Wednesday, Nov 05, 2003
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By Subramanian Swamy
THE PRIME Minister recently called Kashmir a "headache". It is more than that. It is a bleeding head wound of Bharat mata. It will not be an oversimplification to state that the lack of normal, healthy and stable Indo-Pakistan relations is also due to the unresolved Kashmir issue. Even cross-border terrorism is embedded in the larger Kashmir problem. The former cannot be sustained without the latter.
A genuine thaw in Indo-Pakistan relations can happen therefore only if both sides are well into the process of unravelling the complicated and convoluted Kashmir issue. A solution, however, can be discovered in its totality only sequentially i.e., in bits and pieces and by trial and error, as an outcome of intense unbroken interaction between the two parties, and without a third party intermediary. Hence, Indo-Pakistan multi-dimensional interaction is an essential pre-condition for finding a solution.
Nevertheless, it is essential to recognise that the following are no more viable options for securing a solution:
(a) War since a fresh Indo-Pakistan war cannot, in the foreseeable international scenario, be decisive. A future war over Kashmir will necessarily be stalemated because of two constraints; one obtaining because India cannot militarily meet the combined forces of China and Pakistan. In the earlier wars of 1965 and 1971 this contingency did not arise because of fortuitous internal upheavals in China the Cultural Revolution and the Lin Biao attempted coup. Hence, till India's economic and military strength grows to the point when we can take on both, war for India cannot be decisive against Pakistan.
The other binding constraint on a decisive war is set by the fact that Pakistan cannot sustain a military aggression against India because of the enormous influence the United States enjoys in Pakistan and on its military establishment. This was proved in the 1999 Kargil conflict. In that conflict, the U.S. forced Pakistan to withdraw the forces that it had earlier sent across the Line of Control in Kashmir.
(b) Terrorism India is a large nation with more than 1 billion people, and has a tolerance level for loss of lives that is unimaginable in the West. India has been subjected to a series of terrorist afflictions in Nagaland, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Assam, and now in Kashmir. Except Kashmir, which is a relatively recent affliction, the other instances cited above have been resolved. Kashmir is more intractable because during the 1980s, we did not prevent the then Pakistan President, Zia-ul-Haq, from financing and infiltrating `madrassas' in Kashmir and driving out Kashmiri Pandits (who were teachers in secular institutions). The Kashmiri youth thus became mentally infected by jehadi concepts.
(c) Status quo this is not at all an option because it has the potential of undermining the future economic and social development of the two countries, even assuming they can keep their integrity intact. Normal democratic politics, on which India has prided itself so far, is being increasingly vitiated by quasi-fascist religious fundamentalist forces within India that have grown as a knee-jerk reaction to terrorism in Kashmir.
The creation of India and Pakistan as independent countries in 1947 is legally founded in the Indian Independence Act enacted by the British Parliament. The Act, read with the 1935 Government of India Act, provided that if any of the sovereigns chose to sign an Instrument of Accession, the kingdom would be permanently merged with India or Pakistan as notified in the Instrument by the ruler. That is the legal position on which modern India and Pakistan are founded.
On October 26, 1947, the Maharaja of Kashmir, faced with an invading Pakistan army, signed the Instrument of Accession of his kingdom, acceding to India. Thus, in strict legal terms, the whole of Kashmir became irreversibly an inalienable part of India. The U.S. delegate, John Foster Dulles, as he was before becoming Secretary of State, in the UNCIP Conference in Paris in 1949, sent dispatches to the U.S. State Department that India had an iron clad legal right to Kashmir. The Constitution of India, moreover, does not provide for ceding any territory under any circumstance.
Pakistan administers indirectly about one-third of Kashmir as the protector of a "liberated" or Azad Kashmir. Only the Gilgit area, called Northern Area, is directly ruled by Pakistan. But Pakistan is careful not to make any claim on Kashmir. It only asks for plebiscite and the implementation of United Nations resolutions.
The U.N. Security Council had considered the Kashmir question only because Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister had taken the matter to the U.N. No Indian government has yet disowned Nehru. Since then, the Shimla Pact (1972) and the recent Agra Indo-Pakistan Summit (2001) have reaffirmed this U.N.-given status to Pakistan in the Kashmir dispute, and legitimised Nehru's folly.
Furthermore, on June 14, 2003, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, told CNN that India needed to "compromise with Pakistan" and resile from "extreme positions" to solve the Kashmir dispute. The legal dimension has thus evaporated.
India is not unconditionally committed to the U.N. resolutions on Kashmir. The resolutions are composite and contain a number of pre-conditions on which the holding of a plebiscite is contingent. Those pre-conditions that devolve on Pakistan have never been met. So , there is no binding commitment on India to hold a plebiscite.
Hence a solution to the Kashmir question has to be found ab initio, since these U.N. resolutions are unimplementable.
There are however two fixed parameters within which a solution to the Kashmir issue has to be found: (1) That neither of the parties, India or Pakistan, can be made worse off and the solution benefits both. (2) That Kashmir should not be partitioned. All the solutions proposed to date fall outside one or both of the above stated parameters and thus are not sustainable.
The solution that could work must begin with an ambience for peace and the two countries cutting down rhetoric, increasing normal diplomatic and political relations, and engaging in sport competition, art and cultural exchanges. Pervez Musharraf's Four Point Framework will serve this purpose. He recently suggested in Washington that (a) India and Pakistan establish normal diplomatic contacts, trade and communications to build mutual confidence and create a harmonious ambience (b) accept the centrality of Kashmir as an issue between the two countries (c) reject outright whatever is unacceptable and extreme for India, Pakistan or Kashmiris (d) start working toward an acceptable solution. Thereafter, steps may be taken towards a solution
As a possible path to a solution, I suggest the following:
Step1 (Year 1): The two areas of Kashmir on either side of the ceasefire line under the aegis of their respective Election Commissions should initiate the process to elect members to a Joint Kashmir Assembly, much as the independent countries of Europe do for electing MPs to the European Parliament. This forum should function on an agreed schedule of subject division and at the same time as the two existing Assemblies (with the caveat that in the Pakistan-held areas, the local Assembly has to be elected: the present nominated bodies cannot be accepted). Furthermore, the 5,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits must be enabled to return to the Valley, and empowered to vote since ethnic cleansing is not acceptable.
Step 2: All restrictions for travel in undivided Kashmir (over a period of two years) should be removed. This would be without prejudice to known positions of the two countries on the Kashmir dispute. Terrorists cannot benefit by this just as they cannot by the Amritsar-Lahore bus. Hence, by Year 5, the first requirement of creating a united Kashmir would be achieved.
Step 3 (Year 7): Thereafter, India and Pakistan should work out common market and free trade arrangements through the SAARC.
Step 4 (Year 10): At the end of 10 years, India and Pakistan should work to have a South Asian Parliament with a charter on division of subjects for legislation.
Step 5 (Year 11): A review to determine whether to stop here, or proceed further to even greater unity in the South Asian sub-continent. It will be at this stage that a solution to the Kashmir problem, if it exists, will become visible.
(The writer, a former Union Minister, is president of the Janata Party.)
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