Thursday, 29 May 2008

Implementation of the Shimla Agreement

Implementation of the Shimla Agreement
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Like many other writers I get letters from my readers, which are spread over many continents because of Internet. Some people like my articles, some criticise them and some others give me advice and ask me questions. Sometimes I take this advice or decide to deal with the questions raised by these readers. I try to personally respond to all those people who write to me, but I cannot satisfy them all.

Like anyone else, I am encouraged by a compliment or positive criticism, but what I don’t appreciate is a criticism by those people, whose first language is Punjabi or Paharri, and they cannot even put two sentences together in Urdu, and have no understanding of English language, but they feel it necessary to criticise these articles written in English. Moreover they love to offer translation of these articles in Urdu and Punjabi to JKLF members and other Kashmiris, and insist that their version is the correct one.

A writer writes with a broader view in mind and his/her writing, good or bad, is for everyone who has interest on the subject; and he/she does not write with few villages in Mirpur or Kotli Districts of divided State of Jammu and Kashmir in mind. And moreover no writer has time or resources to go to each reader’s house and offer explanation or give alternative version. If they cannot understand simple and straight- forward English then they should not trouble themselves with articles on politics mainly targeted at educated people, and should accept that they are not for them.

Mr Rajiv Shorey lives in India and is a proud Indian citizen. He is a regular reader of my articles and always kindly sends me his comments. In response to my article on ‘Pakistan never supported Kashmiris right of self- determination’, he wrote me a letter which could be summarised as follows:

Not all JKLF leaders and its members believe in Kashmiri nationalism and secular ideals of the organisation;
Because Kashmiri nationalism was hijacked and replaced by extremism and ‘Jihadi’ forces, there is no unifying national aspiration that binds all regions of Kashmir;
The State of Jammu and Kashmir consists of five regions with population from different cultural and religious backgrounds, and no one religion could be used to keep the State as a one political unit; and those who introduced religion in the Kashmiri struggle to get Kashmir, have actually sowed seeds for the division of the State;
As Pakistan is also a contestant to get Kashmir, and is using the dispute to settle some old scores, it is not prudent for Kashmiris to rely on Pakistan’s support.
India will not be defeated in Kashmir, so it is better for the Kashmiris to strike a deal with India.

Let us take each point in turn.

1) No doubt the JKLF started as a nationalist organisation which believed in liberal and democratic ideals. It strongly opposed politics of extremism, and projected politics of pluralism and friendly coexistence of all ethnic and religious communities.

But when the JKLF got its popularity and people began to take it seriously, it is possible that the organisation was ‘infiltrated’ by agencies, especially in 1990s when the struggle was commercialised. Either people with communal thinking were planted in the organisation, and as they didn’t believe in the ideology of JKLF, they deliberately committed such activities to tarnish the organisation and attempted to change the characteristics of the Kashmiri struggle; or some ambitious members were literally ‘bought off’ to further the cause of the agencies, hence we see a number of groups operating in the name of the JKLF.

It must be pointed out here that those who supported and exported politics of religion and communalism deliberately ‘talibanised the Kashmiri struggle, as this suited their aims; and they tried to crush forces of tolerance and nationalism, hence people in order to save their skin followed their dictation.

2) This point is partly covered above, but it must be added that religious intolerance was introduced to ensure that national character of Kashmir is torn apart and ethnic minorities feel threatened, and people see the Kashmiri struggle in the context of ‘international fundamentalism’. This provided a propaganda stick in the hands of shrewd Indian diplomats who successfully used it to turn the tables against Pakistan and the Kashmiri struggle. Pakistani secret agencies should be congratulated for achieving their desired goal of making the Kashmiri struggle what it is today, and helping to implement the Shimla Agreement in letter and spirit.

The Shimla Agreement envisaged a bilaterally negotiated settlement on Kashmir, by brushing aside the Kashmiri people and the UN resolutions. As a first step cease-fire Line was converted to Line Of Control, hence making it practically a border between both countries. The failed Kargil adventure did wonders: not only it derailed the peace process between Mr Nawaz Sharif and Mr Atal Vajapaee, and got the military at the helm of affairs in Pakistan, it also provided much needed sanctity to the LOC.

Because of lack of understanding of jurisprudence of the Kashmir case by Pakistani and the Kashmiri leadership, continuous follies committed by Pakistani authorities, disunity and lack of consideration of the Kashmiri leadership about the suffering of the people, who were more concerned about personal gains, hence we find ourselves in this impasse. Continuous follies and refusal to accept changing ground realities have lead the Pakistani and the Kashmiri leadership into this defensive position, and now even Pakistani writers and politicians are endeavouring to persuade people to accept division of the State.

Former Attorney General of Pakistan and former Senator Iqbal Haider, in an article titled, ‘In search of a solution for Kashmir’ wrote: ‘Pakistan has rightly shown flexibility by not insisting upon the rhetorical demand for implementation of these (UN) resolutions’. He rejected the option of an independent Kashmir and stated, ‘A viable solution could perhaps be to accept the Line of Control with some minor adjustments, as the international border.’

He also totally opposed the ‘Jihad in Kashmir’ and said, ‘Equally counter productive and disastrous is the strategy, since the General Zia of the so called ‘Jihad’ on the pretext of keeping the Kashmir issue alive and leaving India bleeding.’ It should be noted that when the liberal minded people spoke about the consequences of the religious fanaticism and ‘onslaught of Jihadis’ they were termed as ‘anti movement’, and now everyone seems to be doing ‘jihad’ of speaking against them.

3) Religion could not be a unifying force in a country and that has been proved by the unfortunate history of Pakistan and some other countries. This principle is more appropriate with the State of Jammu and Kashmir which consists of five regions, and each region is dominated by different ethnic or religious group; for example, Jammu has Hindu majority, the Valley has Muslim majority, Ladakh has Budhist majority, Azad Kashmir has Muslim majority and Gilgit and Baltistan has strong pockets of Shias and Ismaili sects. And to make the situation more complicated we have further divisions of Sunni and Wahabi factions in various parts of the State.

In view of the above scenario no religion could be a unifying factor; and the State could only be united if religion is kept out of politics. All regions of the State should have certain level of autonomy and constitution based on liberal and democratic principles.

4) No doubt Pakistan is a party to the dispute, and has its own axe to grind when it comes to Kashmir. Kashmiris have suffered by relying too much on Pakistan and by not understanding Pakistani designs on Kashmir; but have they not suffered by relying on India? Have they not been let down by respective Indian governments? And have they not suffered immensely when they asked for their rights?

5) There are two parts to this point: that Kashmiris should strike a deal with India, and that India will not be defeated in Kashmir. First part is partly covered above, but it is suffice to say that Kashmiris made a deal with India in 1947, and they are still paying a price for that. Any deal where the third party to the dispute is absent will not be permanent, and could be a recipe for future disaster.

As far as defeating India is concerned I want to say that we nationalist Kashmiris don’t want to defeat either India or Pakistan. We want both countries to be victorious. Their victory will be to face the facts and show statesmanship by resolving the dispute peacefully, and prove to the world that leaders of South Asia are civilised people who love peace and who have vision for future of this region. Once this main dispute is resolved then resources could be channelled to combat fanaticism, illiteracy and poverty; and defeat of these evils will be the real victory for both India and Pakistan.

In conclusion, the division of Kashmir and future of South Asia envisaged in the Shimla Agreement is being put in practise; and plans are being made to shatter dreams of the Kashmiri people, as it is their homeland which will become sacrificial lamb to achieve peace and stability in South Asia.
Writer is a Chairman of JKLF Diplomatic Committee, and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir. He is also a Spokesman of IKA.

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