The ultimate solution

The Weekly Independent,
June 20-26, 2002

Issue 52

By Dr. Moonis Ahmar

After around a month of war mongering, the threat of an all-out hostility between India and Pakistan seems over. Still, it will not take much time for the two hostile neighbours to again cross the threshold and plunge South Asia to disaster. Since May 14 when the terrorist attack was struck in Jammu till June 10 when India announced some symbolic measures to reduce tension with Pakistan, there were moments when the two sides were on the brink of a war.

But the question here is not the de-escalation of tension between Delhi and Islamabad but how a situation, which emanated after Dec 13 terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament and in Jammu on May 14, could be avoided. Temporary diffusion of crisis is not going to resolve the issue because as long as India and Pakistan keep more than a million troops along their borders and express consistent tendency to avoid negotiations for the peaceful settlement of their outstanding disputes, any small incident can escalate the situation.

Hardly any change has taken place in the mindset of the leadership of the two countries on vital issues, which form basis of their hostility. More than Pakistan, it is India, which has done every thing to maximize tension so as to keep Islamabad under constant pressure. Despite taking unilateral measures against Pakistan since Dec 13, India failed to force Pakistan yield and accept its position on Kashmir. The recent Indian step to diffuse tension with Pakistan should be welcomed but they cannot render positive until and unless India demobilises forces along the borders. As long as India keep its troops in a combat position along the LoC and international borders with Pakistan and continues shelling on civilian population of Azad Kashmir and along the working boundary, there is little chance of pulling out from the brink of war.

For India the issue is cross-border terrorism from Pakistan but for the people of Jammu and Kashmir it is the denial of their right of self-determination. It is not that Kashmir should be given to Pakistan or the Kashmir conflict is resolved to the satisfaction of Islamabad, but the people living in these areas should be given a break by seeking an end to tragic situation caused by the Indian military atrocities and the militant groups and their voice is heard by the world. Otherwise, if cosmetic and superficial measures are taken by India or by Pakistan to normalise their ties, the situation may not improve because right or wrong the key to peace in South Asia is the resolution of Jammu and Kashmir.

Where should India and Pakistan go from here? For India the two main issues that will have a deep impact on the ongoing tension with Pakistan are the forthcoming elections in the Indian-controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir in September and the ailing Indian leadership. New Delhi is of the opinion that if some legitimacy is given to the future elections in Jammu and Kashmir, it can deal with that conflict effectively. But, the situation in Kashmir is not like what it was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The previous generation of Kashmiri leadership was more docile and had some expectations from Nehru's commitment for justice and equality. Following the systematic Indian policy of neglect, repression and the massive rigging in state elections of 1987, the generation, which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, is totally different. If the Indian leadership accepts the fact that to deal with the present generation of Muslim Kashmiris will not be easy as it used to be in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it can successfully move in the direction of some respectable and viable solution to the Kashmir conflict.

In the same way, the Pakistan Government also needs to keep in mind that it cannot take the Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir for granted because in the process of their struggle for self-determination they are not amenable to the idea of either remaining part of India or joining Pakistan. Even the Hurriyat conference is not following an all-out pro-Pakistan approach. The ultimate solution of the Kashmir conflict is the granting of a real right of self-determination in which they are also given the option to seek independence. It will be a grave injustice to the people of Jammu and Kashmir if they are continuously exploited by New Delhi and Islamabad.

If there exists a realisation in a dominant Pakistani mindset that Kashmir cannot be taken by force, then why a consistent policy is pursued on the part of Islamabad to keep up the military pressure on India. Probably, the Pakistani establishment feels that if insurgency continues in Kashmir, it can cause serious physical, political and economic losses to India resulting into the secession of Kashmir from New Delhi. Or India can disintegrate like the Soviet Union. But, it may be a wishful thinking on the part of Pakistani establishment because the reality on the ground is different. Neither, one can see serious economic pressures on India because of Kashmir nor there is political instability or substantial military casualties. True, India finds it difficult to hold on Kashmir because of the liberation movement but it doesn't mean it will give Kashmir to Pakistan or will disintegrate because of economic or military costs.

The Kashmiri struggle is justified on the moral ground but it should not result into terrorism by targeting civilian population, whether non-Muslim or Muslim. The reason the world, particularly the West, has not sided with Pakistan on Kashmir is the induction of violence and terrorism by some Kashmiri resistance movements who get encouragement and support from their counterparts by Pakistan. After Sept 11, 2001, it will be unrealistic for Pakistan to expect the Western powers, Russia and China to support a liberation movement, which is based on militant Islam. It has been India's strategy since day one to depict the post-1989 uprising in Kashmir as a terrorist Islamic movement sponsored by Pakistan and to seek international support in curbing it. After Sept 11 one can see the Indian policy to equate Pakistani support to the Kashmiri liberation movement with Islamic terrorism. To some extent India has succeeded in its objective but because of a feeling of alienation, which is found among Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir against the Indian military repression, New Delhi has found it difficult to discredit the Kashmiri struggle for emancipation.

Be as it may, sanity demands that India and Pakistan agree to resume negotiations with an open mind and without any precondition. At the same time, the Kashmiri voice is also heard and given importance by India, Pakistan and the world because without a viable role of the Kashmiri groups, both Muslim and non-Muslim, there cannot be peace in that region. So, at stake is the survival of more than one billion people of South Asia. Like the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who are suffering as a result of sustained violence, the people of South Asia are also a victim of it.


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