Red, White and Black

Rethinking Kashmir
21 December, 2006, 7:54 pm
Filed under: India, Kashmir, Pakistan

Two weeks ago, President Musharraf presented another “out of the box” proposal for the resolution of Kashmir in an interview to India’s NDTV. Details of the proposal can be found here. Summarily, his solution was based on the following four points:

1. Kashmir will have the same borders but people will be allowed to move freely back and forth in the region.
2. The region will have self-governance or autonomy, but not independence.
3. Troops will be withdrawn from the region in a staggered manner.
4. A joint supervision mechanism will be set up, with India, Pakistan and Kashmir represented.

He said that if the the solution was accepted by India, Pakistan would be willing to give up its claim on Kashmir. Needless to say, his words did ruffle quite a few conservative feathers in the country and the Foreign Ministry had to do some fire-fighting. The MoFA clarified:

Pakistan ‘s legal position on the Jammu and Kashmir disputes is based on the UN resolutions. Kashmir is a disputed territory. According to the UN Security Council’s resolutions, Pakistan and India are parties to this dispute and Kashmiris have to essentially decide their future. It is about the aspirations of Kashmiri people. Pakistan does not claim Kashmir as an integral part. Kashmir is disputed. We however, hope that when Kashmiris are able to exercise their right to make a choice, they would opt for Pakistan .

The President did not talk about giving up Pakistan ‘s position on Kashmir . Azad Kashmir has its separate identity with a President and Prime Minister. It is not a province of Pakistan . If it were, there would have been a Governor and Chief Minister instead of President and Prime Minister.

The operative clause in the MoFA statement is that Pakistan’s stance on J&K is based on UN resolutions. I want to tackle two things on this issue here.

But first, let me present two critiques (1, 2) that I came across over the weekend. Both of them raise a couple of questions that I would like to address through this post. The first one is that how can a single man – military dictator – claim to speak for the nation of Pakistan? Number two, what becomes of our age old stance that Kashmir should be resolved on the basis of the various UNSC resolutions.

On the UNSC resolutions. We voluntarily gave up our moral authority to call for the imposition of those resolutions, when a) we reneged on the criteria set for a truce in J&K according to the August 13 UNSC resolution; b) fuelled the insurgency in J&K in 1990’s and c) denied involvement behind Kargil. The last one totally eroded our credibility on all international fora and adversely impacted our stand for the rights of the Kashmiri people – for Kargil was more about attainment of territory than about fulfilment of the Kashmiri aspirations. Similarly, our refusal to withdraw troops from our part of Kashmir was guided by fear that the territory would be conquered by Indian troops and not by a genuine desire to let the Kashmiris decide their future. We need to shed the hypocrisy and define our exact stance on the issue.

On to the first question. Yes, I agree that Musharraf does not have the constitutional right to decide on the future of Kashmir. But one thing that weighs strongly in his favor is his vision for resolution of the dispute. I also will mince no words and state that I do believe his proposal is workable. Why you ask? Primarily because he is willing to compromise and seek a middle ground – sixty years of dialogue failed just because the two parties started out with positions so divergent that there was no room for reconciliation. The second reason I support him is because e has realised the futility of basing our stand on the UNSC resolutions.

The need of the hour is for Musharraf to work towards establishing a consensus on the issue. He does not need to woo the common man – for at the end of the day the Kashmir dispute is immaterial to the common man. The common man just seeks a respectful resolution so that the madness abates. The group that Musharraf truly needs to work hard on wooing constitutes the influential policy making circle: former foreign secretaries, academics, politicians and mediamen. These are the people who will come in handy when we actually do rethink our Kashmir policy – they are the ones who will help sell it. In this regard, Musharraf needs to do more than provide occasional proposal through the media to ready the public.

What we need is creative public rethinking on the issue. We need to change mindsets and move beyond the rhetoric of helping fellow Muslims and deal with the issue in its true strategic dynamics. Start public debates through the media – both print and electronic and vernacular and English with the motive to present the need for strategic rethinking in the simplest terms. Highlight the long term socio-economic impact of a resolution on the country – and therefore make it less of an issue about the ego of the Pakistani state and more about a real problem for the Kashmiri people.

Let me reiterate, that the idea is not to reach a consensus at the local level, but to prepare the public for a strategic rethink. So yes, while Musharraf does have his heart in the correct place over this issue he also needs to take the policy-making circle into confidence so that his decision is endorsed at the national level and its integrity is not forever doubted. We all need to collectively rethink Kashmir and not just the head honcho.

13 Comments so far
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Recently in Amritsar, Manmohan Singh deviated a bit from the official line:

“I had read about some new ideas and thoughts expressed from Pakistan,” Singh said during a speech in the northern Indian city of Amristar.

“We welcome all ideas as they contribute to the ongoing thought process,” he said in Punjabi


Seems like sound bytes for media. (You know, the Indian media is constantly putting pressure on the Government for its inflexibility regarding the issue and Mushy’s bombshells have made matters worse :P)

Sound bytes and Bombshells apart, the “rethinking” has to move out from the domain of bureaucrats and politicians and reach the masses.

So when you said:

Let me reiterate, that the idea is not to reach a consensus at the local level, but to prepare the public for a strategic rethink.

You were spot on!

Comment by BD

Mush has gone crazy that is why he is jumping from one propsal to proposal but in essence India alwyas give him and his enthusiasm a cold shoulder. Who sabotaged the Lahore Declaration? The same man who now wants to make history remember him for resolving the kashmir dispute.The only roadblock to a solution is Army, after the solution of the dispute what will be the reason mainataing a huge army with staggering monetry allocations. These guys never let it go this easy…. bet on it. General only wants the limelight and appearing on the screens of the idoit box big media groups. nothing will come out of his half baked proposals and suggestions.

Comment by manz

Before I start – Obligatory Confesionnal Statement – Am Indian.

Just 2 points…

1) Who sabotaged the Lahore Declaration? Why? and Can that messaih now be trusted to bring peace while still retaining the title of CoAS since the rationale d’etre of a large standing army is the K issue.

2) the numerous new options presented by the general saheb somehow always come out in media interviews and seem to be his musings which havent been ratified by the Pak Foreign Policy experts… I agree that these musings have also been getting the cold shoulder across the border but my take on general saheb is that atleat some of his points are attention diverters to move the public away from other stuff…

Comment by Dazzler

@ Dazzler:

1. If we go by that logic, Mushy should in no way be trying to resolve the Kashmir dispute. But he is making earnest efforts – why you ask? Because he has realised that the military option is not a feasible one. If he now wants to resolve the dispute and is willing to go the extra mile – why would India complain? Unless, of course India is looking to stall on the issue herself.

2. Yeah, I know these proposals come through the media. But that doesn’t take anything away from the content does it? And the foreign ministry here has clarified a number of times that Pakistan has presented similar proposals through the official channel as well – but the Indian response has always been pending. And, no the proposals are verified with the foreign ministry – that entity continues to stand by the content of the proposals. Check the link I provided in my post to the MoFA response. Also check this opinion for example form a former ambassador. He does not majorly disagree with the contents of the proposals, his only grouse is that Musharraf is being too hasty about it all.

Comment by ayesha

Fair Points..

my 2 cents…(a lil long though….)

1)General Saheb has still left unexplained as to why the Lahore Declaration was scuttled. That being said, I appreciate his efforts but unfortunately have my doubts as to his sincerity. Its just a case of me bing one bitten -twice shy.

2) Also after reading “In the line of Fire” which to me reads as more fiction than fact, I am even more doubtful of the sincereity of the proposals. He comes across as a person who is trying to be all things to all people …

3) Now, I ask you to put urself in our shoes for a min… Proposals made via the media may or may not have a locus standing cause a) they are deniable as misrepresentation b)Will any subsequent ruler abide by them since they seem not to have the backing of the Pakistani Forign Policy experts.

4) While I am obviously not privy to the discussions through official or back channels, I do believe that there is a reason why these proposals ae first made in the media and not via the official or back channels first.

5) In my view, diplomacy )as the name indicates) is not done in public but instead in private..Some examples of successful negotiations and diplomacy (without the theatrics)include
– India and China over the past few years (a lil slower than I would like but procceding all the same)
– The Jaswant Singh Strobe Talbott Talks after the 2nd series of tests
– I would even include the Nawaz Shareif – AB Vajpayee talks and the Lahore decalarion in that list.

6) I still see a disconnect where a COAS is leading the peace effort. I understand his need to keep the Pakistani Army Strong but such moves can easily be interpreted as backstabbing/double faced as he would talk of peace on one hand while strengthen the armed forces on th other. Not that its wrong but allows for easy media manupilation.

Comment by Dazzler

Dazzler, my apologies for this delayed response but I have been somewhat tied up. So here goes:

1. The Lahore Declaration wasn’t made by the same man. Was it? But yes, the Army did renege on it. Thought it had a stronger strategic chance their. Their policy sucked and thankfully they have realised that. That is why Pak’s policy has taken a flip. I see the glass as half full rather than half empty. If the desire for a settlement is there on the other side, then that would be the case there too.

2. You want to judge Musharraf by the Line of Fire? Hehe. I haven’t gotten through the book entirely yet, but it’s not fiction. It just has a lot of narcissism built into it, so the story telling goes over the top.

3. Musharraf’s proposals through the media are *very* categorical. He does not make them and then disappear – he sticks to them, reiterates them. So no, he won’t be denying them any time in the future. And as for the MoFA – I linked you to their stand on the issue, is that not good enough?

4. So what would be that reason? Do tell. : )

5. I really don’t understand your crib here. You are just not happy he came through the media – what about the content of his proposal. That, unfortunately, is completely ignored and the modalities are quibbled over. I said this to another Indian friend the other day – all of this just makes me think that India is simply looking for excuses to delay any possible settlement and stick to the status quo. The desire for peace is simply not there. And that’s majorly sad. And dangerous.

6. Please get over the army paranoia – Musharraf genuinely wants to resolve the dispute. Take him for face value.

Actually all of this arguing over the permanence of Musharraf’s proposals – what about India? The BJP under Vajpayee initiated the thaw in Indo-Pak relations and now its back to making anti-Pak and peace process noises to appease its own constituency. Why should Pakistan not worry that once Congress goes out, a similar volte face will take place? My friend, a thousand reasons can be found to stall but to make peace you need to take courageous steps. And that’s not happening on the Indian side.

Comment by ayesha

I dont disagree with any of ur points..but still cant agree with them and have reasons for the same(sound wierd but thats the way it is..)

am unsure if you wanna continue this argument/discussion here (impolite to ur other readers)… or if u wanna continue it at all.. my mail id is – drop me a line if you wanna hear my thots..

Comment by Dazzler

Seems some traction is finally happening albeit backchannel..

Comment by Dazzler

[…] of Red white and Black blog discusses Pakistan premiere Musharraf’s proposal for the […]

Pingback by Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » South Asia: Human rights, blogosphere, traditions, democracy, discrimination, travel and festivals

an article is support of my view –

you may not agree fully but do give it a thought…

Comment by dazzler

Even if Musharraf’s words can be interpreted as that from Pakistan, can India accept it? No. Because, our concern shall still not be addressed. The terrorists out there are not going to accept Musharraf’s line, and nothing’s going to change for India…

Comment by Anand

How can you even think of disputing kashmir when India governs it and the small part of Kashmir which is occupied by Pakistanis is called PoK or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Occupied is something which belonged to India and you guys came and occupied it.

Why can’t you be happy with what you have and why are you turning India’s paradise on earth into bloodshed?

Leave all stakes on kashmir… Withdraw all the pakistani forces who are disguised as terrorists… Withdraw all your pakistani “military” forces… Stop butchering the innocent brahmins in kashmir… Stop bombing our peaceful cities.. stop harbouring terrorists and then we shall think of having a civil conversation…

Comment by chillpilgrim

Frankly, as all of us know it, Kashmiris (save for Muslim hardliners who want to go with Pakistan and almost entire of Kashmiri Pandits who want a Hindu Rashtra) would like to be declared as an independent state. Whether this is feasible — considering their covetuous geography and the national chauvinism on their flanks, — the signals are that a majority of Kashmiris want a separate identity, as in a secular Kashmiriyat. I realise that Kashmiri Pandits will be marginalised in such an attempt and will be the biggest losers of any twisted Kashmiriyat taking form of a government. However, any other peaceful resettlement is impossible given the current situation.
As an out-of-box soultion, I guess India can spend the money spent in Kashmir’s “maintenance” for one year to rehabilitate the entire KP community, Sikhs or any other Kashmiri family in any Indian state of their choice with ample opportunities thrown in, if they wish to go with India. The cost will be much less than what India is spending to humour a false ego which emanates from a Kashmir to Kanyakumari rhetoric.

Before my Hindustani brethren accuse me of betrayal, let me say that had the idea of Naton State generated from any one singular factor — either only religion or only language or only ethnicity — in bearing on deciding of a country or polity, there will be no Ango-French, Anglo-Spanish, Arab-Israeli, Indo-Pak or Iran-Iraq wars. Today, Semitic, Aryans, Muslims, Buddhists have been at loggerheads with each other. The genesis of all such hatred lies in power, ambition, populist passions, personal or collective ambitions et al. Please learn from Gandhi or the ancient wisdom of “set it free… if it belongs to you, it will come back… if it does not, it wasnt meant to be”

I hate to advise those who are sitting on the other side of the fence, since I cannot bear their suffering or beliefs, yet all I can say to my Pakistani counterpart is that if Kashmir ever becomes Independent do not feel avenged of Bangaladesh, and do your bit in allowing an independent or popular government by checking your Frankesteins to not soil the Kashmiriyat with Islamisation. A similar advice for India: Not to look for a “kashmir” in Pakistan to avenge teh seccession and transfer the money spent on border defence to primary education and healthcare. HRD is more important than missiles.

…ouch, oh, I was day-dreaming. Yawwwwnnn. Please how many militants, soldiers and civilians lost thier lives today.

Comment by Pankaj Molekhi

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