Kashmir — seizing the moment

Published: July 6, 2011

The writer is a defence analyst and retired as air-vice marshal in the Pakistan Air Force

Not that there was even a single sensible response to my last effort to evince serious deliberation grappling with the intricacies of issues belabouring India-Pakistan relations, but one must plod along, hoping it is the silent majority that gives an issue any serious thought. Why I choose to discuss the accompanied detail is to offer an opportunity to each one of us, the common man, to appreciate the intricate nature and draw our own conclusion as to how Pakistan may move along each of these detailed areas of study and determine if the state is indeed pursuing what is in Pakistan’s interest or could do better. The lib-left be damned.

Kashmir is not a Pandora’s box to be left undisturbed for fear of knotty tangles. Instead, it is a ball of wool that has been layered over the years with deliberate obfuscation such that its core now lays hidden and conveniently forgotten. The recent elections in Azad Kashmir brought that to the fore when the real warring parties over electoral victory were the PPP and the PML-N. Not only that, they were the two principal winners whose electoral agenda revolved around politics of the Pakistani mainland; exhibit A — Nawaz Sharif’s uber-critical speech about Zardari’s performance. Not one mentioned a way forward in resolving the dispute. Save one by Prime Minister Gilani where he mentioned that his party will continue to fight for a thousand years to win Kashmir. I heard the same rant a few days later by a clearly outdated and antiquated military type in a Pakistani setting; but that is forgivable — one, he was military and two, he is beyond his sell-by date.

The Kashmir debate has found moral underpinning over the years. What began as a clear territorial dispute — one that also had people attached who needed a chance to declare their preference of association as the fundamental principle, but who became a convenient vehicle of interstate politics soon — was further coloured with the overhang of ‘human rights’ morality. There is the case of divided families, of parents longing to see their children, of marriages that need to be consummated, of people who need to move to the other side for business, trade and the simplest human urge to travel and see. Somewhere along the way, such concerns have taken a back seat. Politics instead has imbued the sensitivities of the local hopefuls, each seeking his rise to pelf and power. India boasted a 60 per cent turn-out in Jammu and Kashmir’s 2008 elections and proclaimed wide affirmation of its accession to India. Even then, Syed Ali Gilani and the Hurriyat mix continue to chant azadi as a reminder to their core concern, howsoever warped with time and subtle mutation.

The only serious effort on Kashmir was by a military dictator. He ventured far beyond the ordinary. His four-point proposal included making “borders irrelevant” between the two Kashmirs, joint “supervision mechanisms” of India, Pakistan and Kashmir when “self-governance” by the Kashmiris finally becomes a reality, and a “phased withdrawal” of troops from both sides. He may have been making amends for his Kargil faux pas, but move he did to break the inertia. The process got disrupted by Pakistan’s home grown troubles of 2007 and then finally by the Mumbai terror attacks. Since the two sides have reconnected and amble to resurrect some sanity, the back-channel four-point process is where India wishes to start from. This only goes to prove that in the complex game of geopolitics, seizing the moment is as important as creating a moment. Pakistan’s political class and Musharraf’s successors in the government proffer a pitiful lament on the ownership of the four-point process characterising it illegitimate in origin. The other option is Nawaz’s Chenab formula; India remains wary because it will sanctify division based on communal identity. Lib-left, where lies your fancy?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Mir Agha
    Jul 6, 2011 - 10:17PM

    Your formula (Musharraf’s) are important steps but not the final solution.Recommend

  • khalid Kamal
    Jul 6, 2011 - 11:54PM

    Good articulation and touched core issue without malice against the Previous Govt. Which is a norm with media.Recommend

  • Noor Nabi
    Jul 7, 2011 - 1:07AM

    A resolution of the Kashmir dispute will not bring an immediate end to the “lack of friendship” between India and Pakistan. It will, however, remove the thorniest problem that stands in the way of developing and nurturing a civilized relationship between two peoples –separated by boundaries created by the 1947 partition – and allow both to redeploy resources towards providing better living conditions for their respective populations. This validates the writer’s theory that the dispute not be left undisturbed.

    Over time Kashmir, especially the part controlled and administered by India, has become a problem for the Indians. It is a fanciful theory to believe that any Kashmiri living in those areas would want to become part of Pakistan. The Indians have to deal with a population that is extremely dissatisfied and seeks“Azadi”. Article 370 of India’s constitution, a clever band-aid solution devised by Nehru, could snowball into a humongous problem for India, especially in defining the relationship between the “center” and other states in the “union”. This, however, is India’s problem and one should let it find a way to sort it out.

    While military dictator Musharraf’s out-of-the-box thinking did create some awareness on the Indian side that there could be another way to find a solution to Kashmir, it did not find any serious takers as they continued to personify the General as the mastermind behind the Kargil misadventure. On the Pakistani side the idea lost traction as Musharraf and his smart poodle, Shaukat Aziz, chose to embark upon another stupid adventure by assaulting the country’s judiciary. Neither Kargil nor the attack on the judiciary falls into the category of being just a “faux pas”. Both reflected a serious lack of vision and a deficit of common sense on the part of the rulers. If Pakistan’s ISI had anything to do with the dastardly attacks in Mumbai, as the rest of the world is convinced that it did, then that only validated India’s concerns and perceptions regarding the Pakistani overtures.

    The Pakistani military, with egg all over its face, understands that it can never conquer Kashmir by force. It is also now beginning to understand, though slowly, that exporting “non-state” actors to fuel the uprising on the other side of the line of control will not work. Pakistan’s stance at the recent meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries with respect to fighting terrorism is a first good step. But a mere of expression of this position is not enough; action should follow words.

    The Indian leadership should also snap out of the delusions it nurtures about a failed Pakistan providing a solution to the problem. Should, God forbid, this scenario unfold the largest spillover effect will be borne by India that will severely dent and hurt the interests of its 1.2 billion people.

    It is time that maturity sets in on both sides and representatives from the two countries find a mechanism to avoid a collective disaster. Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jul 7, 2011 - 1:44AM

    Any (and all) formulas have to pass through Indian Parliament. An unelected ( and apparently unelectable) PM may agree to any formula but if he cannot shepherd it through that august body, that formula is not worth the paper it is written on. India did not sacrifice its flower of youth from every part of the country to secure Kashmir for India only to be given away by any one at the negotiating table. Haji Pir Pass SHALL not be allowed to repeat at any cost!Recommend

  • Arindom
    Jul 7, 2011 - 2:16AM

    what about a Secular, Democratic, Non-Aligned, De-militarised, Semi-Autonomuos Region of Kashmir ( Pakistani and Indian) with own police and bureacracy, with a passive ( Japan-like) foreign policy. Indian and Pakistanis allowed to visit, but settle. Both militaries withdraw completely and guarantee non-intereference.Recommend

  • Sunil
    Jul 7, 2011 - 3:27AM

    “Not that there was even a single sensible response to my last effort to evince serious deliberation grappling with the intricacies of issues belabouring India-Pakistan relations”…

    Ummm – so the only way we could have made sensible responses was, if we had agreed with you? There were more holes in your last arguments than logical constructs, and you were called out. Obviously, introspection and rethinking are qualities that still need some work in you.Recommend

  • Jul 7, 2011 - 3:58AM

    Why does the lib-left even bother responding when you have already declared that you know best what is in Pakistan’s interest, and that the lib-left be damned. You are writing for the wrong audience, pen this to your former or current colleagues in the establishment and convince them.Recommend

  • MKD
    Jul 7, 2011 - 4:16AM

    All of Kashmir (both Pakistani held and Indian held) should be returned to the heirs of Hari Singh on condition that they would immediately return it to the British on condition that they would immediately return it to the heirs of Ranjit Sing… and so on until it reaches into the hands of the heirs of the original inhabitants of the land.
    Once done, both the Govt can jointly have a dialogue with the rightful claimants of Kashmir.

    The point is how far one can go back in history.If you can’t go all the way forward or backward,why choose an arbitrary point somewhere in the middle? Recommend

  • Khurram
    Jul 7, 2011 - 4:37AM

    The ONLY SOLUTION to this complex or not so complex (depends how one defines it) problem lies in converting the Line of Control into an international Border with some adjustments and the guaranteed access . My Nation has been held a Hostage to this for the last sixty four years. I understand it (after seeing multitudes of phoney Kashmiris and fake patriots popping up on ET whenever an article regarding Kashmir is published) will be very hard for a great majority of my countrymen to accept any viable solution owing to their mindset that places much more faith and belief in far fetched myths and lies. I do not blame these people what I only blame those who exploit their minds by inventing such lies, unfounded fears and imagined genetic kinship with Kashmiris. We are truly a flawed and lost people with a twisted sense of truth and reality, who never learn anything from history, wear our emotions on shirt sleeves with almost no self control and patience. We need a Saladin now more than ever before who would guide us through the troubled waters and establish an everlasting peace in my country. Recommend

  • Babloo
    Jul 7, 2011 - 4:38AM

    The writer, merely reports the political events around Kashmir dialogue, without expressing his opinion. Is this a news report or opinion piece. The bottomline is, no solution is possible until Pak establishment publicly accepts and acknowledges that Pak is not going to get any part of Indian Kashmir. Recommend

  • Jul 7, 2011 - 5:08AM

    Brave words coming from an ex-militray man…very good and brave stand sir.Recommend

  • Anup
    Jul 7, 2011 - 5:43AM

    Sir, I disagree with your assertion that – ‘India remains wary because it will sanctify division based on communal identity’

    This is patently wrong. This is the 21st century and a increasing majority of Indians would put economic identity over communal identity any day. I couldn’t give two hoots about communal identity. India remains wary because pushing for a solution will be seen as rewarding terrorism. If we actually push for a solution to Kashmir there is a general feeling that it would be seen by many as a success for the policies of jihad and terror. It is irrelevant if you choose to characterize it as a freedom struggle – most of the rest of the world has made up its minds that the actions of what you call the freedom struggle constitute terrorism. Can anybody realistically believe that the Pakistani military will not take any Indian concessions as a validation of their strategy over the last two decades.

    The status quo suits India very well. The economic gap between the two countries gets wider and wider every day. We have even managed to make intesifying the Kashmir jihad a unpalatable option for the Pakistani army because the diplomatic and economic costs in terms of what is left of Pakistan’s international standing would be unbearable. I do not think anything in recent memory has damaged Pakistan’s international standing as much as 26/11 and its aftermath – not even the Abbotabad incident.

    There will only be a serious move to resolve Kashmir from this side of the border when the jihad has been demonstrably stopped by the incarceration or handing over of the jihadi leaders and the destruction of the terror camps. That way we will be rewarding good behavior.

    I personally believe the Kashmir dispute is like the status of California between the USA and Mexico. While Pakistan’s historical claim might actually have some validity, its subsequent actions and the current diplomatic, economic and military inequality in the subcontinent makes it academic. Recommend

  • Max
    Jul 7, 2011 - 6:15AM

    Air Marshal Sahib, Kashmir is a massalah to spice-up the cuisine and I have heard it over and again from all corners from my childhood days in 1950s down to this day.
    When politician have nothing to offer in concrete terms, they start beating the empty vessel s and in politics it works quite well (at least in Pakistan).Recommend

  • stuka
    Jul 7, 2011 - 7:07AM

    Indians would have to be idiots to accept any Pakistani offer on face value. No sooner does any Pakistani leader fall from grace that his successor repudiates any and all agreements by the previous leader.

    Nawaz Sharif signed Lahore agreement with Vajpayee and the Lahore agreement was termed a sell out by Musharraf. Musharraf then signed the Islamabad declaration which was declared invalid by the present government / military dispensation. What is the guarantee that any agreement by any Pakistani leader will not be considered a sell out by the next Pakistani leader? Pakistanis in any case are fond of calling each other Kafir, Traitor etc. so any leader who makes peace with India would be an easy target for the next guy who wants / holds power.

    Only solution is to sit tight and let Pakistanis figure out what they really want. There is no Pakistani consensus on what type of country they want and in this case, they are different from India and for that matter Bangladesh. Recommend

  • Manoj
    Jul 7, 2011 - 10:13AM

    Pakistan should ask for the solution of Kashmir problem, instead they ask for the Kashmir itself, that is the main problem.

    Not a single inch of Kashmir can be given to any country, neither by force nor by negotiation. No govt. in India has or will have that mandate.Recommend

  • chandran
    Jul 7, 2011 - 11:39AM

    nothing to say here for now because busy with jan lokpal bill
    as an indian hmmmRecommend

  • abhi
    Jul 7, 2011 - 11:59AM

    @r you have turned the logic on its head. It is not because of Kashmir, Pakistan got radicalized it is other way round.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jul 7, 2011 - 12:07PM

    Musharraf’s proposals look the most practical because no one is interested in giving up any territory.If the Democratic Government tweaks and builds on his proposal chances of success would be brighter. There is a spanner in the works however because the Kashmiri leaders and people are adamant they want independence. Their sensitivities must also be addressed and they should be co opted for any initiative to succeed. Secondly for Indians to buy any proposal the rules of the game have to be the same on either side of the LOC. Currently no Indian(any religion,any caste,any gender) can buy land or settle in Indian Kashmir. All settlers(arrivals after 1947) in Pakistani Kashmir will therefore have to be expelled. There has never been appreciation of the fact that unlike China in Xinjiang and Tibet, India never ever tried to change the Demographics by flooding the state with settlers making the indigenous people into a minority.Recommend

  • SKChadha
    Jul 7, 2011 - 2:49PM

    Air Marshal Sahib, The only solution of the Kashmir problem (may be harsh for my brothers across the border) is that Pakistan should vacate the area which it calls as Azad (or not so Azad) Kashmir including GB.

    Till this happens, the demarcated/ delineated LOC may symbolically continue to divide this region.

    If people across the border or this LOC are interested in trade, services, cultural exchanges, peace and tranquility, interaction etc. it is well and good. Otherwise, we should shut this BS and forget it for at least a decade or more.

    There are very many divided families across the border from Rajasthan, Punjab, UP, Bihar and other parts of India. What is so special about Kashmir? Have anybody in Pakistan ever bothered about those divided families and their welfare?Recommend

  • Indian
    Jul 7, 2011 - 7:02PM

    For Kashmir issue to be resolves, the very first step would have to be for Pakistan to negotiate 80,000 sq Kms of Aksai Chin back from China, which was illegally ceded.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Jul 8, 2011 - 1:38AM

    Isn’t this the same author that jumped the gun on the false wiki-leaks and wrote a piece on Indian generals without even verifying the “planted” wikileaks?
    Now he has the gall to say his recent article didnot generate a single ‘sensible’ response!!Recommend

  • R
    Jul 8, 2011 - 10:12AM

    @Arindom:
    Well said.
    Enough sensible things were said. But listening is not a skill that men used to dictating possess. Smug behind a cockpit and smug behind a word processor. Recommend

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