Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has told Parliament that the government is abandoning the policy pursued by the Musharraf regime on Kashmir, and returning to the previous stance. This involves a resolution to the territorial dispute ‘peacefully’ and under the relevant UN resolution.
The foreign minister in particular lashed out at the ‘secret’ diplomacy used under Musharraf to try and solve the Kashmir problem. Former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri had alluded to just this in his unexpected remarks at a seminar stating a formula to settle Kashmir had been worked out, but a decision taken not to make it public. This of course is inherently undemocratic. The people of any nation need to know what decisions are being made, especially those that have the potential to have a major impact on them.
Backdoor attempts to reach solutions lead nowhere at all and can create more problems than they solve — and that is why such contacts have failed so far to resolve conflict between India and Pakistan. For one, they result in a breakdown in trust between rulers and people, adding to the difficulties inherent in solving issues.
This is all the more relevant when it comes to an emotive issue like Kashmir. As the foreign minister said, it is important such matters go through parliament. Where there is a difference in opinions persuasion is needed to win over people; stealth will lead nowhere at all. While endorsing the PPP’s call for an end to any kind of covert policy on Kashmir, the fact is that the old policy now being reverted to has, over 60 years, led to very little progress in solving the dispute.
All that it did was to create a generation of Pakistanis who grew up seeing India and Indians as the enemy. Of course this suited the powerful establishment — on both sides of the border — and they used this enemy hype to appropriate for themselves a major chunk of the resource pie. So going back to the old policy, as the foreign minister put it will simply not do. Given this reality, and the pressing need to move towards a solution of issues with India, the government needs to demonstrate a readiness to display some flexibility, and that means having an altogether new policy