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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2706

The pragmatic solution

By Sadiq Ali

Kashmir continues to be on the front burner. With the peace process temporarily stalled, a lot of rhetoric has once again started to emanate from Delhi and Islamabad. While Delhi claims it has evidence about ISI involvement in the Bombay bombings, Islamabad has overtly accused India of fomenting trouble in Balochistan. The Havana-handshake not withstanding, have the hawks once again taken over or is there still a hope that the two countries will see the reason and resolve their differences amicably?

While the world was bi-polar, both the super powers played it to gain footholds in India and Pakistan. Taking advantage of the super-power rivalry both the countries went nuclear. You did not hear the kind of loud noise when India and Pakistan detonated their atomic devices compared to how some western countries are making loud noises about North Korean or Iranian nuclear capabilities now.

With the demise of USSR, America gained a certain advantage globally that it used wantonly in Afghanistan and Iraq landing itself in the worst political quagmire. It is caught in that proverbial “Kakun Haput” situation. It cannot afford to stay nor can it extricate itself from the mess. Americans have started questioning Bush’s foreign policy that has antagonized the world particularly the Muslims. There is loud criticism of the President by his own party stalwarts for misleading the country about the successes in Iraq war.

The favourite expression Condaliza Rice used during the Israel-Lebanon War was that “the world would see a new Middle East”. What actually has emerged instead is the rising popularity of Hezbollah even in the historically moderate Arab countries and almost a civil war in Iraq. While it appears to be courting India for economic reasons, it continues to nurse an illusion that it can secure its political, strategic and energy interests in countries by thrusting illegitimate dispensations there. It is an irony that a country that was considered the beacon of democracy in the world should have turned the world against it.

In Afghanistan, the NATO chief has admitted that if his forces fail, the Taliban will take over again. Threats of sanctions against Korea, Iran and Sudan have had no effect and one tends to agree with John Bolton that the UN today is ineffective as never before. In this scenario, does Washington have a role in solving disputes? Any dispute, as a matter of fact or is the US role now merely circumstantial?

There is immense pressure on the Pak Prez to give up his uniform and with elections due next year; he is keen to pull a rabbit out of his hat. With pro-democracy forces gaining strength and gunning for his blood, with NWFP and Balochistan in turmoil and continued pressure from doubting Thomas’s that he is not showing results in fighting terrorism, he must be seeing his options to perpetuate his rule getting narrower by the hour. He is aware of his constraints and looks like a man in a hurry. Kashmir is the only card he can play and tell his people that what he has achieved during his regime no democratically elected Govt. did. He deserves credit for having outplayed India diplomatically at every level. From the breakfast meeting at Agra to the recent meeting at Havana, his PRO-ship has been exemplary. Walking from his seat with an extended hand to Bajpai at the SARRC summit, declaring that Plebiscite was unworkable, putting forth all the possible solutions even before they were discussed or conveyed to New Delhi, talking of demilitarization of certain areas and suggesting regional independence or UN trusteeship, he has in a way out-maneuvered our South Block. He has succeeded in convincing the world that he is ready for any solution but India is intransigent.

More flexibility he shows more convinced the Kashmiris are getting that New Delhi is not sincere in resolving the issue. The K-issue has become an industry and a powerful vested interest has grown around it. A possible solution would prove to be a death knell for it. Then we have hawks here, in Delhi and Islamabad, who for their political survival would only want the stalemate to continue. They have succeeded to an extent stalling the dialogue process. They must have expected a different result in the recent Israel-Lebanon War and also expected that Islamabad would be cowed down with statements like “Proactive Action” and “Carrying the War on Terror to Its origin”.

There is a silver lining, however. Aziz and Manmohan are two economists of international repute and both seem to be aware of the advantages of peace. Manmohan is reported to have told Aziz when they met the first time “Could anybody ever believe that the Berlin Wall would fall?” The inference was clear that let us remove our barriers too. Left to the 2Ms we could get a solution in no time. For Musharraf it was easy to renounce the US Resolution and give up its half a century old stated position. India being a democracy, it will be a long drawn process to prepare the people for any acceptable solution that seems to dilute the present relationship between Srinagar and Delhi.

When Manmohan read the joint declaration at Havana, it contained a very significant declaration, “Both India and Pakistan have decided to continue the Peace Process and find Acceptable Solutions to all bilateral issues including Jammu & Kashmir”. This renews the hope that there might be a solution after all. But what can be the solution when there is absolutely no convergence or consensus in Kashmir itself? Every party and every outfit seems to be advancing its own agenda which ultimately may prove detrimental to a solution. Let me elaborate.

Geelani Sahib will accept nothing short of a Plebiscite that implies accession to Pakistan. India has always rejected this option and if Delhi softened towards Islamabad the reasons are that Musharraf himself called it “unworkable in the changed circumstances”.

Yasin Malik wants the third option which is not a part of the UN Resolution. This has out rightly been rejected by two countries. But I am afraid if India and Pakistan do not find a solution within a reasonable time frame, the West might at some point of time say, “Hey, look here. You have not succeeded in solving your core issue and the world can’t take it anymore. Your attitude is causing a threat to the World Peace with those piles of nukes and you both are wasting your resources on military hardware that should be spent on removing poverty, hunger and illiteracy”. They have already advanced this argument vis-à-vis Iran during the recent Israeli aggression. Nobody can stop the West from asking for the implementation of the UN Resolution. Don’t forget that they did it in Namibia after 75 years!

NC favors Autonomy. For argument sake, even if New Delhi agrees to retrieve it from the dustbin and accept the Report in its entirety, will it bring peace and normalcy in Kashmir? Will it satisfy Pakistan or stop it from intensifying the proxy war? What will be its incentive in such an arrangement? What do they gain? And what about the Pak Administered Kashmir? The Autonomy Report is Kashmir specific and does not cover the entire undivided State. This contradicts the very stand that the late Sheikh Sahib had taken when Jinnah Sahib had asked him to join the struggle for Pakistan, “Mr. Jinnah, can you assure me that all the Muslims in India will leave this country and migrate to Pakistan. If not what is going to happen to crores of those Muslims who will be left behind. I will stay to safeguard their rights”. It is ironic that NC swears by the Instrument of Accession and accepts the Constitution of the State that declares the geography of the State as it existed in 1947 yet demands certain constitutional concessions only for the Indian side. It expects New Delhi to restore some of the pre-53 constitutional rights but does not bother about what happens to the other limb. This is political expediency personified.

The APHC has not spelt clearly what kind of Self Rule it envisages for the State. There is, however, an interview of the APHC Chairman Moulvi Omer Farooq that appeared in the Arab News on December 20 last year that throws some light on the kind of solution the Hurriyat has in its mind. I quote:

Q: What about the so-called “United States of Kashmir” Proposal?

A: We want the five regions of Kashmir, which include Valley, Jammu, Northern Areas, Azad Kashmir and Ladakh to be demilitarized. Of these five areas three areas are under Indian control, Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. We are suggesting a federal structure of governance. We call it the United States of Kashmir. We will later define the relationship of this body with the Indian and Pakistani Governments. One thing is clear. The solution to Kashmir cannot be based on previously stated positions. India’s position is that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan’s position is that Kashmir is its jugular vein. Our stated position is that there should be Plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. We are ready for everything except for two things; one we will not accept the status quo. It is not acceptable to us. Two, we will not allow the conversion of the Line of Control (LOC) into a permanent border”.

I didn’t know that APHC has attained so much political credibility that both India and Pakistan will vacate the State and entrust it to Hurriyat only to define the relationship later!

In broader perspective it is just a camouflaged version of the Plebiscite demand already termed as “unworkable” by Pakistan and not acceptable to India. Surprisingly, nobody talks about 40 thousand kilometers of our territory conceded to China!

There are at least 22 options on record that have been put forward and debated at various national and international forums. They include some from the US think tank. Musharraf alone is reported to have conveyed at least 15 options to GOI. Then there are some individual solutions as well. B. Shiva Rao suggesting independence for the unified State, Sir Mirza Ismail suggesting that the Valley be turned into an autonomous state under Indian suzerainty, Inder Malhotra, Pran Chopra and Kuldip Nayyar suggesting great autonomy etc. Mr. A.G. Noorani is perhaps more passionate than most of us in projecting the issue in its entirety and offering models that need consideration. His “Irish Lessons for Kashmir.” “The Saar and Trieste Model”, the “South Tyrol Model” and the “Aaland Model” all deserve consideration. Any model is workable but when Musharraf and Manmohan declare that it has to be “Acceptable”, they obviously mean a solution that does NOT compromise each other’s sovereignty. It is in this context that Self Rule makes sense.

The Self Rule is not a new concept. It is best defined in The Govt. of India Act 1919 and formed the basis of the Independence Act. In the local context the idea was first vaguely presented by barrister Shoukat two decades ago in Islamabad in which he talked of seven regions. It went totally unnoticed. It is generally believed that it is basically President Musharraf’s concept but surprisingly he has not till date specified what will be the contours of his formula. I learnt in New York last year that even Mr. Yasin Malik had expressed his readiness to go along with the Self Rule proposal. It was last year that the PDP president Ms. Mehbooba Mufti presented her party version at the Leadership Summit in New Delhi and people realized that it had merit and was workable. It was subsequently presented at the New Delhi RTC and repeated at the second Round Table Conference in Srinagar. This was followed by a categorical statement by the Prime Minister that “Self Rule will be discussed” as a solution.

So what exactly is Self Rule? I as a student of international relations perceive that it would receive wider acceptability locally, nationally and internationally because the formula would not dilute the sovereignty of the two countries and both would be in a win-win situation. For the people of the state LOC would become irrelevant because citizens of both the countries will have free access to both sides on their respective travel documents. Investment would flow from Karachi to Kargil and from Leh to Lahore without any strings attached because both the countries would have a stake in the development of the State. The State Subject Law would determine who the citizens of the State are and that would be enough for people to visit any part of the State. he two countries would devise a mechanism that gives them control over the areas held by them and joint control in terms of defense, foreign affairs and communication.

This would make the presence of the security forces of two countries totally redundant and enormous tracks of prize land vacated by them could be used for better purposes. The role of the respective armies would be only to guard the frontiers and the law and order would exclusively be maintained by well organized, fully equipped and fully trained local police. Currencies of both the countries would become legal tender in the entire State. The State could be declared Tax Free and Duty Free which would make even Dubai redundant as a tourist destination. If that happens that would be something like pouring an Ocean of economic benefits into the Valley. With Muzaffar Abad Road open all year round for transportation of our fruits and other fragile commodities we could explore the West Asian market at minimum transportation cost. And internally, the two sides could elect their Assemblies under SAARC supervision or any acceptable agency. The two Assemblies could then elect, on the pattern of the European Parliament, amongst the so elected members a National Assembly that would oversee the overall development of the State. The Sadre Riyasat or the President, whatever the nomenclature, could be rotational like Lebanon. In a way this arrangement could to be the beginning of a tomorrow where both India and Pakistan would be wedded into a common market. If that happens Kashmir could become a laboratory for providing an antidote against the animosity, bitterness and mistrust that last six decades have created.

Some cynical detractors have been demanding that the formula should be discussed in the Assembly. Solutions are not like chocolate cakes that can be offered on a platter. When we talk of Kashmir imbroglio, we are talking of the mistrust and antagonism that has grown with each year over sixty years. We have seen the fate of the NC’s Autonomy Report that was dumped even without a cursory glance. So, whatever the solution, the initiatives lay with New Delhi and Islamabad. If Kashmiris had to decide, it would not have taken sixty years. We can facilitate the sub-continental initiatives. The proposal seems to have sent shivers down the spines of some hawkish elements, calling it “Un-patriotic”, “not any different from the NC’s Autonomy “, “ deceitful and scheming”, “aimed at exploiting the sentiments of the people” or declaring that New Delhi has “Rejected” it. This kind of statements put a question mark on the sincerity of the Prime Minister and any initiative Delhi takes in bringing the separatist elements on the negotiating table. There is a paradigm shift in world politics and sub-continental thinking as well. Every nation has understood the futility of wars and peace initiatives are getting precedence. The Peace Process may experience some hiccups but it can not be stalled for ever. The people will not allow that to happen. It is sad that the vested interest does not see the reality or may be it feels scared that it will have no role when there is a new dawn.

Then there is another bitter reality we have to accept. India spends 90 thousand crores on defense and Pakistan a big portion of its GDP. Pakistan has lost half her territory because of Kashmir. We have fought three wars. It could have been four had Nawaz Sharief not gone running to America and accepted the truce. Both the countries have armed themselves to the teeth because the West has succeeded in creating fear of each other in the region. We may deny it, but the reality is that there is already an arms race in the sub-continent. Pakistan has over 70% BPL and we have nearly half the population below that line here in India. Even after 60 years of independence we have not been able to provide safe drinking water, Medicare or basic educational facilities to all the people.

It sounds insane that we should be wasting our resources on armaments that make us poorer and the West richer. In the changed global scenario, the two countries need to cooperate with each other in agriculture, technology, trade, scientific research and development of the infra structure. Our next door neighbour Afghanistan is in turmoil. Iraq is in shambles and you just don’t know who will be the next. We have to take strong cognizance of the forces that are benefited by the continuance of the conflict and stalemate in the region. On the economic front China is making fast strides. According to a report by the Economic Intelligence Unit and a study by the Columbia University, at the current rate China is expected to attract an FDI of $80 billion compared to India’s fourteen billion by 2010. The strife torn Pakistan stands nowhere. This should give some food for thought to our policy makers in the region. Unless there is increased cooperation in the sub-continent, we may be left behind. If India and Pakistan lose the race, it will be a harbinger for disaster for the whole region.

History has provided us an opportunity to shelve our differences and start trusting each other. We have seen it happen in Europe. Nations are not and should not be guided by emotions but by national interests. It is in the interests of both India and Pakistan to resolve their differences in the larger global context.

Kashmir is a saga of broken promises, above-turns and half hearted initiatives. Because of the past experiences Kashmiris judge every move with suspicion and every leader with contempt. It is a dangerous trend and I am afraid the moderates might be the biggest casualty if the present stalemate continues. While Narsimha Rao offered “the sky”, Prime Minister Manmohan has more specifically declared that he would consider “anything short of cessation”. Musharraf too has climbed down considerably. They have agreed to zero-in to a solution that is “acceptable”. Self Rule may be the answer?

Sadiq Ali is a senior public man, a prominent shia leader and a three time legislator of J&k State .

- Asian Tribune -

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