The Times of India has asked me to write an article on the need for resolving the Kashmir issue and as well as on the direction in which this process is heading. Some people in both countries may well say that, after all, both Pakistan and India are important countries and could go their own way. It was for good reason that Prime Minister Vajpayee said that you could change history, but not geography during a debate in the Lok Sabha. Moreover, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh echoed similar sentiments also in a debate in the Lok Sabha, where he said as neighbours it is our obligation to keep our channels open. Unless we want to go to war with Pakistan dialogue is the only way forward. I was encouraged to note during the recent meeting of the Aman Ki Ashaí in Lahore that some distinguished Indian participants said that India felt the need to resolve the issue of Jammu & Kashmir inter alia for two reasons. Firstly, that India being a democracy could not resort to force in Jammu & Kashmir for an indefinite period, and, secondly, that India could achieve its real potential and play a major role on the world stage only after resolving its disputes with Pakistan.
Speaking for myself I can say with confidence that as a politician all my life, belonging to a political family as I do, also as one who has been elected a member of parliament from a constituency in Central Punjab on the Indian border - and as former Foreign Minister for five years, I can say with confidence that peace with India is not only in the national interest of Pakistan, but can also be sold to the people of Pakistan provided it is peace with honour. History teaches us that only peace with honour can be lasting. India is a big country and may have extra regional ambitions. As far as Pakistan is concerned, our very doctrine is one of minimum credible deterrence aimed at protecting Pakistanís national security.
Another reason that gives me confidence is that every major political party of Pakistan supports a negotiated settlement. This implies that if India were to show flexibility, Pakistan would reciprocate similarly. In this connection it is correct that while the agreement was arrived at during our tenure in office, former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee showed leadership and courage in restarting this process in February 1999, when Mr. Vajpayee undertook his famous bus journey on the invitation of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Similarly, Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto during both her tenures made concerted efforts to improve the relationship between the two countries. MQM, ANP and even Jamiat Ul Ulema Islam, under the leadership of Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman, have supported a negotiated settlement on Kashmir.
Perhaps one reason why there is such a strong need for a negotiated solution of Kashmir is the recognition in both countries that Pakistan and India have tried everything in their power to enforce their version of a Kashmir settlement. They had fought five wars including two minor ones in the Runn of Katch and in Kargil. There had been various mobilizations of troops, including the largest one since First World War (Operation Parakram), in which a million soldiers remained eye ball- to -eye ball for almost a year. After Nuclearization of South Asia, following tests by India and Pakistan, war between the two countries has become nearly impossible.
That being the case, it was equally clear that any solution we found would not be an ideal one from the perspective of the Kashmiris, Pakistanis and the Indians. It could be the best under the circumstances. It had to be one that the Kashmiris would accept, and one, that the leaderships of India and Pakistan could sell to their respective peoples whose perspectives were radically different. It would seem to many people that such a solution could just not be found. It was precisely to find such a formula that the two leaderships directed their representatives involved in the backchannel to remain engaged. No wonder the non-papers went to and fro, innumerable times. The backchannel negotiators met in different locations in many countries to preserve the secrecy of the process. They brought the drafts to the principals in the both countries, where changes were made and sent back to the other side and so on and so forth. It was after approximately three years of such pains taking work, which sometimes even involved changing punctuation in different drafts, that the two governments felt that they had agreed on the draft of an agreement towards the end of 2006 beginning 2007. They felt that on the basis of this draft they would be in a position to present an agreement to their respective constitutional authorities for their approval. It was felt that this draft would be acceptable to an overwhelming majority of Kashmiris, Indians and Pakistanis.
The major features of the draft Kashmir agreement involved, inter alia, a gradual demilitarization as the situation improved, self governance and a joint mechanism involving Kashmiris from both sides as well as presence of Pakistani and Indian representatives in this process. The purpose was to improve the comfort level of Kashmiris. The joint mechanism envisaged cooperation in various fields including exploitation of water resources and hydro-electric power. Self-governance also provided maximum possible powers to Kashmiris to manage their political, economic, financial and social matters and those pertaining to economic development as well as for enhanced travel and economic interaction on both sides of the LOC. For practical purposes, as far as the Kashmiris on both sides are concerned, the border would be made irrelevant for movement of goods and people. The agreement though not ideal, was the best possible under the circumstances.
The agreement provided for a review after 15 years. The Pakistani and Indian sides realized that in view of the history of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, no solution that they could think of, would be an ideal one since it had to be made acceptable to all three. We were aware of the fact that there would be overwhelming support for this agreement; but we also realized that there would be criticism from some sections in Kashmir, Pakistan and India. In the very nature of things, it is impossible to produce a solution, which will be equally acceptable to every one. It was for this reason that we decided that the arrangement that we had arrived at would need a review at the end of 15 years during which its implementation would be monitored with great care by all the parties concerned, and in the light of the experience, this arrangement could be further improved.
Another question that people sometimes ask me in hushed tones these days, now that President Musharraf is no longer in power, is whether the agreement that we have arrived at had the support of the Pakistan Army. Of course, it had the support of all the stakeholders. It is unthinkable that an issue of this nature could be negotiated without having all the stakeholders on board. Besides the Foreign Office and the Presidency, the Military was appropriately represented. Former President Musharraf in response to a question whether he took into confidence his Corps Commanders, is on record in saying on more than one occasion that he used to take everyone on board. Furthermore, Pakistan Army high command is highly disciplined and sophisticated and understands clearly that national security is a very broad concept and military preparedness is only one, albeit, a very important component of it.
The concept of national security includes economic and political stability and a settlement with India on honourable terms strengthens Pakistan's national security. It is also pertinent to mention here that while President Musharraf may not be on the scene presently, institutional thinking does not change so rapidly. Of course, for tactical reasons, adjustments are made keeping in view time and circumstance. I am aware of the current differences between Pakistan and India on Afghanistan following President Obama's announcement regarding America's intentions in Afghanistan. If trust deficit between the two countries can be bridged, all differences between the two countries can be resolved.
Before I conclude, I would like to welcome the statement of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani that efforts are being made through the backchannel to resolve all outstanding issues with India. It is important that negotiations be resumed soon because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government with which we negotiated the agreement is still in power, and, the BJP, the other major national party in India, had started the process during the tenure of former Prime Minister Vajpayee.
I welcome the statement of our Prime Minister, despite being in the opposition, because I believe that in matters of national interest one has to rise above the spirit of partisanship. I am sure Indian politicians would have a similar approach. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. A lot of detailed work has been done and we can start from where we left. This piece was commissioned for and published in the Times of India ---- By Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri
Monday, May 03, 2010
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We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
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