A Botched Kashmir Policy
22 December 2005
Lahore: Two years, in this day and age, is a period long enough to review a policy. Our policy on Kashmir. Almost two years ago Vajpayee and Musharraf met in Islamabad and agreed interalia to discuss Kashmir. Specifically Musharraf committed himself to stop alleged 'Cross- border' infiltration. There was no corresponding pledge on India's part to stop or reduce state terrorism against the protesting Kashmiris. A composite dialogue was to begin. Almost all items on the agenda have been taken up for discussion except for Kashmir. Most of the Indian demands have been more or less conceded. This includes the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and the opening up of the most desired Khokhrapar railway route. Islamabad went an extra mile to lay out a broad-gauge rail-track and complete the task expeditiously, spending crores of rupees. The traffic is scheduled to begin in January. India was also keen to have its consulate reopened in Karachi. An Indian diplomat has already been nominated for the post. The volume of trade has increased considerably with lots of goods and many new items imported from across the border despite Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz more than once stating that there would be no restoration of trade between the two countries unless progress was made on the Kashmir issue. In addition headway was made on a number of so called confidence building measures. Delegate after delegate of politicians, journalists, writers, students, businessmen, cultural organisations, jurists, retired civil-military officers and film stars have descended on Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi with messages of amity and love chanting the slogan of one culture and one people. The chief minister of East Punjab during his first visit went to the length of stating that the border between the two states should be erased - the line having been drawn by the mischievous British. So very effective has been this peace crusade that an active lobby has come to evolve in Pakistan, literally speaking the Indian mind and language. This pro-Indian articulation is most visible on some of the private channels. It is also reflected in certain sections of the press. Far be it for me to suggest that relations with neighbours should not be normalised. We all know the importance and value of peaceful relationships. This objective has however to be pursued keeping in view our national interests as also the intentions and behaviour of the country in question. Years ago, in 1968, a most perceptive Indian writer, Pran Chopra in his well-known book Uncertain India thus referred to Kashmir. The conflict in 1947 'and its underlying causes were to become the strongest influence on the foreign policy of the two countries in the later years and virtually the sole determinant of their relations with each other'. In the book Mr Chopra give details of the how India and more specifically Pundit Nehru reneged on commitments to ascertain the wishes of the people. To quote the author: 'the phenomenon was unmistakable that India's chances of winning a plebiscite and the willingness to face it, dwindled very rapidly from about 1952 onwards. Other reasons such as Pakistani's membership of the Pacts, are secondary. New Delhi's jurisdiction over Kashmir was extended step by step until by 1965, the special status accorded to the state in the Indian Constitution in deference to the conditions India had herself placed on the accession, virtually disappeared'. Add to this analysis the fact that the honorable Mr Nehru was so sold to the idea of keeping Kashmir forcibly under his control that he unhesitatingly removed an elected 'prime minister ' of Kashmir - his own bosom - friend Sheikh Abdullah and threw him into a jail in a remote area for him to rot there for 12 long years without trial. Kuldip Nayar referred to this ruthless action on the part of Mr Nehru during a recent speech in Lahore. Mr. Nayar also came up with a sharp observation when he said that even if the Kashmir issue was resolved, the problematic India-Pakistan relations will remain unresolved for a long time. The question, he rightly remarked, was that of the mindset. Yes indeed! It is important, in fact vital, to understand the Indian mind and how it works. Chopra thus cites Sardar Patel's thinking on Quaid-i-Azam's demise: 'Speculation had it then and later that Sardar Patel took the decision (to invade Hyderabad) when he heard of the death of Jinnah on September 11, 1948 which ruled out danger of Pakistan moving in to aid Hyderabad by creating a diversion elsewhere. On September 13, Indian forces began to march upon Hyderabad from several directions under the overall command of Lt.General Rangendarsinji. After four and a half days of quite heavy fighting, the Hyderabad forces surrendered.' One may also recall how Junagarh, a state which had acceded to Pakistan was forcibly occupied, how Nehru sent troops to capture Goa and how later Sikkim was swallowed. Nehru was perhaps a better person than most of his successors. Later it was the BJP which demolished the historic mosque in Ayudhia, and ran amok in Gujrat when Vajpayee was the prime minister. Remember what Nehru's daughter said after successfully invading East Pakistan: that she had avenged a thousand years of Muslim rule. A look back at India's record is instructive. To expect that suddenly Indians will become our genuine friends as the non-stop caravans of peace and amity have been impressing upon us (that we share the same traditions and culture), would obviously be unrealistic. A straw in the wind tells its direction. A simple request repeatedly made by Pakistan to New Delhi to let Islamabad have Jinnah's house in Bombay for use of our consulate office has been rejected time and again. India can buy high- tech state-of-the -art armaments from all over the world but cannot tolerate the supply of a few F-16s to Pakistan. It cannot resist the temptation of openly seeking to involve Pakistan in Iran's programme for nuclear development. If an Indian driver is killed in Kabul, it jumps to avail the opportunity of pointing an accusing finger at Islamabad. With this mindset and record, is it unwise to be mindful of pitfalls and perils attendant on a quick renewal of relationship? Today India is all the more intransigent, if not downright arrogant. It has played its cards well. It is stronger than ever economically and militarily. Somewhat foolishly we have been trying to appease New Delhi. Why publicly move away from our locus standi on Kashmir, from our internationally recognised position of being a party to the dispute based on UN resolutions? Internationally endorsed Resolutions do not become obsolete with the passage of time. India's astute diplomacy has succeeded in creating a web of perceptions. All that we have earned is accusations about sponsoring terrorism. Our foreign minister keep harping on the tune of a 'most successful foreign policy'. What policy? The line to us is given by the powers that be. And now we have begun toeing the Indian line. Autonomy, renamed 'self- governance' is what Vajpayee was offering to the Kashmiris, high- sounding formulae like: The United States of Kashmir are flying in the air. A tamed Mir Waiz is dreaming of a state within the framework of the Indian Union. Is this that scores of thousands of Kashmiris gave their lives for? Indians are not willing even to heed Yasin Malik's idea of engaging the militants fighting for the liberation of the state. (They can do it with the Nagas but not with the Kashmiris!). If there is no military solution, let there be a political one but no compromise on the right of self-determination. Let the struggle for it go on. Pakistan as a recognised international party to the dispute has a right to stand by this struggle. A compromising and appeasing approach and attitude will not win any respect or bring us closer to our goals. It will only weaken us and undermine the cause of the brave Kashmiris.