Comment: Impressions from Pakistan on the Kashmir conundrum

Kashmir has been at the centre of the stand-off between the two nuclear neighbours.


Shujaat Bukhari December 10, 2012



India and Pakistan have been locked in more than one conflict over the past 65 years. The undeniable reality is that Kashmir has been at the centre of this stand-off between the two nuclear neighbours.


Even today, a large section of Indian society does not believe in Pakistan’s existence. On December 8, former judge of the Indian Supreme Court Markandey Katju, who now heads the Press Council of India, made it apparent how widespread this thinking was. He publicly stated, “For resolving the Kashmir issue, re-unification of India and Pakistan was the only solution”. He went on to say “Pakistan was an illegitimate country as it was created on the basis of the two-nation theory (crafted by British colonial power).”

Katju’s salvo did not surprise many. Reconciliation with the idea that Pakistan’s creation is a historical fact has not taken root in India and likewise, the theory in Pakistan that India is “Enemy number one” has not died down.

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With all this frequent and intense animosity leaving its impact on South Asia, there is, however, a silver lining one can see in peace moves on both sides. After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, relations between the two countries were battered along the lines of what happened in the aftermath of the December 2001 attack on Indian parliament. The credit to turn the clock back then goes to far-sighted then prime minister, AB Vajpayee, who on April 18, 2003 sprang a surprise in Srinagar by announcing “I extend a fresh hand of friendship to Pakistan”.

This was a turning point in soured relations between the two countries as the process of peace and reconciliations moved forwards until 2008. Now, once again, relations at an official level as well as between people are limping back to normalcy.

During my recent visit to Pakistan, I got the impression that while fighting back some of the worst possible challenges to internal stability, Islamabad was cautious in dealing with crucial issues related to the sustainability of this fragile relationship. Pakistan’s response to Ajmal Kasab’s hanging was meaningful. When the news of his hanging was out, it did not create a flutter in any section of Pakistani society except amongst extremists who stuck to their guns. The government virtually disowned him and the media and civil society’s response was un-radical too. This surely conveyed a message that Pakistan was trying to deal with an issue which has a far-reaching impact on bilateral ties. This was followed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s statement that Pakistan was ready to take action against Jamatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed (although this invited a strong reaction from the latter).

Pakistani govenrment

Three wars with India and terrorism that has been destabilising Pakistan since 9/11 are the baseline for any renewed discussion over Kashmir. That is why the Pakistani government has invited a section of Hurriyat leaders to discuss the “need for changing the strategy” with them during the visit starting December 17.

The feeling over how to resolve Kashmir is a mixture of hope and despair. For the ordinary Kashmiri, former president Pervez Musharraf’s rule was a mixed bag of “gains and losses”. While he intensely focused on Kashmir, and liberated the issue from vexing tangle of rhetoric and warmongering, previous regimes had taken the problem too far for it to be confined in a box so hurriedly.

Nevertheless, people in both parts of Jammu Kashmir support Confidence Building Measures which could lead to a dignified and permanent solution – so there’s hope yet for a solution.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2012.

COMMENTS (13)

Cynical | 8 years ago | Reply

@Avishek

A good one.

Avishek | 8 years ago | Reply

@PakistanZindabad:

lets work for "United India-Pakistan" or even "United Pakistan-India" if you like...or "United Pakistan"...what do you say?? I am ready...are you??

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