Friday, November 28, 2014

Pakistan is not ready for peace in Kashmir

There should be some things clear about the Kashmir issue. Howsoever convinced we may be of our case, the international community views the state of Jammu & Kashmir to be disputed territory. We need not repeat the long and sorry story of how this came about, but as of now, that is the situation.
Having said that, we need to also spell out the corollary of that point – that there is nothing the international community, including the United Nations, can do to resolve the problem. Only India and Pakistan can do so through direct negotiations.  

So, Jammu & Kashmir does constitute an important aspect of our relationship with Pakistan. Though not officially articulated, the Indian solution to the problem has been a partition of the state along the existing Line of Control. Pakistan’s stand varies – there was a time when it said that J&K ought to be part of Pakistan, then, it began to say that all they wanted was the right of self-determination for the people of the state. But their actions in the parts of the state they occupy indicates that the goal remains the assimilation of the state into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Islamabad now knows that there is nothing it can do to wrest the state from Indian hands by force. It has tried war twice, and continues to fight a covert war for the past quarter century using jihadi proxies and backing Kashmiri separatists.

But getting Pakistan to end the conflict has been a difficult task, because Kashmir means many things to them. At one level, it is a cause that unites everyone in that country – the jihadis, the army and the civilian elite. At another, it provides it a means to maintain a hostile posture towards India, something necessary for its current sense of national identity.
Remarkably, the two countries achieved a measure of convergence towards a solution in the period 2004-08. Worked in a back-channel, the idea was to work towards a special status of the state, without altering the current boundaries as set by the 1972 Line of Control. The idea was to encourage cross-LoC trade and eventually human movement and provide for a measure of joint management in governance.
The Indian perspective was that the state’s river waters are already committed to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, so, having Pakistan involved in watershed management would not be such an affront to Indian sovereignty. Likewise, there could be areas like tourism which the two sides could work out together. However, and contrary to claims on the Pakistan side, there were no commitments made on joint governance or political management. That is because a vast gulf separates the basic outlook of the Indian and Pakistani political systems.
The two sides did manage to open up the LoC to enable trade and persons to move back and forth. But beyond that the project came unstuck. The regime of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani dictator under whose regime the agreements were made to be imploded. The successor government of Asif Ali Zardari lacked the clout with the army to push on with the project.
It is important to understand the Indian strategic perspective on the issue. The key agreements announced through the January 4, 2004 joint statement between India and Pakistan, came on the sidelines of the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

It was at this SAARC meeting where the now eight-member organisation decided that they would like to create a South Asian Free Trade Area by 2014. A common free trade area would also see the opening up of the region to the movement of people and a degree of coordination on governance issues relating to areas of common concern like river waters, watershed management, flood control and so on.
In the long term, greater economic integration would lead to political integration as well. So, the Indian perspective on resolving the Kashmir issue rested on its being embedded in the SAARC process. India and Pakistan may find it difficult to make concessions, but they could possibly do so in a multilateral framework of SAARC.

Today, the process is going nowhere. The initiatives of the 2004-2007 period have come to a halt. A key element in these developments was the ceasefire along the LoC called by Musharraf in November 2003 and agreed to by Prime Minister Vajpayee. Today, as the ceasefire frays, so does the process that once held so much promise.
There are the important issues relating to the state and the union. When India became independent, it got the accession of most of the princely states with the promise of controlling only defence, foreign affairs, communications and currency. However, these states were reorganised and the commitments on autonomy abandoned. In the case of J&K, the problem has yet to be resolved. There is no doubt the original intention was to have a flexible system which would lead to J&K being like any other state of the union. However, domestic politics and foreign policy issues have prevented this from happening.
Mail Today October 16, 2014

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