Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Kashmir dispute on the back burner again.

Kashmir dispute on the back burner again.
Dr Shabir Choudhry 15 August 2005

Kashmir dispute which was considered as a ‘flash point’ for a nuclear war at one time is safely back on the back burner where it was before the start of the militancy.

At a time when the militancy was at its peak in 1990, and there was total alienation of the people with break down in law and order, I also thought that independence was just around the corner. Apart from me there were many other pundits who predicted this, and preached it as well.

Kashmir and Kashmiris have seen many ups and downs in its history. History books are witness to their past glory and present forced division and humiliation. They are also witness to treachery, self interest and short sightedness of their leaders.

When General Musharaf decided to act on the phone call from Washington, he and his colleagues claimed that by siding with Washington they will have the support of America in resolving the Kashmir dispute. But that support is no where to be seen, if anything we have seen Islamabad bending backwards to appease both India and America.

We have seen somersaults in the Pakistani policy on Kashmir, and each shift in the policy was made in the name of Kashmiris and Pakistan’s national interest; it is a different matter that Pakistanis have yet to determine what is their national interest.

General Musharaf has gone out of the way to help and support Bush and Blair in this war, if that can be called a war because in a war there are two or more identified enemies with forces of more or less equal size and resources. We thought for his services to this ‘war’ for which he risked his own life and risked the national interest of his country, General Musharaf will get appropriate rewards.

But that was not to happen as what he has got is an offer of the status quo- he has been told that sanctity of the LOC must be maintained. His ‘war time’ ally and ‘lord of this world’, President Bush once again confirmed in an interview on 18th July 2005, that:
‘There was no change in Washington's policy that the sanctity of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir should be maintained and that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir problem mutually.’ He further said that, ‘Our
role is to encourage the two leaders (Singh and President Pervez Musharraf)
to come to an agreement.’

In other words all the sacrifices, all the efforts and the talks were conducted to maintain the ‘sanctity of the LOC’. What an achievement! Musharaf government must be congratulated for this remarkable success.

Musharaf government has made progress in other areas as well. Before he seized power from an elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif in 1999, Pakistan exported sugar to India, now India exports sugar to Pakistan, not to mention onions, potatoes, ginger etc.

Musharaf government proudly claims that they have “smashed the beggar’s bowl”, but reality is different to this. Since January of this year Pakistan has already borrowed $950 million from the World Bank, and that makes Pakistan fifth-largest borrower of the World Bank; of course there are loans from other institutions as well.

And good news for the Musharaf government is that during his visit to Pakistan a few days ago, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has decided to increase its financial assistance to Pakistan’s development sector to $1.5 billion. This would probably make Pakistan one of the largest borrowers from the World Bank, but that is not important, the important thing is that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is very pleased with this help and called it ‘wonderful’ news.

As a Kashmiri it is not my concern who holds reins of power in Islamabad, and where they buy onions and potatoes from; and moreover if they want to mislead their own people over loans or any other matter, what concerns me is that rulers of Islamabad must not play with lives, aspirations and future of the Kashmiri people.

America and other members of the international community were seriously concerned with threat of ‘terrorism’ and possibility of a nuclear clash between India and Pakistan; they therefore, wanted de-escalation of tension and peaceful environment where a peace process could be launched without an end in sight.

In other words their intention was conflict management rather than conflict resolution; and this has been the tragedy of the Kashmiris and the Kashmir dispute. Whenever tension is high and conflict seems to be getting out of hand certain measures are taken and conflict is brought under control; and then after some time other issues are given priority and gradually the Kashmir dispute is placed on the back burner.

Despite the peace process, dialogue and agreements, over the years India has not moved an inch from its official stand on Kashmir; and it is Pakistan which is losing ground by offering different options every other day, often contradicting earlier statements.

This indicates weakness in Pakistan’s case on Kashmir; and that there is no serious planning and coordination among different departments which deal with the Kashmir dispute. It gives the impression that Pakistan is not too much concerned about the interest and welfare of the Kashmiri people, but Kashmir’s water and other resources and strategic importance is more valuable to Pakistan.

My concern is, and it is the concern of many other like minded people as well, that those who are in charge of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy consider themselves as ‘aqel e qull’, possession of total wisdom, yet they have landed Pakistan in quandary many times in the past; and if they are allowed to continue with their ‘wisdom’ they will create more problems for Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am against friendly relationship between India and Pakistan; or I don’t want Pakistan to import onions and potatoes from India, far from it, I want more trade between them. In fact I dare to suggest that Pakistan should import some democracy from India as well, and that will be considered as very good Confidence Building Measure.

I also suggest that more CBMs should be introduced, especially Kashmir centric measures should be introduced which can give relief to the suffering people of Jammu and Kashmir. The following measures could help to build confidence:
1. Opening of more routes that people can meet and interact with each other
2. Visits of ‘elected members’ of both assemblies and leaders of Gilgit and Baltistan
3. Cease fire in Kashmir
4. Releasing of all political prisoners, and
5. Above all inclusion of Kashmiris in the peace process.

If immediate attention is not given to these issues then my fear is that Kashmir dispute will remain on the back burner for some time to come, and people of Jammu and Kashmir will continue to suffer on both sides of the divide; and this will boost ‘business’ of those who want the Kashmir pot to keep on boiling even on the back burner.

Writer is a Chairman of Diplomatic Committee of JKLF and author of many books and booklets. Also he is a Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

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