Monday, February 18, 2008

THE PANACEA OF KASHMIR DISPUTE

Muhammad Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

A quest for regional peace in the third world has often been adversely affected by complexed domestic problems, regional issues and extra-regional developments coupled with great power’s involvement in the region. The conflict of Kashmir between India and Pakistan is no exception. Not only did the legacies of the British colonial rule continue to haunt both India & Pakistan for more then 6 decades, early involvement of the super powers in regional affairs also complicated the situation further.

This world is never short of tribulations anywhere. We find that Kashmir problem has similarities with the Northern Ireland, Middle Eastern and Sri Lankan issues where concerned parties have clashing worldviews. The Northern Ireland problem, however, has already been settled through the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accord. The other two issues appear to be gathering momentum towards resolution, though the final solutions are not in sight at present.

For almost six decades, we have seen four Indo-Pak wars (in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and in 1999). At the same time, there were several plans, suggestions and ideas to solve the Kashmir issue: e.g, the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949, the Simla agreement in July 1972 and General Musharraf’s October 2004 suggestion of “food for thought on Kashmir”. None of these has materialized because of serious disagreements.

This fact should be recognized that the Jammu & Kashmir problem is multi-dimensional with political, historical and principal aspects juxtaposed against evolving practical aspects. By addressing the principal political aspects, the Kashmiris stance could be vindicated and their trust in the peace process can be restored. By addressing the practical aspects of the problem, India’s difficulties can be understood and a way out could be suggested to improve the ground situation in Indian Kashmir, which has aggravated in the last seventeenth years.

These measures could be adopted as a likely option to get out of stalemate and improve the situation so that the ground for a permanent settlement of the problem is prepared.

· Symbolic recognition of Kashmiris right to choose their future
· Softening of LoC
· Redefining of constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Symbolic recognition of kashmiris’ right to choose their future could be a major confidence building measures, which would vindicate the kashmiris and intern create an atmosphere of trust, vis a vis India Pakistan and world community at large. The practical manifestation of this right could be deferred for a mutually agreed period of time.

The second measure could be of softening of LoC, which process would start with an advent of the bus service. The bus service and other means of mass contact should be extended to other areas of Jammu & Kashmir and Azad Kashmir. This step can be instrumental in bringing peoples from both sides closer and their interaction could produced some positive thinking on both sides.

The last measure part of the modus vivendi should be redefining of constitutional status of Indian Kashmir within the Indian union but outside the Indian constitution like Azad Kashmir, which for all practical purpose is a part of Pakistan but constitutionally semi-autonomous state. An agreement of modus vivendi could be reached with out prejudice to the recognized positions of all three parties India, Pakistan and People of Jammu & Kashmir.

The political movement against Indian occupation culminated into militant movement. Sacrificing lives, honor, livelihood, property, Kashmiris have withstood adversity and have sustained their struggle with a goal of self-determination in sight.

Pakistan maintains its stand that the Kashmiris have a right to choose their destiny, and renders moral and political support to Kashmiris struggle for right of self-determination.

India and Pakistan had tried all possible means to settle these problems. Three wars and military operation at Kargil as mentioned earlier have done little to resolve this issue. Similarly, a low key militant movement by the indigenous and outside militant outfits has attracted world attention to the problem but has not done enough to force Indian to pull out of this quagmire.

This issue has been agitated in the United Nations on several occasions in the United Nations on several occasions and is still on the General Assembly’s agenda. International and bilateral agreements like Tashkent, Simla and Lahore have not been very instrumental in making real progress towards a final settlement.

Five decades of belligerency and hostile atmosphere between India and Pakistan have increased their sensitivities and sense of insecurity especially on Kashmir. Belligerent neighbors have developed their own nuclear programs diverting huge funds from social sectors, depriving their people of basic amenities like potable water and sanitation. Both India and Pakistan exploded their nuclear devices in 1998, becoming members of the nuclear club, enhancing the possibilities of a nuclear conflict over Kashmir, the only contentious issue between two nuclear states.

Exhaustion of all possible options, change in internal dynamics in India and Pakistan and geopolitical changes after 9/11 have convinced the south Asian leadership that they will have to make themselves compatible with international environs of reconciliation.

Pakistan is involved in the composite dialogue with all sincerity. But unending dialogue without a time frame is bound to fail and would lead to the collapse of all confidence building measures (CBM’s). No amount of good-will on the part of Pakistan can sustain these confidence building measures without reciprocity from India. Visits of politicians, cricket or hockey teams, cultural troupes, journalists are of little consequence to Kashmiris. There should be Kashmir specific confidence building measures. The need of the hour is the withdrawal of tile Kashmir-specific draconian laws and Indian forces from occupied Kashmir. Development of around a million soldiers for just two or three thousand militants as claimed by India cannot be justified. It is a historical fact that militarism breeds militancy. Once the Indian forces leave, the militancy automatically subsides, providing India proceeds with the dialogue in a positive manner. The proposed bus service is not a bad idea but it is not a solution of Kashmir problem but just a part of CBM’s.

Despite realization of these facts and fast changing realities, it would still be premature to strive for a final settlement of the problem, which could backfire and all three parties could slide back to their long standing stated positions. Under these circumstances what seems to be achievable is the modus vivendi. Efforts can be made to reach a temporary arrangement, which could be acceptable to both India and Pakistan and reflect the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The movement inside Kashmir is a popular movement and a popular war of liberation cannot be uprooted by use of sheer force. It has to be treated in conformity with the wishes of the people of Kashmir, who have sacrificed so much for their cause. They are the real arbiters of their destiny and no one could impose a decision on them.

The representatives of the Kashmiri people should be enabled to participate in the settlement process for Jammu and Kashmir. The modalities for such participation would need to be discussed by India and Pakistan to ensure that they were mutually acceptable.

A process is not a status quo process. Long-standing impasse over “vexed” problems such as Jammu and Kashmir cannot be pronounced as their own solutions. A peace process is a process of acceptable change. It one side refuses to accept this it will signal its lack of interest in peace. If, on the contrary, both countries agree to work towards mutually acceptable change.

The Kashmir dispute and the situation in Kashmir do not fall under any state’s domestic jurisdiction because of the following reasons:

· Kashmir is backed by a number of UN Security Council resolutions, which remain unimplemented.
· The status of the territory under the terms of the UN resolutions and Indo-Pak agreements is still unsettled.
· The inhabitants of Kashmir are still waiting to exercise their right to self-determination through a plebiscite.
· Kashmir arouses the human conscience as much as a situation of forcible occupation does in any part of the world.

India is not interested in any durable solution of Jammu and Kashmir. It believes in resolving the conflict by changing the minds. It is of the view that economic and cultural interaction between the two countries will automatically solve the problems and by the passage of time people would forget Kashmir. India tries to make a best use of current global scenario which makes no distinction between a genuine demand for the right to self-determination and terrorism. But India forgets that Kashmir is historically a shock-proof movement, which has the potential to destabilize the whole region politically and military.

India promotes CBM’s of its own liking to downgrade the Kashmir issue. It ignores genuine aspirations and the unprecedented sacrifices of the people of Kashmir. If these minor CBM’s between Pakistan and India progress unevenly with the same velocity and without paying heed to human rights questions and the right to self-determination leaving the Kashmiris at the mercy of vested interests, the development will have a negative impact on the process of dialogue.

Besides autonomy or independence, but there definite parameters before Kashmiris for the resolution of this conflict. Explicitly these are identified in their struggle and sacrifices. The following steps can also bring about a major change to encourage a peaceful settlement:

· repealing of all draconian laws
· Releasing of all political detents
· De-terrorizing and de-militarizing the terrorize state
· Restoring of all freedoms and civil rights
· Creating a conducive atmosphere for a totally and peaceful political movement by politically deprived and terrorized organization
· Holding of free and fair elections under the United Nations supervision.

The elected representatives should be given the task to hold trilateral negotiations with Pakistan and India to conduct plebiscite for accession or autonomy or independence. Bilateral agreements have yielded nothing for Kashmiris. APHC and other pro-freedom parties firmly believe that only Kashmiris say the final word of their destiny. All the groups have this common meeting ground and common goal before them. J & K is a state of different religious and ethnic groups like other regions of the sub-continent, with a strong longing for each other. Their historical desire to live with each other cannot be fulfilled by superficial measures. Nothing as yet has been granted to Kashmiris except a faint hope.

In the light of recent attitude of India regarding Baglihar Dam and also watching Indian mulish track record, the apprehension cannot be ruled out that India is just gaining time in the guise of dialogue to consolidate its hold in occupied Kashmir. The international community has to intervene. Until now, the major powers have been pressurizing Pakistan alone. There should be no double standards. Now they should pressurize India to resolve the issue once and for all so that the inhabitants of the sub-continent could have a sigh of relief and live without the specter of war to devote their energies to their progress.

Now India has successfully used its diplomatic cards, having added to its strength and stature, with economic and military deals with USA, Israel, Russia and is even now strengthening its ties with China. Now India is beginning to throw its weight around as an emerging regional power. With striving hard to get a permanent membership of Security Council in UNO, one may well expect increasing arrogance and thus insurgence on its part in its relations with Pakistan. If India wants to be a big power of this region, it should get rid of the pathology of a small power.

Concluding, I would like to utter that if terms like democracy, popular will and universality of human rights and political rights mean anything to the world, then these terms should be translated into action, because actions speak louder than words. The span of over six decades is too much to allow Indians to get rid of its rhetoric. It is a time ripe enough to resolve the predicament without the word Atootang being used.

Published in daily The Post, 13th Dec, 2007

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

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