Friday, 30 May 2008

‘To the satisfaction of both governments’

‘To the satisfaction of both governments’
Dr Shabir Choudhry

It is recognised fact that there are three parties to the Kashmir dispute, but whenever there are talks about the future of this former Princely State, Kashmiri leaders are kept away from these talks, even though Kashmiris are the main party to the dispute.

It is the people of Kashmir who are suffering for the past 57 years in this conflict, but for some strange reason it is the ‘satisfaction of India and Pakistan’ which every one seems to be trying to achieve. It is a deliberate policy of both India and Pakistan to ensure that the people of Kashmir do not get their identity, and that they are always kept away from the negotiating table.

One can understand why India and Pakistan want to keep people of Kashmir deprived of their identity, so they try to find a solution of Kashmir which satisfies national interest and territorial aims of both countries, but one finds it difficult to see why other countries are supporting these countries to deprive Kashmiri people of their identity. I wonder why satisfaction of India and Pakistan is more important than identity, future and satisfaction of the Kashmiri people.

Since 1947 both India and Pakistan have used Kashmiri leaders to issue different statements either to support their point of view on Kashmir or oppose the view point of the other country. And unfortunately these leaders have been too happy in fulfilling this role which is against their own national identity and national aspirations. Some made fortune by singing laurels for India, and others benefited by singing praises for every Pakistani ruler, even though their own citizens criticised them for their undemocratic and anti people policies.

Obvious result of this was that both countries assumed a role of advocator of Kashmiris, and role of Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the divide was reduced to even lower than Karzai of Afghanistan and Iyad Allawi of Iraq.

This subservient attitude of Kashmiri leaders strengthened the position of both India and Pakistan and whenever there were talks on Kashmir, Kashmiri leadership was successfully kept away from the negotiation table; and perhaps rightly so because the leadership which is too happy to dance on tune played by either India or Pakistan is not the kind of leadership deserving of mandate of the Kashmiri people.

In the past most of these leaders, even if they had an opportunity to sit at the negotiating table, would have just rubber stamped the decision taken by India and Pakistan. They could have bartered away our rights and our identity just to please their political masters, and to get more personal gains. But with greater awareness and rise of Kashmiryet based on the concept of Kashmiri nationalism, the situation has changed, and if Kashmiri leaders have a chance to sit at the negotiation table they will try to preserve their identity.

My optimism is based on my personal interaction with leaders of all political persuasion, in which they all wanted the State to remain one political entity. This was also confirmed in the recent International Kashmir Conference held in London, in which people from all walks of life and from all regions of State participated, and they unanimously endorsed that there should be a peaceful resolution to the dispute and that the State must not be divided.

This view is confirmed by conscientious and realistic people in Pakistan as well. A famous writer and columnist of Daily Dawn, Ayaz Amir in his article ‘A sincere approach to Kashmir’ stated: ‘Without saying so explicitly, Pakistan wants the division of Kashmir along communal lines, with the Valley acceding to Pakistan or enjoying some kind of international status. A section of Kashmiri Muslims favours accession to Pakistan. But the majority probably is in favour of independence.’

Both India and Pakistan will oppose an independent Kashmir for their own reasons. Both countries know that they cannot get whole of Kashmir and therefore they have agreed to settle for what they have. Pakistani policy makers know that despite two wars and controversial Kargil expedition they could not get any closer to getting Kashmir, if anything they have lost more credibility at the international level.

An independent Kashmir will mean losing what Pakistan already has – some 32 thousand sq miles of Kashmiri territory. To oppose the concept of an independent Kashmir and to claim Kashmir, they will say that Pakistan is incomplete without Kashmir. But they conveniently forget that Pakistan was complete when East Pakistan was part of it. They have lost East Pakistan, and the remaining Pakistan will remain incomplete because there is no chance of Bangladesh becoming East Pakistan again.

How ironic that they have forgotten without much remorse, what was legally and constitutionally part of Pakistan, but are not prepared to let go what is not legally part of Pakistan. And what is not legally part of Pakistan, Pakistani policy makers are prepared to keep it at all costs, and Ayaz Amir commented on this:

‘While with all our expenditure of defence we are no closer to liberating Kashmir, all this talk of core issue serves as an excuse to make the military the holiest cow in the Pakistani pantheon…..For too long we have been governed by the pseudo – strategic pre-occupations of GHQ and ISI. We know where these can lead. Our foremost concern should be the plight of the Kashmiri people… If they want independence so be it.’

Many people believe that apart from the military and civil establishment Kashmir is a problem of a Punjabi belt from Rawalpindi to Lahore, as leaders and public of other Pakistani regions don’t have that emotional attachment with the Kashmir dispute; and some even see Kashmir dispute as a source of many of their own problems faced in their provinces.

Recently I had an opportunity to meet some Pakistani nationalist leaders and we discussed politics of Pakistan and the Kashmir dispute. I was surprised to learn that they had very little interest in Kashmir. Their point of view is that it is because of this dispute that the military junta has managed to keep control over Pakistan and deprived people of Pakistan and especially people of smaller provinces their rights.

One such leader said, ‘Kashmir is not a problem of every one in Pakistan. We have our own problems, and we want to resolve problems of our people but because of this dispute our resources are diverted for military use. Of course this problem and resources it helps to generate and divert help some people, and it is these people who don’t want the issue to be resolved. As far as we are concerned you people can become independent. We have nothing to lose, but plenty to gain in long run. If Pakistan can survive after losing East Pakistan, I am sure we can survive without Kashmir which is not even part of Pakistan.’

This was music to my ears that some Pakistani leaders were supporting the concept of an independent Kashmir, and among them was a big name of Air Marshal ® Asghar Khan. I asked similar questions from Hasil Bizinjo, Secretary General of Pakistan National Party. He was also of the view that Kashmir is a problem of some Pakistanis, especially of those living in Punjab. He was a strong supporter of Kashmiri peoples right to independence. He thought an independent Kashmir could help to bring peace and stability in Kashmir and start new era of peace and economic development.

So in next round of talks a mechanism should be worked out to include Kashmiri leaders in the process of dialogue; and effort should be made to work out a formula that satisfies all parties to the dispute, and not only two governments. Pakistani officials wrongly assume that what satisfies Islamabad will also satisfy Kashmiris. If they persist with this illogical and unreasonable thinking, it will surely land Pakistan in deep problems in future.

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

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