Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Preface to If not self - determination than what?

If not self - determination than what?

A lot has happened to the Kashmir dispute and the Kashmiris in the past few years. Deadly earthquake has devastated lives of millions of Kashmiris on both sides of the LOC, adding to miseries and suffering of the people. How unfortunate that despite tens of millions of local and international help victims of the earthquake are still suffering out there in the camps in this harsh winter.

Apart from this the Kashmiri struggle and our inherent right of self -determination has witnessed some twists and turns. Pakistani government, which has been telling people of Jammu and Kashmir that they have only one interest, and that is to ensure that people of Jammu and Kashmir get their right of self- determination, has finally made a u turn. It is not the first u - turn made by Pakistan and surely it won’t be the last, as those at the helm of affairs have understood that each u – turn brings rewards.

True Kashmiri nationalists, however, always thought that Pakistani governments are not sincere with this claim and that they had more interest in territorial gains and resources of the State. And it is because of this policy that they ensured that the people of Kashmir only get a limited right to choose between India and Pakistan and not complete independence. Readers might remember that this right was limited on the request of Pakistan in the second UNCIP Resolution of 5 January 1949.

Because of total control over media and docile and subservient attitude of many Kashmiri leaders ordinary people of Jammu and Kashmir are not fully aware of true intentions of the Pakistani governments. Pakistan had tremendous influence on minds and hearts of Kashmiris, and despite anti independence policies of Islamabad they continued to think that Pakistan was sincere with their cause.

They always thought of some excuse to exonerate Pakistan of its responsibilities and blunders. General Musharaf has introduced a concept of self - rule and joint management - categorically stating that Kashmiris couldn’t become independent. Furthermore that Kashmiris have to accept division of the State, hence accepting Indian hegemony on that side of the LOC.

Even after this clarification pro pocket Kashmiris who have always acted as stooges of Islamabad have tried to defend Pakistan’s this policy. And to add insult to pride of true nationalist Kashmiris or to insult the concept of right of self determination some so called ‘nationalist’ leaders have also joined the band wagon in hope of getting rewards in their old age.

Until yesterday, Kashmir was issue of right of self- determination, unfinished agenda of partition of India, core issue, jugular vein, and must part of Pakistan and its survival. Now political somersault by Islamabad means all that is history. Pakistani policy makers had to come out of ‘fantasy world’ and deal with politics of real world.

Although some sections of the establishment still don’t want to leave that comfortable and self-pleasing world, close associates of General Musharaf soon realised that geopolitical realities have changed which require new strategy. Now State of Jammu and Kashmir, according to him is just not a core issue and just one of issues that needed to be resolved on principle of give and take. Kashmiris have no right to become independent, as Kashmir dispute, according to new thinking, is not issue of right of self - determination. If it is not issue of right of self - determination than what is it; and why it took so long to reach this conclusion?

Pakistani governments have in the past paid lip service to their version of self - determination but in practise, formulated such policies that treated the Kashmir dispute as a territorial one. And in line with this thinking they have at last openly suggested to divide the former princely state between them (Pakistani governments have many times in the past agreed to division of the state, but the proposed division could not take place due to disagreement on the area).

Pakistani government knew what they wanted to do, and for a change they planned it in advance and instructed their stooges to start preparing ground for self - rule. By the money and resources provided by Pakistan a conference was arranged in Washington in which for the first time the concept of self determination was opposed and it was not even part of the resolutions. It was in the same conference that some Kashmiri stooges of Islamabad said that concept of self determination is ‘out dated’ and that we have to look for new and’ forward looking’ concept of self rule.

Although I strongly disagree with General Musharaf’s prescription for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, I, however, thank him for being honest and candid with his views. He has put his cards on the table and has clearly signalled that he wants to decide on behalf of the Kashmiri people and will keep them out of the peace process.

It is possible that once both India and Pakistan have agreed what they want to do with Kashmir, they will take on board some pro Pakistan and pro India leaders from both sides of the divide. They might ask likes of Sardar Qayyum, Sardar Sikander Ayat, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, Mufti Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah for their comments. They might even ask some pseudo nationalist leaders to join this to give it a representative character; and then ask both assemblies to rubber stamp the decision.

So friends, colleagues and freedom loving people of Jammu and Kashmir, ball is in our court. India and Pakistan have very clearly spelled out their policies and intentions. They want to deprive us of unification and independence. They don’t regard us as a nation, and believe that we don’t deserve to be independent; we don’t deserve to enjoy fruits of freedom and dignity. The best they can offer us is a self- rule, and hegemonic dominance and reliance by India and Pakistan.

Then the question is have we been fighting for a self- rule, division of the State or independence? India declared its Kashmir policy a long time ago, and despite that was willing to settle for a division. Pakistan on the other hand had no clear policy on Kashmir, as they claimed to support the right of self – determination of Kashmiri people, but pursued such policies which clearly showed that Pakistan is interested in territory and resources of the State.

If they had to settle for a division then why cause so much destruction and misery. Because of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy not only we Kashmiris have suffered but people of Pakistan and South Asia have also suffered. If division was what they wanted then why not accept it when it was offered in 1950s? Why not accept it during Bhutto - Swaran Singh talks in 1963? Why not accept it after misadventure of 1965? Why not accept it after defeat of 1971? Why not accept it after Siachin was taken over and it was declared unimportant barren land? Why not accept it when India was desperate for a solution in early 1990s, and Indian Prime Minister said ‘sky was the limit’? Why not accept it when Indian Prime Minister Vajapaee Sahib travelled to Lahore? Why there had to be Kargil and killing and destruction of so many innocent people? Instead of accepting either 100 slaps or eat 100 onions, why do we have to adopt a policy where we end up taking both?

Pakistan’s Kashmir policy is exposed but despite that majority of people of Jammu and Kashmir have soft corner for Pakistan, and that perhaps is because of religious affiliation and massive propaganda that Pakistan is a ‘friend’ and ‘big brother’ of the Kashmiris. Of course wrong policies of New Delhi have also played an important role in this; and majority of Kashmiris see India as a ‘villain’ in Kashmir.

What if this division had taken place before the present ‘uprising’ of 1989, and subsequent human rights violations committed by Indian Para military forces had not taken place? How then people of Jammu and Kashmir might have viewed India and Pakistan? To ordinary Kashmiris who are not brainwashed by propaganda, would have perceived both countries as ‘land grabbers’ who had imperialist designs in Jammu and Kashmir.

Whether it is fault of India, Pakistan or the Kashmiri leaders the fact is that people of Jammu and Kashmir have paid very heavy price since 1947. Tens of thousands of innocent lives have been lost, millions uprooted from their homes, billions of pounds worth property destroyed and thousands of women dishonoured; and still there is no light at the end of the tunnel. People of Jammu and Kashmir are still forcibly divided; and the Kashmir dispute is managed, manipulated and negotiated by India and Pakistan with Kashmiri leaders still far away from the negotiating table as they were in 1947.

Despite all the above, there is one ‘positive outcome’ for Pakistani policy makers, and that is that Kashmiris still perceive India as a ‘villain’, and Pakistan as a ‘friend’ and ‘big brother’. Now that ‘friend’ and ‘big brother’ has spelled out its Kashmir policy in unambiguous manner, we freedom - loving people of Jammu and Kashmir need to formulate our policy, which must be pro Kashmir and not pro neighbours.

Dr Shabir Choudhry
I5 January 2007

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