The South Tyrol model

Print edition : December 17, 2004

South Tyrol: A Minority conflict of the Twentieth Century by Rolf Steininger; Transaction Publishers; pages 171, $24.95.

OVER a decade ago, a joint American-Russian study on Afghanistan and Kashmir, sponsored by the Asia Society, New York, and the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow, made a sharp comment on the India-Pakistan deadlock on Kashmir. It should prod India's leaders to sit up and think: "One remarkable feature of the Kashmir problem is the political and mental inertia of the leadership of both countries."

The stricture is no longer true of Pakistan. Ever since he came to power in 1999, President Pervez Musharraf has consistently urged both sides to move beyond their respective "stated positions". At the Delhi tea on July 14, 2001, and the Agra breakfast on July 16, he said that both must "negate" extreme positions; plebiscite on his side and the Line of Control (LoC) on the Indian side. On December 18, 2003, he went further. He "left aside" the United Nations resolutions. Here is a Pakistani leader who, far from exploiting Kashmir for domestic support, makes overtures to India, which evoke strong opposition at home. But there is not a trace of reciprocity on the Indian side; no sign of any significant concession. Some find his concessions embarrassing; even discomforting.

Musharraf's three-point proposal of October 25 is neither original nor realistic - "identify the region; demilitarise the region forever, and change its status". He has in mind the Kashmir Valley, the core of the "core dispute". It is, for want of a better word, a "mechanical" approach. It reverses the process. The search should begin instead, with a definition of criteria, which any realistic solution must meet and move on to devising a solution that would fulfil those criteria. In this quest, models certainly provide instruction; for intelligent adaptation, not blind adoption. One must distil from them principles that are applicable. This exercise must cover both the process and the product. How did any two states, locked in a dispute over the future status of a territory, involve their people's representatives in their dialogue? At what stage? And, how did they arrive at a settlement acceptable to all the three sides?

Evolving approaches to an acceptable solution is more important than drawing up its outlines, cut and dried. Patience is required to see the process through. Trust and understanding at the summit are indispensable if obstacles created by persons at the lower rungs are not to sabotage the accord; as happened at Agra. The conduct of foreign policy is akin to gardening, not mechanics. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf agreed in New York, on September 25, to explore options. Musharraf reiterated his plea to eliminate ones that neither side can accept. It was unfortunate that this important understanding, to explore options, was publicised. In its train followed public exchanges on both sides, which continue to this day, impairing the understanding. Manmohan Singh said at The Hague on November 7, "Within this framework you [Musharraf] tell us what options [are there]. We will look at it when they are put forward." This would have been par for the course for Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In his book talks are meant to stave off pressures, not achieve solutions. Unlike him Manmohan Singh is not a chatur (cunning one). He is open and statesmanlike. Surely exclusion of extremes must be a joint exercise.

Anticipating the problem, Musharraf said, on October 12, that if this exclusionary step "is taken in isolation, all hell will break loose". We must explore solutions straightaway. He was unwise to propound the non-starter of October 25 and in public too.

The sole obstacle to a settlement now, as ever before, is India's stand that there is nothing to negotiate and all it has to offer is the LoC. Censure it severely, by all means. But censures achieve little. Public opinion must be aroused. Statesmanship demands that India's concerns are addressed and the alternatives to the LoC demonstrated to be fully compatible with India's concerns, as well as those of Pakistan, and the aspiration of the people of Kashmir, in all its parts and comprising all its communities.

It is perfectly possible to reconcile India's sovereignty over Kashmir with the principle of self-determination of its people and the legitimacy of Pakistan's concern that the principle is respected. Precedents there are ample of states resolving disputes involving a mix of territorial rights and claims, with ethnic, linguistic or religious affinities, otherwise than through transfer of sovereignty. They did it by the state in possession of the territory concerned as its legal sovereign, agreeing with the neighbouring disputant to restrict, by a bilateral international agreement, the exercise of its sovereign powers over that territory so as to ensure an agreed quantum of autonomy to the people.

They, thus, acquire double guarantees of autonomy; one under the national Constitution - easily eroded like Article 370 of the Indian Constitution - and another under an international agreement which confers on the neighbouring state a locus standi to protest and set in motion agreed forms of redress should there be serious and specified encroachments on the autonomy of the territory. The issue of sovereignty is resolved once and for all. An international border is drawn with some give and take on both sides. India will acquire a locus standi in respect of the autonomy of the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, as Pakistan will in respect of the rest of the state. Each acquires a legal, but not the territorial, interest in territory under the other's control. This is fundamentally different from the self-serving ideas so magnanimously bruited about in India of partition on the basis of the status quo, garnished with transit rights plus liberty to the autonomous parts to deal with one another.

Pakistan does not seek tourist rights; a Cinderella status ensuring a place in the basement with a small refrigerator and a television set. Its interest centres on the Valley and unless this interest is respected, no settlement will be possible. India cannot grant it territorial rights. It can, however, grant legal rights without sovereignty. India's Prime Minister will be able to declaim from the Red Fort in Delhi that India's sovereignty over Kashmir had been put beyond challenge. Pakistan's President will be able to proclaim at Mochi Gate in Lahore that Pakistan had secured guaranteed azadi for the people of Kashmir. And, both would be right. So would be the assertion by Kashmir's leader at Lal Chowk in Srinagar that azadi had been won. Each would gain enough to sell the accord to its people, yet concede enough to make it acceptable to the people of the other state. Models like the British-Afghan Treaty, Trieste, South Tyrol and the Aaland Islands merit careful study in this context. The aspirations of the people of Kashmir would be satisfied by this azadi. Manmohan Singh's twin speculations which he repeated at Srinagar on November 17, would be fully met - "no redrawing of the international border and no redrawing of boundaries on the basis of religion". The LoC is not an international border.

The Kashmir dispute, like any other, will be "ripe" for a solution when four "essentials of ripeness" are fulfilled as Richard N. Haass states them in his book Conflicts Unending. First both parties must conclude that time does not run in their favour and an accord would bring more gains than the impasse does. This is particularly true of India.

Secondly, the leaders must also be able to agree to its terms. "They must either be sufficiently strong to permit compromise (because of popularity or force) or sufficiently weak that compromise cannot be avoided." The worst scenario is of leaders "not strong enough to compromise, but only strong enough to hang on", like India's Prime Ministers - whether on Kashmir or the border dispute with China. Thirdly, there must be sufficient compromise on both sides to allow leaders to sell the accord to their respective peoples. The last is of immediate relevance. "There must be a mutually acceptable approach or process." It implies, in short, a strong and stable government whose leaders have the will to settle and political clout to sell the accord to the people.

The criteria are not hard to discern. First, no Indian government can possibly accept Kashmir's secession from the Union. Second, no Pakistani government can survive if it accepts the LoC as a solution. Third, there is a total alienation of the people of the Valley and of large parts of Jammu and Ladakh from the Union. They do not seek redress of "grievances", they seek a change of legal status. Fourth, the future status of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be decided by agreement between India, Pakistan and the people of the State. Fifth, a solution must be acceptable to the people in all the regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Sixth, Nehru's statement that Kashmir "is an international problem" is as true now as it was when he said it on August 7, 1952. It is not a domestic matter. Seventh, the United Nations resolutions on plebiscite are obsolete; but not the ones that bar any unilateral and imposed "solution" by India. At 1AB, Purana Qila Road in New Delhi is the office of the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. It has an office in Srinagar as well as in the POK. To this day every U.N. map carries this legend: "The final status of Jammu & Kashmir has not yet been determined."

The impasse will be resolved only if India accepts the realities. Many are afraid to admit the alienation of the people lest it should spell secession. It does not. It mandates conciliation all round. In this complex question, all its seven elements have to be grappled together; courageously, honestly and above all, creatively. They provide the criteria for any viable accord.

Time has shown that the Tacna-Arica solution has no takers, except India. By the Treaty of Ancon (1883), it was agreed that the region, formerly held by Peru, should remain in Chilean occupation followed by a plebiscite. It was partitioned in 1929. It was Peru that had objected to plebiscite in 1921. If the LoC is no solution, nor is joint control. The solution lies in a mix of the triple models. They all build creatively on the status quo.

The weakest is the Afghan model. The Anglo-Afghan Treaty, signed in Kabul on November 22, 1921, reaffirmed the validity of the Durrand Line, which put the tribal areas in the North-West Frontier Province under British rule. However, by a collateral letter given to Afghanistan at the same time, the British Representative wrote: "As the conditions of the frontier tribes of the two governments are of interest to the Government of Afghanistan, I inform you that the British government entertains feelings of goodwill towards all the frontier tribes and has every intention of treating them generously, provided they abstain from outrages against the inhabitants of India."

Far more relevant is the Aaland Islands precedent. The dispute was settled under the auspices of the League of Nations by an agreement between Finland and Sweden, on June 27, 1921. Finland undertook to respect the autonomy and distinct ethnic character of these predominantly Swedish Islands. It incorporated the assurance in an autonomy statute and Sweden withdrew its claims to the islands. Successive statutes have granted more autonomy to Aalanders. The latest is of August 16, 1991. The Aalands precedent merits close study.

ROLF STEININGER'S instructive book provides us with the essential facts of the South Tyrol dispute and its solution. He is professor and head of the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Innsbruck, the capital of North Tyrol in Austria. South Tyrol was given to Italy, despite its German majority, by the Treaty of St. Germain (near Paris) signed on September 10, 1919. It was imposed by the Allies on the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire. Italy, its ally and that of Germany, defected to Britain and France in time, extracting, by a secret treaty of April 26, 1915, a promise to deliver South Tyrol as the price for its defection.

The ninth of President Woodrow Wilson's famous 14 points of January 8, 1918, was flouted. "A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognisable lines of nationality." When the First World War began, Austria occupied the entire Tyrol and Italian-speaking Trientino, to its south, which could have been given to Italy with the boundary at Salurn. It was, instead, pushed up to the coveted Brenner Pass.

An area of around 7,400 sq km, south of the Pass is Italian, but its 300,000 people speak German. The architecture is German; so are the food, the clothes and the traditions and above all, the sense of identity. A child on a farm who had acquired her new Italian identity card was asked by Tim Parks: "Do you feel Italian or German?" She declared, "Deutsch" (German) (New York Review of Books, May 27). New Delhi's "scribes" who descend on Srinagar with loads of opinions as baggage are put off when waiters or shopkeepers ask them, "Have you come from India?"

The Austro-Italian dispute was settled only in 1992 by an agreement between them, which was endorsed by South Tyrol's representative party, Sudtiroler Volkspartei (South Tyrolean People's Party - SVP). All the three sides are happy. South Tyrol is prosperous and increasingly autonomous. Italy and Austria are good friends. Territorially the status quo was not upset. It was creatively built upon to give Austria a locus standi in the preservation of the guaranteed autonomy plus a redressal machinery in the event of a serious breach. How did this happen? History teaches by analogy, not identity. No two situations are identical. The reader is struck by analogous situations as he reads this book as well as by some significant differences - Mussolini's ethnic cleansing and Hitler's abandonment of South Tyrol after he had occupied Austria in 1938 in order to seal a "Pact of Steel" with Mussolini. South Tyrolese were given "the Option" (that is, forced) to declare themselves Italian or emigrate to Germany. Children studied German in basements.

Two other books deserve mention. One is Professor Antony Evelyn Alcock's magisterial work The History of the South Tyrol Question (1970), now out of print. He has brought it up to date with two papers. One for the Minority Right Group, London, and A Short Introduction for the University of Ulster.

Academics in South Tyrol know how attractive the model has proved to be. One of them is Melissa Magliana of the European Academy of Bozen, capital of South Tyrol (Bolzano in Italian). Her book The Autonomous Province of South Tyrol: A Model of Self-Governance? (2000) is excellently documented.

Steininger draws liberally on the archives to trace the tortuous course of diplomacy since 1946. South Tyrol had been a proud Habsburg province for almost 600 years. Its transfer in 1919 was regretted by all. Clemenceau and Balfour said: "If language, race and the wishes of the population had in this case governed the decision of the (Versailles) conference, South Tyrol would never have been Italian". The Americans assumed that that it would be "completely autonomous". Italy would occupy it for "military purposes but would not govern the cultural life of the alien population to the south of her frontier".

South Tyrol was betrayed a second time by the same powers after another world war. Austria, occupied by Hitler on March 12, 1938, was not an enemy state. Italy was. Yet it was allowed to keep South Tyrol, lest its people voted for the powerful Communist Party. Austria, under Allied Occupation, won its freedom by the State Treaty signed on May 15, 1955, which fixed its frontiers (Article 5) as "those existing on 1st January 1938".

Once Italy occupied South Tyrol in 1918, "it was at once hermetically sealed off from Austria and all other foreign countries; thus all passenger and freight traffic with North Tyrol and Austria was halted. Telegraphic equipment and carrier pigeons had to be surrendered. Anyone failing to comply with these regulations faced a long prison sentence. The press was subject to strict censorship. Communication by mail and telegraph was also severely restricted. Letters could no longer be sent to Austria, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, and any letter coming from these countries was not delivered to the addressee. All other mail was subject to censorship." The Treaty of 1919 did not provide for autonomy.

Steininger describes Italy's brutal occupation and its efforts at assimilation. Austria's North Tyrol exercised a powerful appeal to the south. There was, however, one relief. There were no rigged polls. The South Tyrolean representatives in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome protested. One of them was free to declare: "Though the land is torn asunder, though South Tyrol has been absorbed by the Kingdom of Italy and become a part of the Province of Trient, our homeland is still, despite all the new names, that which it has always been, and the people will forever be what their fathers were: Tyroleans. We remain what we are; Tyrol will not disappear until its mountains are no more."

The SVP was founded on May 8, 1945, by a handful of courageous people. It demanded reunion "with the Province of Tyrol" and incorporation into Austria. Its programme was: "1. To fight for the recognition of the cultural, linguistic and economic rights of the South Tyroleans on the basis of democratic principles after twenty-five years of oppression by Fascism and National Socialism... . To empower its representatives - foreswearing the use of all illegal methods - to advocate before the Allied Powers the claim of the South Tyrolean people to exercise its right of self-determination."

The Western Allies contemplated that, but changed their minds. The Soviet Union concurred in leaving the area to Italy. Austria's demand for a plebiscite was rejected. Lord Samuel Hood of the British Foreign Office put it neatly. Justice was a sounder basis for policy than expediency; but "in a case like this, the ardour with which we pursue justice must be influenced by an appreciation of our own interests". It is an enduring truth that Kashmiris ignore. The Foreign Office and the State Department were internally divided. On May 1, 1946, the Council of Foreign Ministers rejected Austria's case.

On June 15, 1946, the astute Italian Ambassador Count Niccolo Carandini met Austria's Foreign Minister Karl Gruber privately to suggest "direct negotiation" rather than leave the matter to the big powers. (The hideous word "bilateral", so clear to the Ministry of External Affairs, had not been coined then.) Sir Orme Sargent, Permanent Undersecretary of State at the Foreign Office, minuted realistically on August 3, 1946: "Although wise people in Italy and Austria realise this, the two countries as a whole are psychologically incapable of getting and working together, unless they are compelled by the Great Powers to sink their antipathies and to rid themselves of continuing causes of friction, which will otherwise poison their relations indefinitely and do themselves and us nothing but harm." Bilateralism is always sought by the stronger power; mediation by the weak. In 1962, India sought mediation by the Colombo Powers on the dispute with China.

On September 5, 1946, in Paris, Gruber and Italy's Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi signed a historic accord in English. It used a word ("parification"), which is not found in any English dictionary. In the Italian copy, even "peace" was misspelt. It became Annex IV the Peace Treaty with Italy, implying the Great Powers' virtual endorsement plus an injunction for freedom of movement between the two parts of Tyrol (Article 10 of the Treaty, also signed in Paris on February 10, 1947).

Under the accord, the German-speaking inhabitants of the Province of Bolzano and the neighbouring bilingual townships of the Province of Trento were promised complete equality of rights with Italians "within the framework of special provisions" to safeguard their "ethnic character and cultural and economic development of the Germany-speaking element". In addition, the populations of these zones were to be "granted the exercise of autonomous legislative and executive regional power". The frame within which this power would apply was to be drafted "in consultation also with local representative German-speaking elements". Simultaneously, in an exchange of letters Italy undertook "to give careful attention" to any suggestions from Austria to implement the accord.

Italy reneged. In 1948 it joined German South Tyrol (which it called Alto Adige) to Italian Trentino as two Provinces of a Region of "Trentino-Alto Adige" in the special Statute for the Region. Italy's Constitution (December 27, 1947) recognised (Article 115) the autonomy of the Regions, not of the Provinces. South Tyrol was outvoted in the Region by Trentino (2-5).

Gruber met Carandini in Paris on September 24, 1964, at breakfast in a private dining room at the Restaurant Drouant. Carandini told him: "We have signed an agreement of a unilateral nature, whereby we commit ourselves to grant autonomy without demanding in return an express declaration of disclaimer waiving your territorial claims. This was done in order to avoid putting you in a difficult position vis-a-vis your nationalistic public opinion. It is true that your waiver proceeds from the fact that you dropped all previous claims at the Paris conference. It is true that the incorporation of our agreement into the peace treaty makes the Italian-Austrian question, which was raised at the conference as a result of a territorial claim and which was likewise resolved there by granting autonomy to the minority group in question, an international affair. But what are your thoughts on this matter?"

Gruber explained to him: "On the day when the autonomy question is resolved and the wishes of the German-speaking minority are thereby satisfied, South Tyrol will be a closed case for Austria."

Carandini did not ask for an explicit waiver, lest it should embarrass Austria. Gruber told De Gasperi: "Any solution to which the South Tyroleans would freely agree without having been subjected to any pressure would also receive Austria's approval. We nevertheless had to request that the text be worded in such a way that the geographical extent of this autonomous region would also require the consent of the south Tyroleans." Gruber met them and warned that their internal differences would damage the process. "The South Tyrol Question now has a basis. As weak as this may now be, it has nevertheless been internationally established; in any case; it now has come into existence legally, which previously was not the case." He advised them to accept the Region. The SVP met Italy's representatives and worked out key improvements in the 1948 Statute for the Region. It bears mention that Gruber met at Innsbruck, capital of North Tyrol, jointly representatives of both parts of Tyrol - North and South. This was on September 26, 1964, significantly. The situation had deteriorated since 1946. "One form of harassment followed the next." The worst was in respect of jobs in public service. By 1957, the SVP's moderates had been swept out of office. Austria took its case to the U.N. General Assembly. All it got was an anodyne resolution enjoining talks with Italy.

PREDICTABLY, terrorism erupted in 1956. "Depending on the particular point of view, they have been called freedom fighters, idealists, patriots, South Tyrolean activists, bomb throwers, terrorists, or all of these... . Their aim was self-determination for South Tyrol... . Italy then accused Austria of complicity with the terrorists, and in June 1967 used its veto to block Austria's negotiations with the European Economic Community (EEC)." Italy planted agents in one of the SVP's groups and tried to split it. Alcock, writes: "The only positive result to come from the terrorist onslaught, and, therefore, the most important, was the resumption of direct and meaningful contacts between the SVP and the Italian government." The year 1964 proved a decisive one.

Rome set up a Commission of Nineteen (11 Italians and eight South Tyroleans) to consider the problem. The Commission formulated a "package" in its final Report in 1964.

Its object was to force Austria "out of the South Tyrol business" and achieve an internal accord. In this it failed. Already in late 1964, Italy and Austria had begun secret talks. On May 13, 1969, they agreed on an "Operations Calendar" to implement the "Package". The Package comprised 137 points to remove South Tyrol's grievances. The Operations Calendar's 18 points gave international recognition to the Package. "The Package is the train; the Operations Calendar is the time-table." If Rome was conciliatory so was Vienna. It pressed the SVP to accept the Package as it had persuaded it to accept its 1946 accord with Italy. Throughout, Austria and the SVP worked in tandem to forge a settlement. This was made easier by the SVP's unity, democratic functioning and its repeated success at the polls, since 1948. The new Autonomy Statute of 1972 kept the Region intact but gave South Tyrol the autonomy it had been denied in 1948. The Package hinged on the SVP's acceptance.

The Package of 1969 was fully worked out only by 1992. Italy and Austria declared the dispute closed, by an exchange of Notes, and so notified the U.N. Austria won a vital point in the Calendar - the right to move the International Court of Justice at The Hague to resolve disputes over the implementation of the agreement. On July 31, 1992, both sides notified this accord to the ICJ and to the European Council.

Italy and Austria were parties to the European Convention for the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes (1957), which bound them to refer disputes on law as well as facts to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. However, it applied only to disputes arising after the Convention went into force. Italy and Austria therefore agreed to drop the time limit so that it shall apply not only "to disputes concerning the interpretation and the application of bilateral agreements" but "also when such disputes refer to facts and situations prior to the entry into force" of that Convention. This brought in the 1946 accord. It cited the Austro-Italian agreement of July 17, 1971, and its ratification on June 10, 1992. As Prof. Alcock points out, "The Hague was the price to be paid for the Package." Italy and Austria signed on January 27, 1993, a Framework Treaty on "cooperation across the borders".

Steininger writes: "Today, Italian culture and lifestyle are regarded by many South Tyroleans as an enrichment, a healthy portion of which would not do North Tyrol any harm either. For young people, mastering the Italian language has long been something taken completely for granted that opens up fresh new possibilities. The Brenner border was in fact an unjust boundary from the very beginning, but in recent years it has become increasingly permeable. In 1998, the barriers were removed at the crossings along that border, and there are not even inspections any more." If the Kashmir dispute is settled, India's vibrant democracy and its institutions will acquire a similar appeal not only to Kashmiris but also to Pakistan.

The South Tyrol precedent has another point of relevance. The 1972 Statute provided for the rights of minorities as well, for Italians in the province of South Tyrol, the Ladins, original inhabitants who spoke a Rhaeto-Romanic dialect and occupied a small compact area there, and German speakers in the Trentino province of the Region. Equality, ethnic proportional representation in the services and use of public funds are guaranteed to all the three linguistic and cultural groups.

In South Tyrol, as in the Aalands and Northern Ireland, two governments did the talking primarily. In each case, however, the people of the territory in dispute were involved in the parleys, but at a certain stage. Hitherto the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) welcomed India-Pakistan parleys, which alone can overcome the initial hurdles. Recent demands for tripartite talks are unrealistic and premature.Set up in July 1993, the APHC presents a sad spectacle today. Its Constitution rejects "any settlement within the framework of the Constitution of India" (clause 2) but binds it to accept "an alternative negotiated settlement" among all the three sides provided it "reflects the will and aspirations of the people of the State". Its espousal of the "right to self-determination" must reckon with modern understanding of the concept - as the SVP did in respect of an identical commitment in its Constitution.

Prof. Alcock rightly points out that it implies "the right to decide freely what legislative and administrative powers it should have in the economic, social and cultural fieldS in order to maintain its cultural characteristics and separate identity and flourish in its host state as it would have done if remaining part of its kin state, and demand those powers from the host state. Only if these legitimate demands were denied would separation then be legitimate. An acceptable autonomy should thus be recognised as a form of self-determination (emphasis added, throughout). A report by the Minority Rights Group in London endorses this new concept.

Lord Mountbatten's remarks to Indian princes on July 25, 1947, are relevant. His scheme, which gave them all powers except defence, foreign affairs and communication, "leaves you with all the practical independence that you can possibly use and makes you free of all those subjects, which you cannot possibly manage on your own". Article 370 has been used as a snare by New Delhi for destroying Jammu and Kashmir's autonomy. Under an accord, both its parts must be restored all powers save the three with a right to either state to invoke the redressal machinery if the other flouts the guaranteed autonomy; India vis-a-vis the POK and Pakistan vis-a-vis our part of the State. Both the parts will be free to establish intra-state institutional links like those between the two parts of Ireland.

The accord will need ratification not only by Parliament but a newly elected State Assembly. Article 253 of the Constitution of India renders void even a "decision" - let alone an agreement or treaty - "affecting the disposition of the State... without the consent of the government of that State", a freely elected one please. Thus the Constitution itself clearly implies (a) that the future "disposition" of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be decided and (b) the State must be a party to the decision. Once India and Pakistan agree on the bare outlines of an accord, each will have to seek the views of representatives of the people. At the final stage of the long drawn process, there are likely to be more than three parties at the table. Kashmir's new Assembly would ask the President under clause (4) of Article 370 to delete it thus finalising its autonomous status. The issue will be removed from the U.N. Security Council's agenda by a joint move by India and Pakistan.

This is a possible scenario and it lies in a hazy future. We are nowhere near the end game; not even at the end of the beginning, still less the beginning of the end. One thing is certain - unless India offers more than what it has so far, the peace process will come to a grinding halt, not only vis-a-vis Pakistan but also the Kashmiris. It will be a blow as great as the fateful rigged polls of 1987.

There is, however, a worse situation than an open deadlock. It is one that comes naturally to low cunning of our intelligence agencies - encourage splits in the APHC and settle with one faction, reducing it to the two Abdullahs. They earned contempt. So will that faction, if it is so foolish to swallow the bait. Face it with cold realism - Pakistan is not only a party to the Kashmir dispute it is a party within Kashmir. It has, like it or not, a physical presence there, comprising the pro-Pakistan constituency of old which existed even in the days of Sheikh Abdullah. He would throw its workers across the ceasefire line to the POK using the Enemy Agents Ordinance. A truly great man, he accepted the realities and demanded self-determination in 1953.

From 1986 a new pro-Pakistan presence came on the scene - the armed militants. Minister for External Affairs K. Natwar Singh was only being realistic when he said at his first press conference on June 1: "I am not making stopping of cross-border terrorism a pre-condition for dialogue with Pakistan," adding "it is not stopping anywhere in the world". It stops only when there is accord. Neither an India-Pakistan nor an India-Kashmir pact will work. All three will have to agree. But judging by the briefings to the press on November 18 on the conclusion of Manmohan Singh's trip to Jammu and Kashmir it is woefully clear that like his predecessors what he seeks is only a solution with the Kashmiris based on autonomy. Pakistan confronted with a fait accompli will be asked to follow suit in respect of the POK (see Harish Khare's informative report in The Hindu, November 19). This attempt will fail as did all those by his predecessors since 1947 for two reasons: First, even the Mirwaiz Omar Farooq group of the APHC - let alone the group led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani - will not accept this. The Mirwaiz insisted on November 18 that Pakistan be a party to the talks. Secondly, Pakistan will not submit to this obvious strategm to bypass it. The Prime Minister is struggling to break out of the mould created by the past but does not know how. For reasons more than one, some obvious, he is helpless. Manmohan Singh was wide off the mark when he said in Srinagar on November 17: "There is no separatism," only "grievances". Everyone knows that separatist sentiment is universal. Kashmiris seek change of status not mere redress of "grievances". Unless India accepts the realities known to the entire world outside the dispute will fester. Only trust and understanding between the principals can sustain any long-drawn diplomatic process. The subcontinent practices publicised secret diplomacy which George Kennan called megaphone diplomacy. Its leaders do not know how to combine the imperatives of secret diplomacy with those of democratic accountability. Manmohan Singh tries to assure his people that he will not compromise on India's old stand. Pervez Musharraf needs to show progress to justify the concessions he has made. He is impatient to solve Kashmir and more on to rebuild his fractured policy. He gets little help from India. The prospects are daunting.

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