COMMENTARY
 
Expressing Solidarity with Kashmiri People
Weekly Pulse
February 2-8, 2007
Since the start of the 1990s, successive Pakistani governments have observed February 5 as Kashmir Solidarity Day. On the occasion, each year, seminars are organized and rallies held to express the nation’s solidarity with the Kashmir people’s quest for self-determination. The same may happen this time as well; however, amid serious questions about the government’s commitment to sustain its past commitment to Kashmiri people.

Such questions have naturally arisen due to successive instances of Pakistani leadership’s unilateral peace initiatives on Kashmir that threaten to compromise the country’s traditional stand on more than half a century old dispute—a stand based on the principles of international law and justice. The past few years have witnessed a sea-change in Pakistan’s principled stand on Kashmir, which was based upon the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. These resolutions call for the holding of a plebiscite in the disputed territory.

Unfortunate Reality

Unlike Pakistan, India has not brought about any change whatsoever in its official stand on the dispute—which is unfortunate. There is no doubt that the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir is one of the eight unresolved issues being negotiated between the foreign secretaries of the two countries in the Composite Dialogue that began in January 2004. The issue must be on the agenda of the back channel diplomacy under way between Islamabad and New Delhi, and it is possible that domestic compulsions may have forced the Indian leadership to confine its Kashmir initiatives only to secret parleys.

However, the fact remains that thus far, publicly, India has not budged an inch from its official stand on the dispute: which is that Kashmir is an integral part of India, and, therefore, non-negotiable. Obviously, Kashmir can be resolved only if both India and Pakistan compromise their traditional stands. But, to India, the only compromise it can make is to surrender its claim on Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Therefore, in the past couple of decades, the Indian leadership has made strenuous diplomatic efforts to portray the Line of Control as a permanent International border between India and Pakistan—a la its notorious “cross border” terrorism theme. No change in borders in the disputed territory and the non-negotiable nature of the Indian-administered Kashmir constitute India’s publicly expressed principled position of the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Proactive Diplomacy

As far as Pakistan is concerned, in the past couple of years, its leadership has moved from one extreme to another in terms of the country’s stance on Kashmir. As clear from President General Pervez Musharraf’s various initiatives on Kashmir, expressed mostly through his media statements in the past three years, Islamabad has virtually abandoned Pakistan’s traditional stand on the dispute based on the UN-supervised plebiscite option. The rationale he has given for the purpose is exactly what the Indians had been offering for years: that the UN resolutions on Kashmir were passed decades ago, and, therefore, they had become irrelevant to the new ground realities in the disputed region.

While unilaterally surrendering the plebiscite option, and agreeing to a number of Confidence Building Measures on Kashmir as desired by New Delhi, President Musharraf has presented a four-point agenda for Kashmir settlement, including demilitarization of the disputed region, establishment of self-governance in it, no change in its borders and the region’s joint supervision by India and Pakistan.

The Indian talk on Kashmir is based upon generalizations such as its leadership’s “wish” for South Asian “peace and harmony” or institutionalizing more cosmic CBMs, something that does not provide any meaningful input in the actual resolution of the dispute. Pakistani discourse on the dispute, on the other hand, depicts specific policy options ranging from self-governance to demilitarization, even joint supervision. What if the Indians agree to joint supervision? Don’t we understand what implication can the exercise of this option have for us with reference to the strategic Northern Areas, as well as for China?

India’s Ambition

India has an insatiable desire to have direct or indirect land access to Afghanistan? And it is also a status-quo power. Once we agree to jointly supervise this strategic region with India, whose regional power and global clout are growing rapidly, will it possible for us to walk away from this option if we feel sometime in future it is not in our strategic interest vis-à-vis China? What about the people of Northern Areas, who have nothing to do culturally or ethnically with those in the Valley or Kashmir or the Pakistan-administered Kashmir? Is it not in Pakistan’s interest to further politically integrate this region into Pakistan, instead of continuingly linking their fate with the Kashmir settlement?

Such questions have to be kept in mind, and addressed carefully, by our leadership while moving ahead on the new policy on Kashmir—trying which also makes sense only if the Indians respond in kind. In the absence of such a realistic approach, moralistic expression of solidarity with the Kashmiri people carries no value.