Shift in Pakistani stand on Kashmir

By Shabir Choudhry

Many Kashmiris and Pakistanis still think that Pakistan is serious and sincere in 'liberating' Kashmir, whereas I am of the view (for many decades) that Pakistan is more interested in maintaining the status quo. It not only suits both Indian and Pakistani governments, but also the 'vested interest' on the both sides of the border. It is with the collaboration of this 'vested interest' the forces of occupation have managed to keep Kashmir divided and enslaved.

To understand the real policy on Kashmir, one has to look at the deeds of these leaders not the words. As far as words and claims, really motivating and loving, are concerned we have been listening to these since 1947. Even now when some kind of 'talks' are being held over Kashmir, not many people know what exactly is happening. People are led to believe that the Kashmir dispute would be resolved through these parleys. The fact is that there is no such intention. The talks are being held to solve other issues. I will explain and elaborate this point later on.

India and Pakistan are going to have another round of 'talks' during this month, apparently to solve the Kashmir dispute. It is known to the world that the armed forces of both countries had border clashes in Kashmir in the last week of August, and many thought that this might escalate. One wonders why this happened just before the proposed round of 'talks'. On the ground in the hot weather of Sub - Continent, late August, armed forces of both countries were engaged in killing each other, whereas in the cool and pleasant weather of Geneva diplomats of both countries were writing a new history to their diplomatic history.

According to some very reliable sources and Associated Press of Pakistan, both countries had a diplomatic truce at Geneva and worked out a joint strategy to conduct 'business' during the proceedings of the UN Sub - Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. A reputable Pakistani daily The News reporter Mr. Kamran Khan puts it like this:

'In what appeared to be a major stride in Islamabad's attempt to break the ice with New Delhi Pakistan ignored last week, for first time in the last several decades, an international opportunity to publicise the Human Rights excesses and other atrocities being committed by the Indian army in Kashmir.' The News 27/8/97

Also the head of the Pakistani delegation Mr. Akram Sheikh, to the surprise of those present there, made no mention of Kashmir in his speech, let alone condemning the Indian atrocities in Kashmir.

According to 'The News' report, `Pakistan not only distanced itself from anti - Indian propaganda during the Sub -Commission, it also did not encourage any independent or Non - Governmental Organisations (NGO) to participate in any such activity.' The News 27/8/97

The report explains the consequences of the strategy adopted by the Pakistani diplomats: 'As Pakistan stayed away from activities condemning the Indian human rights record during the Sub -Commission's proceedings, Indian diplomats loudly thought that this year's UNHRC's proceedings in Geneva would send a clear message to Kashmiris, Assamese, Sikhs and other secessionist movements that they were fast losing friends both at the United Nations and across the border in Pakistan' The News 27/8197

This report clearly shows that there is a remarkable shift in the policy of Pakistan. It wants peace with India at all costs. We, Kashmiris also strongly support friendly relationship between India and Pakistan, but this must not happen at the cost of our freedom. We cannot allow both governments to build their friendship on our dead bodies, and on the honour and dignity of our women. We can see and understand the desperation of Pakistan to have friendly relationship with India that both countries can openly trade with each other.

One may ask why the Pakistan diplomats did not endeavour to expose the atrocities committed by the Indian Army in Kashmir? Pakistani and the Indian diplomats adopted 'identical' strategies to oppose the resolution tabled by the British human rights activist Professor Claire Palley. The resolution was heavily against India, although it showed some reservations about human rights situation in Pakistan as well. It is believed that Professor Palley could have been Persuaded to 'delete her impressions on Pakistan' in exchange of full support for her resolution, but this was not done.

The Pakistani government in an attempt to establish friendly and cordial relationship with India is moving very fast on the road to peace without realising that this 'neck break speed' can result in a disaster. The government needs to take a breath and work out a strategy to get the consent of those players who have a big say in this kind of decision making. Of course I am not referring to the Parliament where the Prime Minister has an absolute majority, rather my reference is towards those powers who have been calling shots in the turbulent history of Pakistan. Apart from that the 'vested interest', to which I made reference at the beginning of the article, can derail the peace process. Also Pakistan needs to be reminded that the Kashmiri people are the biggest and the suffering party in this dispute, therefore, they must have the final say in the matter.

It is widely believed, and recent activities support this view, that the successive Pakistani governments have made a remarkable shift from their traditional stand that Kashmir must be resolved according to the UN resolutions. Pakistan, now is interested in the 'solution' of Kashmir that they can establish friendly economic relationship with India. This 'solution' doesn't have to be in accordance with the UN resolutions which at least give the Kashmiri people a choice to decide whether to become a part of Pakistan or India. The new, approach in finding a 'solution' to the Kashmir dispute is to negotiate it bilaterally, and whatever is the agreement, impose it on the bewildered and divided Kashmiri people.

This is a very dangerous approach. Not only this will upset the 'vested interest' who have the power to manoeuvre and stage another armed conflict between these arch rivals, but it will further disillusion the Kashmiris, and this will have devastating affects on the relationship between the two. The past history has proved that no progress could be made under, the UN resolutions, and it was only sensible for Pakistan to take a 'new initiative on Kashmir, but unfortunately instead of adopting the most realistic policy - accepting the third option on Kashmir it back tracked and formulated a policy to divide Kashmir. This policy will have a far reaching consequences for all concerned, especially Kashmir and Pakistan.

In the view of' the above it is prudent to have a cautious approach on Kashmir and not to rush in to any kind of decision. Furthermore it is imperative that the genuine Kashmiri leadership is part of these negotiations that a lasting peace and stability can be achieved in the Sub - Continent.

Shabir Choudhry
Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs

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