Essay

How to settle the Kashmir issue

Print edition : October 16, 2015

Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

A view of the Indian border post near fencing on the line of control (LoC) near Balakot sector in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir. Photo: PTI

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after making a joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on April 18, 2005. Photo: V_Sudershan

In 2007, Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh brought the Kashmir dispute to the very threshold of a settlement. A draft agreement still exists, awaiting finishing touches, which could resolve the decades-old dispute.

ON one point both Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru agreed when India was being partitioned on August 15, 1947: the fate of the minorities would depend on the state of the relations between India and Pakistan. Those relations assumed an adversarial form right at the very outset. The eruption of the Kashmir dispute and the war that followed locked them in an impasse that was corrosive and poisonous, which persists to this day.

Vallabhbhai Patel, true to form, gave it a communal colour and impugned the loyalty of a Cabinet colleague, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who had suffered calumny because of his opposition to the demand for Pakistan. Patel asked him coarsely at a rally in Lucknow on January 6, 1948: “In the recent All-India Muslim Conference, why did you not open your mouth on the Kashmir issue?” He was referring to the conference in Lucknow in December 1947, which Azad had convened to give a lead to Muslims demoralised after Partition. Kashmir became a loyalty test for Indian Muslims and created a barrier between them and the Muslims in Kashmir.

It is the one single issue that poisons relations between India and Pakistan. What peace dividend will its solution yield? It will facilitate resolution of other issues; remove the barriers between the peoples; impart creativity to their exertions; pulverise the hate groups; and impart a new spirit to the sterile diplomacy that both countries have pursued all these years, trying to undercut each other and making a fool of themselves throughout the world. India and Pakistan will rid themselves of the ravages that Partition wrought—at long last.

It seems like a dream. But the dream almost came true in 2007, before events in Pakistan foiled progress. Together, President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had brought the Kashmir dispute to the very threshold of a settlement. A draft agreement still exists, only awaiting finishing touches. It does not affect adversely the interests of either country or the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.

Such, however, is the perversity of human nature that some decry it as if it was something the cat had brought in. In Pakistan, opposition to Musharraf blinds some, while some others call it a sell-out. Much the same sentiment prevails among some Kashmiris who are either ignorant or afraid. Some find the status quo profitable financially and politically. In India, the refrain among most is that Kashmir is a settled issue.

The ugly realities stare one in the face, however. As Tacitus said, “They make a desolation and call it peace.” Unfortunately, the discourse is marred by flat assertions or “pie in the sky” solutions as if Kashmir were a piece of cake to be sliced at will—Andorra, Liechtenstein, or the nostrums of that hare-brained geographer, Joseph E. Schwartzberg, who influenced the Kashmir Study Group set up by a noble man, Farooq Kathwari.

Given sincerity of purpose, industry and a reckoning of the realities, a solution to the Kashmir dispute hits one in the eye.

Sound approach

Here are the elements of a sound approach:

(1) There does exist a dispute between India and Pakistan on the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. All United Nations maps carry this notice. The Simla Agreement tacitly recognises that.

(2) There is also a third-party dispute—namely, the people of the State.

(3) The dispute urgently demands a solution as time has failed to solve it and the status quo is intolerable.

(4) There can be no solution by force. India cannot crush those who cry “azadi” in Kashmir. Pakistan cannot grab it by war. Kashmiris cannot oust India by armed revolt.

(5) A settlement involving all the three parties alone can ensure peace.

After Sheikh Abdullah’s dismissal from office as Prime Minister of the State and his imprisonment on April 8, 1953, the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir declared on February 6, 1954, the State’s accession to India as “irrevocable”. But Nehru declared on February 10, 1954, that the issues of the United States-Pakistan agreement and the Kashmir problem were separate.

On the decision of the Kashmir Constituent Assembly too, as late as February 25, 1955, Nehru was asked by Lakshmi Charan in the Lok Sabha: “In view of the fact that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly has ratified the accession of the State to India, what will be the terms of discussion on Kashmir with the Pakistani Prime Minister?” He replied: “A question like this cannot be solved unilaterally.” (Emphasis added throughout.)

On May 15, 1954, even after the U.S.-Pakistan agreement was signed, Nehru said: “India still stands by her international commitments on the Kashmir issue and will implement them at the appropriate time.” No settlement is possible except through a compromise that reflects concessions by India, Pakistan and Kashmir. Henry Kissinger calls it “a balance of dissatisfactions”.

There are, however, three tests that any settlement must meet and three limitations to which it must conform. The leaders must be able to sell it to their respective parliaments and peoples—at Red Fort in Delhi, Mochi Gate in Lahore and Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

The limits are the following.

(1) No Indian government can accept Jammu and Kashmir’s secession from the Indian Union and survive for even a minute. A Pakistan which went to war in 1965 to grab Kashmir cannot hope to acquire by plebiscite or at the conference table what it failed to achieve at its own chosen forum—the battlefield. As Nikita Khrushchev said in Leipzig on March 7, 1959: “History teaches us that conferences reflect in their decisions an established balance of forces resulting from victory or capitulation in war or similar circumstances.”

(2) But, equally, no government in Pakistan can accept the Line of Control (LoC) as an international boundary and survive, either. Why would Pakistan, a revisionist of the status quo, accept under a deal what it possesses already? Nehru offered just that to Liaquat Ali Khan in London in 1948, while publicly and repeatedly renewing his pledges on plebiscite. He drew a blank. The offer of a settlement on the basis of the present ceasefire line followed publicly. Nehru made his offer while addressing a public meeting in New Delhi on April 13, 1956. “I am willing to accept that the question of the part of Kashmir which is under you should be settled by demarcating the border on the basis of the present ceasefire line. We have no desire to take it by fighting.” Nehru revealed that he had made his offer to Mohammed Ali Bogra during their talks the previous year, and mentioned that Pakistan’s Prime Minister had rejected the offer.

(3) The people of Kashmir will not accept or acquiesce in any deal between India and Pakistan that denies them their aspirations to self-rule or divides the State. This is as true of Jammu residents as it is of those in the Valley. They should not suffer because of Pakistan’s crime in 1965.

Indians who in arrogant smugness refuse to accept the need for a Kashmir settlement rely on brute force and what it facilitates, political manipulation, in order to provide an appearance of democratic governance through arranged elections—rather like fixed cricket matches.

The status quo is unstable and its continuance by brute force is immoral. It reflects poorly on India. A.S. Dulat, former Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) c hief and New Delhi’s principal operator in Kashmir writes that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) “knew exactly how key the I.B. [Intelligence Bureau] was to the C entral government’s hold on Kashmir” . Of which other part of India can it be said that the Centre “holds” it thanks to the “key” role of the I.B.? This is possible only under the umbrella provided by the armed forces. Together they hold Kashmir for the Union—not the people’s consent. “Hold” is not a word used for a member of a federation. It is used for a colony; Dulat ought to know that.

Mir Qasim, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and a Cabinet Minister under Indira Gandhi, was one of the conspirators in the coup that ousted the Sheikh in 1953. Forty years later he gave an interview to the Akhbar-e-Nau journal (July 1990). It is most revealing.

What do the people of Kashmir demand?

They clearly say that they would not like to remain in India. They would like to go out of India. They ask for a plebiscite so that they will be allowed to answer whether they want to remain in India or go out of it.

Why has this change come about in the situation?

They were given many promises which were not fulfilled, and my feeling is that in this respect there is a lot of weight in their arguments. Many promises have in fact not been fulfilled. For example, they believed that India would be really secular, but when communal riots take place in Meerut, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur, Moradabad, the secular image of India is not visible to them; how would they be convinced that this country will be a secular country, when for the last forty years the image of India to them was projected in this way? Even if someone promises them that India will be a vigorous secular democracy, I think it is hard for them to believe.” (Mir Qasim; My Life and Times; Allied; page 298.)

In 2015 that sentiment still prevails. It is dishonest to deny that.

Architecture of oppression

On September 9, The Hindu published an article by Vasundhara Sirnate, Chief Coordinator of Research at The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy and Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. These extracts should put us to shame. On counter-insurgency in Kashmir, she writes: “Actions of combatants are not directed only towards other combatants; civilians or non-combatants are also arrested, held against their will, tortured or killed. Irregular means of war such as sexual violence and torture and the backing of a locally raised private militia (the Ikhwani), or government gunmen, is encouraged, commanded and funded by the regular government forces. The use of Ikhwanis in the 1990s, Special Police Officers, and, the rise of a monetised counter-insurgency campaign where killing of people is incentivised through gallantries, promotions and various awards, all point to irregular means of warfare that are being used to suppress an entire population…

“I interviewed several police and Army personnel, many of whom suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and also confessed to killing in counter-insurgency operations, and in Kashmir, where violations of the population are so well-documented, the Indian state’s counter-insurgency strategy has only been effective in terms of creating disaffected populations.

“Not only are people being dominated geographically, but, through extensive torture extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and sexual violence are also dominated physically and mentally. The use of government gunmen, for instance, is the use of deniable violence by the state, where the state cannot directly be held accountable for the actions of non-state militia actors, though many such militias in the case of Kashmir and Chhattisgarh act directly on orders from the local security force officers.” Is this how a great country like India, aspiring to a permanent seat in the U.N.’s Security Council, proposes to “hold” Kashmir?

“In Kashmir, we are seeing the assertion of an architecture of oppression that is designed to ‘break the spine of Kashmiri society’, as one Army officer informed me. Only then, it seems, can militancy end.

“However, very little attention is being paid in policy circles to the creation of deep societal trauma and generations of persons with severe grievances against the Indian state. Disproportionate use of violence by a much better equipped, manned, trained and monetised security force (the third largest in the world) than local combatants is also not being adequately questioned.

“Kashmiri civil society groups are now calling for the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue. Given the evidence they have collected, there are sufficient grounds to merit a thorough investigation and to ask the Indian state to officially explain its case.”

Owing to India’s clout with the P-5 of the U.N., “internationalisation” is not possible. The policies continue in their ruinous immoral course.

Watch the much-acclaimed documentary Jashn-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom), written and directed by Sanjay Kak, a man of high integrity and deep commitment, about how Independence Day or Republic Day are not celebrated in Kashmir. The people are held in virtual captivity in their homes on those days—like their leaders whenever they decide to march in protest.

Kasuri’s contribution

Such a situation cannot last long. Why not cure the malaise if it can be done without detriment to the national interest or violence to the people’s sentiments? The great virtue of Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book, Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove, An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations Including Details of the Kashmir Framework, is that he demonstrates by irrefutable documentation that such an alternative is still possible and was all but accepted in 2007.

Kasuri served as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister from 2002 to 2007. The book is a cross between a textbook and a memoir. Aided by able research assistants, each major assertion is fully sourced. It will long rank as a dependable work of reference on the wide canvas. It covers Pakistan’s security dilemma and its quest for religious balance and its relations with India, Afghanistan, the U.S. , China, Russia, the Gulf nations, Turkey and Iran. Particularly interesting are the chapters on the roles of the Foreign Office and media and public diplomacy.

For the Indian reader, it is Chapter 4, “Interrupted Symphony: Contours of Backchannel Settlement on Kashmir”, that is most important. It strikes a powerful blow for the cause of the peace process with a settlement on Kashmir as its centrepiece. The other issues of Sir Creek, Siachen and the disputed river projects in Kashmir are also well covered. But Chapter 4 is of abiding relevance as it provides irrefutable proof of the viability of the famous Four-Point formula.

“The Envoys’ Conference in 2007 was important because of the fact that substantial progress had been made on the back channel on Kashmir and a healthy debate was under way in Pakistan’s media on the various aspects of the framework agreement under discussion. Some retired diplomats had been voicing their reservations, largely based on incomplete and tendentious leaks. Therefore, I looked forward to the deliberations of the conference. The details of the Draft Agreement, contained in the non-paper on Kashmir, had not been shared with many in the Foreign Office or in the government partly because it was still a work in progress. However, general awareness about the contours of a possible agreement on Kashmir was common knowledge, given the public debate on the issue following several statements by President Musharraf sketching the outlines of his Four-Point Formula on Kashmir.” So, a draft does exist even now.

Speaking in tandem

It was a purely indigenous venture that owed nothing to idle, ambitious American busybodies pining for a role in the matter. Musharraf and Manmohan Singh spoke in tandem. “President Musharraf’s remarks to Geo TV on 23 October 2006 are relevant. He was asked whether he was frustrated that Prime Minister Singh had said that borders would not be redrawn since he had changed Pakistan’s traditional position on Kashmir based on UNSC Resolutions and had offered several options. Musharraf replied, ‘No. They say that the borders will not be drawn a second time. We say that the LoC is not acceptable as a permanent border. We need to find a via media between these two positions which would mean self-governance with a joint management system at the top for both sides of the LoC and you make the LoC irrelevant. This will cease to divide the people of Jammu & Kashmir, and thus become irrelevant to their lives.”

The Army was very much on board. The course of the back channel is traced clearly. The main party affected by the dispute was not ignored. “As far as we were concerned, it was quite clear to us that no agreement worked out between India and Pakistan could be sold to the people of Pakistan unless the vast majority of Kashmiris accepted it. This required trying to understand in earnest what the Kashmiris really desired. This in turn entailed meetings with Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). ... I interacted with the Kashmiri leaders in Islamabad and New Delhi and in other world capitals, sometimes, secretly.”

The contours of the accord are spelt in much greater detail than ever before—demilitarisation; self-governance. “It was agreed that the level of self-governance would be the same on both sides. With this objective in view, it was agreed that maximum self-governance would be granted in legislative, executive, and judicial areas to each of the units. It was also agreed that a mechanism will be evolved to achieve this objective. We agreed that within one year of the agreement. India and Pakistan would conclude a Charter of Principles regarding self-governance and that the nature and quantum of self-governance would be the same on each side.”

Joint mechanism

This is not at all. There would be a new institution. “The Joint Mechanism would consist of a specified number of elected members from each of the two units. These members were required to be nominated by the governments of both the units. It was also agreed that a decision of the Joint Mechanism would require more than a bare majority of members of each side. It was further agreed that this mechanism would meet periodically—at least twice or thrice a year. It would be entrusted with the responsibility of increasing the number of crossing points, and encourage travel, trade, and tourism. It was also decided to further streamline the transport services and to encourage interaction between the peoples as well as exchange of commodities.”

There was to be a monitoring and review process as well. “The Draft Agreement had also stipulated that the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan would meet at least once a year to monitor the progress that had been made under this agreement. Furthermore, any solution that was presented could experience unanticipated difficulties. It was, therefore, appropriate that in the first instance the agreement be of an interim nature. The envisaged agreement, consequently, provided for a Monitoring and Review Mechanism. The Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and India would meet at least once a year to monitor the progress of the agreement and it would be subject to review at the expiration of fifteen years. In fairness, I may note that towards the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007, we were negotiating on the period after which the review would take place. I have mentioned fifteen years here, because it seemed that a compromise was beginning to emerge on fifteen years.” And all this would be crowned by a treaty of peace, security and friendship between India and Pakistan.

It was to be a radically new set-up. The status quo was not to be buttressed. It was to be altered by providing greater freedom to Kashmiris. The main gain would be the removal of barriers. The LoC becomes just “a line on the map”. It requires little imagination to foresee the actual effects such an arrangement would have on the Kashmir scene. The very fact that politicians and journalists, in both East and West Kashmir, would be free to meet would alter the political situation completely. Those who went across the LoC would be free to return to their homes—and contest elections.

Kashmiris should press for the implementation of this accord and build on it by their own contributions in seminars, in the press and in universities. The devil is in the detail. They should ask for guarantees. Will Article 370 be restored to its full vigour? It fits the self-governance item of the Four Points like a glove. This writer prepared the draft of a final Article 370 which is appended to his book on Article 370.

Shun metaphors (“irrelevance” and “line on a map”). Precisely what will be the procedures to ensure free travel to the poor in the rural areas? The main agreement itself envisages subsidiary agreements. There can be an all Jammu and Kashmir Consultative Council comprising legislators on both sides. It can meet twice a year in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad alternately. Defence and political matters would be outside its purview just as the Statute of the Council of Europe provided initially. Its resolutions will bind none but require a two-thirds vote. It will discuss a host of matters of common concern and cement the State’s unity.

In sum, there will be no secession of Kashmir; the LoC, far from becoming an international boundary, ceases to be the hideous barrier it is today. Kashmir is reunited de facto. Its people get guaranteed azadi, short of complete independence.

Two more books are called for. A biography of the legendary lawyer Mahmud Ali Kasuri, a founder of the human rights movement in Pakistan and Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s father. Less is known of his wife, Nasreen. Her claims to fame are considerable. A person of charm, strong character and drive, she raised an educational edifice without peer. The Beaconhouse School System (BSS) is one of the largest private school systems in the world.

She also serves as Chairperson of Beaconhouse National University (BNU), Pakistan’s first non-profit liberal arts university. It has already made a name for itself, particularly in the fields of television, film-making, liberal arts and design, architecture, information technology, social sciences, psychology and education. Its work deserves to be better known in India. A vast majority of those working at the BSS are women. Very little is known about these fine institutions in India.

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