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July 19, 2001
The Musharraf logic
President Pervez Musharraf can pat himself on the back because he has retrieved Kashmir from the backburner. He can also take credit for having refocused the international community's attention on the problem which, in his own words, is "simmering disconcertingly." In the process he has got prominence, which he would not have had as a military ruler. In his country, he is getting recognition because democracy to most Pakistanis is only a means to an end. And the end is India's acceptance of Pakistan's prowess and viability.
This consideration may have probably weighed with Musharraf when he changed his nation's agenda from what type of government it should have to how high it was status-wise, vis-à-vis India. Fifty years of distance and discord with India have made the Pakistanis accept anything but a lesser stature, definitely not New Delhi's impetuosity. Kashmir has come to epitomise Pakistan's stern attitude towards India, at least among the Punjabis who are in a majority in Pakistan.
When it is reported that the talks at the Agra summit have been "positive and constructive," it means that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been trying to find a way to assure Musharraf that Pakistan's sensitivity on Kashmir can be accommodated within a framework, which New Delhi will build to give the maximum autonomy to the state. Musharraf on his part has been making sure that India's fears on cross-border terrorism will be set right. A mechanism of sorts of further dialogues and possible adjustments seems to be taking shape. This is confirmed by Vajpayee's acceptance of the invitation to visit Islamabad. So the dialogue continues and Kashmir and cross-border terrorism remain on the agenda.
It was not surprising to find Musharraf making his first statement on the soil of India on Kashmir during his meeting with the intellectuals in Delhi on the eve of the summit. He said the Line of Control was not acceptable and if any Pakistani leader agreed to it, he could not return to his country. One could visualise a favourable response to his statement in Pakistan, particularly from the fundamentalist groups that have been wedded to politics since the days of Zia-ul Haq, another military ruler in the eighties. But Musharraf should have also realised that no government in India could stay in office if it agreed to change the LoC in any substantial way. Indeed, such solutions are harder to sell in a democracy than in the army-controlled country, which is not dependent on votes.
Had Jammu and Kashmir gone to Pakistan at the time of Partition in August 1947, it would have evoked a bit of disappointment, nothing more. People would have taken the state's integration with Pakistan in their stride. But after 54 years, how does India change its borders and the Constitution without causing a great harm to its polity? This might reopen certain issues, which India has more or less settled after a long period of blood and sacrifice.
The change in the LoC means an adjustment in J&K territory. The composition of the state is such that it has three regions: the Muslim-majority Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu and the Buddhist-majority Ladakh. Pakistan wants the Valley and has all along blessed the All Party Hurriyat Conference that claims to represent it.
Were New Delhi to give Pakistan the Valley or accept it as an independent state, it would do so on the basis of the population's complexion. It would be inferred that the Muslim majority area did not want to stay with India. The Hindutva forces would probably be praying for such a solution. It would help them polarise the country on the basis of religion: Hindus and Muslims.
Such an eventuality may give these elements a majority in the Lok Sabha, otherwise an impossibility. Imagine the effect of such a solution on the Muslims who carry even today, after 54 years, the cross of Partition. And what happens to the nation's secular ethos without which even democracy becomes a question mark?
Out of the 54 years of Kashmir's integration with India, the insurgency is only 12 years old. Even Hurriyat leaders like Yasin Malik have said they took to arms in 1989 when they found that people could not get power through the ballot box. The crux of the problem is popular rule, not the LoC. Islamabad trained and armed the Kashmiris who went across the border. Now the game plan is different because the Afghans, the Sudanese and other foreigners have joined them to change what was a liberation struggle into a jihad. Islamabad is offering them all assistance and has set up camps for them believing that one day Kashmir will fall in its lap. It is clear is that without Islamabad's sustenance, the uprising cannot go on.
I do not condone the atrocities and human rights violations that take place in the Valley because of suppression. Some of us have written about them and Pakistan has extensively quoted from our reports at international fora to India's embarrassment. The excesses have, indeed, drawn the world's attention to Kashmir and India will have to live down the battered image it has got in the process.
But the real question is that of government, not borders. For this purpose, there should be fresh elections in J&K under the supervision of human rights activists from India, a suggestion made by Shabir Shah, a popular Kashmiri leader. The elected members to the assembly should form the government and New Delhi, in turn, should transfer to the states all subjects, except defence and foreign affairs. (New Delhi's 1951-52 agreement with Sheikh Abdullah gave India these two subjects and communications). Borders between Kashmir on both sides should be made soft, depending how soon militancy from across Pakistan ceases.
The new government at Srinagar can have its own flag, currency, seek foreign aid and receive tourists from abroad through the planes which can straightaway land at Srinagar. To help people of Kashmir on both sides to participate in matters of defence and foreign affairs, the elected Lok Sabha members from J&K should have the right to sit in Pakistan's national assembly and those from Pak-occupied Kashmir in the Lok Sabha. However, the sovereignty of this part of J&K will vest in India's while of the other part with Pakistan.
The right of self-determination, or any such demand, is aimed at transferring power to the people of J&K, not redrawing the boundaries. How will a change in the LoC make any difference if people are not given the real power? Musharraf should consider these alternatives that meet the aspirations of the people and not the ones, which may tear apart India's fabric by religious or separatist forces.
While mentioning Kashmir, Musharraf talked of the symmetry. What he actually conveyed was that the progress in other fields would depend on the advance made on Kashmir. Both fields have to have the same pace. He cited the example of the late Pakistan finance minister, Mahbub-ul Haq, who entered into an agreement with India on trade and commerce. Since there was no progress on Kashmir, Musharraf said, the whole structure caved in.
The symmetry logic is strange. Suppose, if we can make progress on one subject, must we stop because Kashmir is not being solved? This amounts to giving veto to those who will be sorting out Kashmir. Whatever is agreed upon should be implemented first so that enough of goodwill is generated to solve Kashmir. Otherwise, we will get stuck unnecessarily.
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