If India gives nothing, Pakistan will give nothing either

  • Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri
  • Publish Date: Feb 10 2016 2:42PM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 19 2016 7:30PM
If India gives nothing, Pakistan will give nothing either
I have been asked by Kashmir Ink to write about the Kashmir dispute and for my views whether there was ‘a need to review and rethink strategies’, as well as, to take a critical look at the political movement of the past quarter of a century, the existing challenges and the way forward. 
Developments in the Past Quarter of a Century: 
The past quarter century—the period under discussion, starting from 1990 has seen the radicalization of Kashmiri struggle for the realization of their aspirations , as well as, against militarization of the valley which resulted in human rights violations. Concurrently, the leaders of Pakistan and India also made efforts, off and on, to try and resolve the issue of J&K.  

The radicalization of the movement followed by the rigging in the elections in 1987 in which the Muslim United Front (MUF) candidate Muhammad Yusaf Shah who protested against the rigging would later on become Syed Salahuddin, chief of the militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahdeen leading to some of his supporters like Muhammad Yasin Malik joining the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front which has been formed in 1976 by Amanullah Khan. The militancy in Kashmir took a step further with the end of Soviet occupation in Afghanistan and some of the Mujahideen after Soviet exit from Afghanistan transferred their attention to Kashmir. The killings in 1990 after the appointment of Mr Jagmohan as Governor saw a rise in suppression and consequently also militancy. A large number of people died in different incidents and this resulted in a situation in which almost the entire population of the valley rose up and took to the streets. The rising militancy and radicalization of Kashmir movement also led to the exodus of Hindus in which almost the entire Kashmiri Pundit community left the valley. It was during that time, thousands of desperate Kashmiri youth crossed over to Azad Jammu and Kashmir to equip themselves for a violent struggle. With an estimated half a million Indian security forces deployed in the Kashmir Valley since the 1990s violence and human right violations became common place. This led to tens of thousands of civilian casualties. 

This led to a large number of people resorting to armed struggle against Indian occupation of Kashmir. Non-violent separatist politics in Kashmir took a backseat until the emergence of the Hurriyat Conference in 1993, a Kashmiri separatist conglomerate of groups comprising a large number of religious, political and other groups committed to striving for independence of Kashmir through peaceful means. A year after the formation of the Hurriyat Conference, the JKLF, announced an end to its armed campaign and declared to wage a non-violent struggle for Kashmir's independence. 

Intifada: In June 2010 after the Indian Army claimed to have killed three "Pakistani infiltrators" but it turned out to be a case of a fake encounter in which three young villagers were killed in a staged encounter. This had a massive reaction and huge  protests occurred as a result of a call by Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in the Indian Administered Kashmir. They called for the complete demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir citing human rights abuses by Indian security forces. The 2010 uprising by unarmed youth pelting stones at Indian security forces exposed the rage of the Kashmiri youth and foretold of an unsettled future unless efforts were made to resolve this long festering dispute of J&K between the two countries. When we were in office, we realised that regardless of technicalities and legalities Kashmiris were an essential party to the dispute and from a practical perspective no solution would survive unless it met with their aspirations; that is why I always wanted to keep them in loop on the progress that was being made regarding the framework. In my book, I have described at length how despite India’s objections to include them as a necessary party to the dispute, we did, as a compromise, convince the Indian government to at least let the Kashmiris leaders travel between Islamabad and New Delhi and Muzaffarabad and Srinagar so that they could be kept in the loop.    

Apart from the development inside Kashmir, there were talks off and on between the leaders of the two countries to try and find a solution to the Kashmir dispute (as well as Siachen, an offshoot of the Kashmir dispute) between Pakistan and India. Before 1990, efforts had been made between leaders of the two countries including those by various Prime Ministers of Pakistan and Pandit Nehru and more particularly between Pandit Nehru and Ayub Khan. In 1987, efforts were also made by General Zia ul Haq and Rajiv Gandhi to reduce tension over Kashmir through ‘cricket diplomacy’. Coming to the quarter of a century under review, another major effort (which initially held a lot of promise—hence some details) was the meetings between Benazir Bhutto, the first female Muslim Prime Minister in the world, the toast of her times and the only celebrity the Clintons ever queued up to see, and India’s young and handsome PM, Rajiv Gandhi. Both had similar pedigree; Benazir was at Oxford and Harvard, Rajiv at Cam¬bridge. They got off beautifully. There was a lot of promise in the air and many felt the two would usher in a new era of peace. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Pakistan was flying high at that time, having just seen the Soviets withdraw from Afgha-nistan as a result of its efforts, supported by the US, European allies, China and the Muslim world. That it would have to pay a big price for the policies crafted to tackle the Soviet invasion of Afghan¬istan is not the subject here. Rajiv wished to go into the 1989 election with the image of peacemaker-statesman and felt peace with Pakistan could yield dividends. Perhaps it could even make people forget the Bofors scandal. He was also looking to win Benazir’s support for ceasing Pakistani support to the Khalistan movement. Benazir wanted India to withdraw from Siachen, which it had stealthily occupied in violation of the Shimla pact. Benazir claimed she had kept her part of the bargain but Rajiv failed to deliver on his. According to her, Rajiv called her while she was en route to a Commonwealth meeting to tell her that he could not keep his promise on Siachen but would do so after polls. Some Indian analysts argue the promise wasn’t kept because Benazir didn’t have her army’s support. But I stro¬ngly feel, based on my experience as foreign minister, that if India had withdrawn from Siachen, it would have created the right atmosphere for solving other contentious disputes. I have given all the details regarding this in my recently published book. In February 1997, Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif, in a letter addressed to his Indian counterpart I.K. Gujral, stressed that without any progress on the Kashmir issue, it would be difficult to initiate and achieve meaningful cooperation between Pakistan and India in various fields. This initiative led to the commencement of Foreign Secretary level talks. Significantly, it was the first time since Simla Agreement of 1972 that India had agreed to include Kashmir on the agenda of talks. Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Vajpayee were also thinking of a negotiated settlement on Kashmir and had even initiated a backchannel for that purpose. Nawaz Sharif has remained consistent in desire to solve the dispute and since the new government led by Mian Nawaz Sharif took over, conscious efforts have been made to normalize relations with India.

Now I come to the period about which I can speak with some authority since as Foreign Minister of Pakistan during 2002-2007 I witnessed the most productive peace process between the two countries since independence.  

The years 1999-2002 saw high tension between India and Pakistan—Kargil, the inconclusive Agra summit, the Parlia¬ment attack, then the largest mobilisation of troops since World War II. Former President Pervez Musharraf would say that Kargil highlighted the need to resolve Kashmir but in my opinion, Pakistan paid a big diplomatic price and faced international criticism. India’s invitation to Musharraf was a total reversal of its stated stand since October ’99 not to deal with a military regime in Pak¬i¬s¬tan. Many reasons have been given for the Agra failure; Pak¬istanis and Indians, expectedly, have different versions. In my view, the fundamental reason was the relative lack of any preparatory or staff work. It has always surprised me how Musharraf, the architect of Kargil was welcomed so warmly in India. All the major channels in India gave top  coverage to the impending visit of President Musharraf. The fact that President Musharraf was born in Delhi was emphasized by the Indian media. They discovered the ‘Nehar Wali Haveli’ the ancestral home of President Musharraf which was commented upon with great interest.  The media even produced an 80 or 90 years old ‘Aya’ (‘nanny’) from somewhere who  seemed  to have excellent memory of the time she spent with the child Musharraf. President Musharraf visited the ‘Nehar Wali Haveli’ under the full media glare where he met the old ‘Aya’ and showered her with many gifts. This change and desire for peace in both the countries occurred for many reasons which I have detailed in my book. Inter-alia, Pakistan’s economy was doing exceptionally well at that time, in one particular year it grew at 8.6% second only to China’s 9.2%. Goldman Sachs had rated Pakistan among the N-11 (next eleven emerging economies in the world). The rising middle class in Pakistan felt that peace with India would be helpful in this respect. Similar factors were operating with respect to India’s high growth economy and the desire of Indian middle classes to normalise relations with Pakistan. It was in this background that the friends of Pakistan and India who had been trying to bring the two countries closer that Prime Minister Vajpayee on April 18, 2003, offered “a hand of friendship” to Pakistan. The US played a big role in bring¬ing the two countries together; Secretary of State Colin Powell was in constant touch with me at that time. We resumed the dialogue with India, discussing all issues, after the joint statement of January 6, 2004. 

As a result, a lot of progress was made; the commencement of the historic bus service across the LoC and between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad in 2005 was a huge positive development and rightly compared to the falling of Berlin Wall by many at that time. A big achievement for Pakistan was that despite opposition at certain levels, the Indian government accepted its proposal of permitting travel without passports and visas to the people living on both sides of the LoC.  APHC leaders travelled to Pakistan without passports, visas. 

The morale of the Kashmiri leaders—Mirwaiz Umar Farooq,Yaseen Malik, Professor Abdul Ghani Bhatt, Maulana Abbas Ansari, Bilal Lone, Syed Shabbir Hussain Shah, Maj. Gen. Sardar Muhammad Anwar, Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan and Barrister Sultan Mahmood had begun to rise as the dialogue between India and Pakistan began to gain momentum and reports of progress on the back channel started filtering through the media.  Unfortunately, however, I could not convince the Indian government to let Syed Ali Shah Geelani to travel to Pakistan. Not coincidentally, I could not convince him regarding the Kashmir framework. Notwithstanding all this, I believe that had our government’s tenure not ended, and, given more time, we might have succeeded in convincing him of the immediate benefits of this framework for the ordinary people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is not without significance that even Kashmiri leaders like Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah who took part in the elections said repeatedly that the Kashmir dispute needed to be resolved between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris and that the participation of the people during the elections should not be taken as an acceptance of the status quo, the maintenance of which, they said, was not a solution. 

 Need to Review and Rethink Strategies?

 Now I come to your question, whether there is Need to Review and Rethink Strategies?  According to the leading analysts and think-tanks, the framework worked out during 2004-2007 would stand the test of time and at an appropriate moment it would serve as a benchmark or a guideline when there are statesmen at helm in both the countries with the required political will. Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (an international organization that brings together scholars and public figures to work toward reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats) in their reports on Kashmir suggested that ‘People of Jammu and Kashmir should be made part of any process to resolve the Kashmir conflict and  the four point formula (It was 11/12 points described below) that was under consideration during 2006-2007 should be revived as it can provide an effective road map to peace in J&K.’  The work on both sides was detailed and thorough; in many cases, I even changed the punctuation. It was after approximately three years of such painstaking work that we felt we were nearing a stage where, after settling the few remaining details, we would be in a position to present the draft of an agreement to our respective peoples and constitutional authorities for their approval. The major features of the draft Kashmir agreement involved, inter alia, gradual demilitarisation, self-governance and a joint mechanism involving Kashmiris from both sides as well as Pakistani and Indian representatives in some form or another (details regarding the nature of their participation was under discussion when the tenure of our government ended). As far as we were concerned, the purpose of the entire exercise was to improve the comfort level of Kashmiris. The joint mechanism envisaged cooperation in various fields, including exploitation of water resources and hydel power. In my book I have given the details and contours of a possible agreement on Kashmir. Briefly these involved, Demilitarization, The Challenge of Non-state Actors: Centres to wean militants away through DDR, Self-governance, international monitoring of elections in both parts of J&K, Defining Units of Kashmir, Joint Mechanism, Common Policies Towards Development and Water Resources, Monitoring and Review Process, LOC- ‘A Line on the Map’ and all of this, and more, to be climaxed by the signing of a Treaty of Peace, Security and Friendship like the Élysée Treaty between Germany and France. Most importantly, there was an unwritten agreement that neither side would proclaim victory, once the details of the framework had been announced.

The draft, it was felt by those in the loop on both the Pakistani and Indian side, would be acceptable to an overwhelming majority of Kashmiris, Indians and Pakistanis. It is impossible to find a solution that would be equally acceptable to everyone. Admittedly, it was a framework where some i’s needed to be dotted and t’s to be crossed.  Dr Henry Kissinger, writing in March 2014 on how to resolve the Ukraine crisis, says that in problems of this nature, “the test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction”. I am convinced what we had nearly achieved was much better than this. The painstaking labour and progress ach¬ieved then, I am sure, will not go waste; the two sides will have to begin from where we left rather than reinvent the wheel when the time for earnest dialo¬gue and engagement is again propitious, with statesmen at the helm in both countries.

Existing challenges and Way Forward:

 The rise in influence of the RSS in Indian Administered Kashmir could pose more problems leading to an even greater radicalization and polarization of the people. We saw some instances of this recently, particularly, over the beef issue. I fear that unless concerted efforts are made by the central leadership of the BJP to control some of its extremist supporters in IAK, the situation would deteriorate further. 

I had predicted in my book published recently that Pakistan and India have no option but to talk and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will eventually come back to the table despite the hard rhetoric.  I interacted with a large number of Indian politicians and media personalities during my recent visit to India, according to whom the “flip-flops” of the Modi government were an illustration of the lack of clarity due to the competing forces working around PM Modi. Ground realities compelled him in the direction of a dialogue with Pakistan while his attempts at appeasing his hardcore elements took him in the opposite directions. While I welcome the resumption of the dialogue between the two countries, I urge both to approach the coming talks not just tactically but strategically. If India feels that by just engaging Pakistan, it may get over some of the existing difficulties both inside Kashmir, as well as, with the international community it would be committing a huge mistake. From my experience I can predict that if India gives nothing, Pakistan will give nothing either and the current dialogue process may be short-lived but if there is a genuine effort and if India moves a yard, Pakistan will move even more. Both will have to address each other’s concerns seriously whether relating to Kashmir, terrorism or any other issue. It has become necessary for me to point this out in view of the hardline posture adopted by the current BJP government which in turn has raised passions of some of its hard line Hindutava supporters, Pakistan also has very hardline elements who would not look at coming peace talks positively. Both parties need to understand they will have to show leadership and expend political capital. If one party gives nothing, it will receive nothing at all in return. I have, however, seen that once Pakistan and India start moving in a positive direction, the improvement in their relationship can be quite speedy and very dramatic. 

According to a recent news item in The Express Tribune, Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi have decided to use the ‘back channels’ for in-depth discussions on Kashmir through their respective confidantes.’ Based on my experience, I would suggest to the two Prime Ministers that they could appoint anyone whether a politician, a diplomat, a bureaucrat, a businessman or a journalist; the only condition was that such a person must enjoy their complete confidence with the ability to speak to their principals at a moment’s notice and without anyone intervening in between. 

(Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri is former Pakistan Foreign Minister and author of ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider's Account of Pakistan's Foreign Policy’)