solution to the Kashmir issue and it was possible only through political solution. The editor of a local English daily Najam Sethi also spoke on the occasion while secretary general SAFMA Imtiaz Alam presented the welcome address. Former federal minister Abida Hussain and eminent intellectual Pervez Hoodbhoy were also present amongst other distinguished guests during the lecture that was followed by a rigorous question answers session.