A. G. Noorani*
Any settlement must conform to three tests and abide by four limits. It must be acceptable to all the three parties – India, Pakistan and Kash- mir, all of whom have limited choices. India cannot accept Kashmir’s secession from the Union nor Pakistan the LoC as an international bor- der. Kashmiris will not accept any solution which does not concede azadi or self-rule, realistic in the circumstances, and which does not re- unite the State. The four points (formula) meet the tests and abide by the limits. There is no secession; the LoC does not become an international boundary and by the joint mechanism Pakistan acquires a say in East Kashmir as India does in West Kashmir. De facto, though not de jure, the LoC goes as a barrier and the State is reunited with both its parts guaranteed self-rule.
This is a “non-territorial” solution which skirts the deal-breaker of sov- ereignty. The UN Security Council last discussed Kashmir on 5 Novem- ber 1965 in the aftermath of the 1965 war. In 1972 the parties pledged themselves at Simla to a bilateral approach. Whether it was based on an oral understanding to settle on the basis of the status quo may be con- tested. What is incontestable is that during a tour of West Kashmir on 7 November 1973 Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto offered the area choice between its present status and as a Province of Pakistan. The implications are obvious.
Like the stragglers in the forests of South East Asia who were pathetically unaware of the cease-fire in World War II, very many in India, Pakistan, and both parts of Kashmir go about mouthing slogans and proposing solutions of old blissfully unaware that time has passed them by. Change never provides the familiar comforts of old.
The Kashmir Question has now entered its last but one phase; both, as a dispute between India and Pakistan and as a problem between the Kashmiris. This writer’s survey of the negotiations between the two States from 1947 to 2006 brought out the impossibility of success from 1948 to 2004. Nehru had privately resiled from the commitment to hold a plebiscite in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, though the fervour of his public pledges to hold one did not abate till 1954. The record shows that Pakistan as well as the interested powers were well aware of this. But Pakistan could not possibly accept his offer of a settlement on the basis of a status quo which resulted from the victory of superior might. Its own venture to accomplish political results by recourse to war in 1965 failed and aggravated a bad situation. None of Nehru’s successors had a desire or political clout to alter course. (Vide Bilateral Negotiations on Kashmir; Criterion; Oct-Dec. 2006; Vol. I No. 1; pp. 26-52).
The last five years have seen a sea change in the political situation on both its aspects, external and internal. Externally, Indo-Pak negotia- tions reached the very gates of a final settlement. A skeletal framework has been erected to await the infusion of political blood and flesh with diplomatic creativity. Internally, Kashmir has been in ferment.
India has been negotiating with Pakistan on the substance of the dispute; not on CBMs alone, but on a settlement of the dispute. This implies, surely, recognition of the existence of a dispute and Pakistan’s status as a party to it. Neither country regards as untouchable Kashmiris who oppose its stand. India talks to leaders of the unionist parties, the National Conference (NC) led by Dr. Farooq Abdulah and his son Omar now Chief Minister of the State and the leaders of the People’s Demo- cratic Party (PDP), its patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, former Chief Minister, and its President, his daughter Mehbooba. It has also engaged in talks with leaders of the All Parties’ Hurriet Conference (APHC), like Mir Waiz Maulvi Umar Farooq besides others like Yasin Malik. The former President Gen (Retd.) Pervez Musharraf received Omar Farooq as well as Mehbooba besides leaders of the APHC.
Leaders of the NC no longer look askance at such parleys but sup- port them as do, more consistently, the leaders of the PDP. The divide between them has blurred. The former talks of greater autonomy; the latter of self-rule. Debate on the difference between the two is as en- lightening as one on the sex of the angels. Even more significant is the blurring of the divide between the unionists and the separatists. With a large army presence, especially in the rural areas and a pliant official machinery, besides other factors, the elections to the Lok Sabha (lower House of Parliament) in 2004 and 2009 and to the State’s Legislative Assembly in 2002 and 2008 cannot be said to be fair by accepted inter- national standards. But they were a significant, substantial improvement on the polls to the Lok Sabha and to the Assembly earlier. The impres- sion persists, and rightly so, that none can come to power without New Delhi’s blessings. That said, the crude blatant rigging of old has given way to more subtle exertions. The result is that the NC felt obliged to woo the electorate on a platform which, as everyone knows, appeals to the people – a settlement with Pakistan and azadi which everyone de- fines in his own way. If the APHC had contested the polls, the Assembly would have had a radically different composition and character.
The NC could drum up a coalition with the Congress in 2009 on the support of the seats it won in Srinagar despite a low-voter turnout thanks to the call for a boycott given by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his faction of the Hurriet. Erudite, he published in November 2009 a work on Iqbal; honest to the core, and endowed with impeccable manners, his intransigence has undermined his relevance. He attacks Pakistan for its policies in Balochistan as well as in the N.W.F.P. Since any settlement worth the name must be acceptable to the people, it is important to bear in mind the domestic situation.
The Report of a Joint American-Russian Study entitled “Afghani- stan and Kashmir” sponsored by The Asia Society, New York and the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow, dated 28 June 1992 lamented “One remarkable feature of the Kashmir problem is the political and mental inertia of the leadership of both countries. Over the past sev- eral decades they adjusted to the then existing situation, which could be characterized as a balance of contradictions. The disturbance of that bal- ance by a virtual uprising of a segment of Kashmiri Muslims living in the Srinagar Valley has created a regional threat of unpredictable conse- quences. This uprising, and subsequent events, constitute the “second” Kashmir crisis, qualitatively different from the situation that both India and Pakistan had, sometimes grudgingly, adjusted to.” This has ceased to be true since 2004.
On 2 February 2007, President Musharraf said “Our relations with India, have never been this good before in our history, and we ought to be happy about that …. I am fairly optimistic that we will be able to move forward to a resolution of all disputes” (The Times of India, 3 February 2007).
He had good reason for the confidence. In July 2001 the Agra sum- mit collapsed when Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee went back on an agreed draft. (Vide the writer’s article The Truth about Agra; Frontline, 29 July 2005. The texts of documents published there exposed the lies/ falsehoods brazenly retailed by the External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh). That was an unambitious exercise. The Draft Declaration sought to do no more than recognize the primacy of the Kashmir question and set up institutionalized consultations, at a higher level than before, on a whole range of disputes, including Kashmir. It did not touch the sub- stance at all; only the procedure.
A misimpression still lurks about Vajpayee as a “moderate.” That he was not except in style. A Prime Minister in earnest would not have nominated one R. K. Mishra, as his interlocutor to parley with Niaz A. Naik after the Lahore summit with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 21 February 1999. A good few in Pakistan claimed that had Kargil not in- tervened, Kashmir would have been resolved in six month’s time. Agra belied them. No BJP Government, looking over its shoulder at its par- ent, the RSS, could have solved the issue.
It is important to dilate on this episode because much of the dis- course overlooks an important milestone. In 2004, for the first time since 1948, India acquired a Prime Minister who was committed to a Kashmir solution, was prepared to reach out to Pakistan and the Kash- miris, and yet had a shrewd understanding of the constraints which the years had imposed. Around the time he was to take the oath of office as Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh said in an interview to Jonathan Power: “Short of secession, short of re-drawing boundaries, the Indian establishment can live with anything. Meanwhile, we need soft borders
– then borders are not so important” (The Statesman; 20 May, 2004). He made another point, an economist that he was. The Kashmir problem inhibited India’s rise to its full stature.
Already in 2001-2002 Pervez Musharraf had been urging both sides to “move beyond their stated positions.” In Manmohan Singh he ac- quired a partner in this exercise, where he had none before. By 2007 they had all but sewn up the framework of an accord. Progress was achieved gradually in stages. The concepts that were aired reveal the richness of the nuances that underlay their understanding.
Musharraf made five major changes in the policy that put paid to rhetoric but were in line with past offers. Partition pure and simple was offered by Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon to the United State’s Per- manent Representative to the United Nations, Henry Cabot Lodge, in Karachi on 10 February 1958 (Foreign Relations of the United States; South Asia 1958 Vol. XVIII; p. 59). Ayub Khan invited India to suggest alternatives to plebiscite (Criterion; Vol. I, No. 1; pp. 40-41). The Z.A. Bhutto – Swaran Singh talks centred on partition.
The five major changes are : 1) setting aside the U.N.’s resolutions on plebiscite; 2) substituting self-governance for self-determination; 3) discarding religion as a criterion; 4) advising Kashmiris to talk to New Delhi; and 5) accepting the Line of Control (LoC) provided it is coupled with joint management, an issue pre-eminently susceptible to compro- mise.
Musharraf declared, on 25 December 2003, that in the quest for accord “we have left that [U.N. resolutions on plebiscite] aside.” The President elaborated his ideas in nine major pronouncements. (1) 25 October 2004: Identify seven regions; demilitarize them and change their status. (2) 18 April 2005, in New Delhi: The LoC cannot be made permanent but it can and should be made “irrelevant.” Boundaries “can- not be altered.” (3) 20 May 2005: “Self-government must be allowed to the people of Kashmir.” Religious basis is ruled out. (4) 14 June 2005: Complete independence is ruled out. (5) 21 October 2005: Open the LoC. (6) 8 January 2006, to an Indian TV channel: (a) “Something be- tween autonomy and independence. I think self-governance fits in well;” (b) “Let us [India and Pakistan] work out self-governance and impose the rules” in both parts. Kashmiris will be involved; (c) demilitariza- tion, and (d) joint management. “There have to be subjects which are devolved; there have to be some subjects retained for the joint manage- ment;” (e) India and Pakistan will be “guaranteeing it and overseeing it” with each “having a stake in guaranteeing the situation in the other half of Kashmir.” (7) 25 January 2006: What “we cannot give to them [Kashmiris] and what residual powers would be left with the joint man- agement mechanism, which would have people from Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris” should be defined. (8) 23 June 2006, to CNBC: “I am proposing demilitarization as a concept of a final settlement actually. Demilitarise Kashmir, give self- governance to the people of Kashmir and have a joint management ar- rangement on top… we could debate and modify the idea… I think it is the people of Kashmir themselves who need to now generate the kind of ideas and pressure on the Indian Government…. I am very glad to say that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been interacting with all groups of Kashmiris and I am quite sure he is talking of some kind of a resolution obviously. (9) 1 August 2006, interview to this writer for Frontline in which he elaborated on all these points.
Now compare this with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s formu- lations. He made four important pronouncements besides his interview to Jonathan Power in May 2004. (1) 16 September 2005, in New York:
It would require ingenuity to reconcile the three positions: (a) the Indian position that the border would not be redrawn (b) the Pakistani position that the status quo was unacceptable and (c) the Prime Minister’s own formulation that while the border would not be redrawn, it was possible to make the border irrelevant (Harish Khare in The Hindu, September 17, 2005). (2) 25 February 2006, at the First Round Table Conference (RTC) in New Delhi. “There is a need to evolve a common understand- ing on autonomy and self-rule for the State of Jammu & Kashmir and I am confident that working together with all groups, both within and out- side the mainstream, we can arrive at arrangements within the vast flex- ibilities provided by the Constitution, arrangements which provide real empowerment and comprehensive security to all the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” (3) 24 March 2006, in Amritsar, Manmohan Singh made four points: (a) a step-by-step approach; (b) dialogue by both India and Pakistan “with the people in their areas of control.” (c) “I have often said that borders cannot be redrawn but we can work towards making them irrelevant – towards making them just lines on a map. People on both sides of the LoC should be able to move more freely and trade with one another; (d) “The two parts of Jammu & Kashmir can with the active encouragement of the governments of India and Pakistan, work out cooperative consultative mechanisms so as to maximize the gains of cooperation.” (4) 25 May 2006, at the RTC in Srinagar the Prime Minister made the last point somewhat stronger by posing the question. “What are those institutional arrangements which can bring people from both sides of the LoC closer to each other?”
Thus both leaders were agreed on four points: (1) Jammu & Kash- mir cannot be made independent; (2) borders cannot be redrawn (that is, the State cannot secede from the Union of India); (3) the LoC can be made “irrelevant;” and (4) the two parts of Kashmir can be linked by “institutional arrangements.”
The concurrence on some important points was almost textual. The Prime Minister told the media on 17 September 2006, as he was re- turning from the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) meeting in Havana: “President Musharraf recalled what I had stated before that borders can- not be redrawn, and his statement that they cannot accept the LoC as a permanent solution. We both agreed that we have to find a via media to reconcile these two positions. And I do believe that we should work in all sincerity to think out of the box to deal with this situation.”
Compare this with the President’s remarks to Geo TV on 23 October 2006. He was asked whether he was not feeling some “frustration” since Manmohan Singh had said that borders will not be redrawn though the President had shifted his stand from Pakistan’s 60-year-old position (of U.N. resolutions) and offered many 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.”
Abrogation of the LoC or its rescission denotes an actual fact. Ir- relevance is an expression of opinion. Manmohan Singh’s remark “just lines on a map” provides the clue. The line remains; but only to indicate limits of two sovereign jurisdictions. It will, however, cease to divide the people of Jammu and Kashmir – and thus become “irrelevant” to their lives. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was wont to distinguish between a bar and a hyphen. A bar divides, a hyphen separates and unites. The LoC will cease to be a bar. It will become a hyphen; a de jure division but de facto unity of the State.
Musharraf hinted in his remarks to the South Asia Free Media As- sociation (SAFMA) on 20 May 2005. “The solution exactly lies some- where in a compromise of the three. In fact, it lies in the third statement that is boundaries becoming irrelevant. We need to find a via media.”
In plain words, if the LoC is rendered “irrelevant,” it will become acceptable if – and only if – a joint mechanism is also put in place and Kashmiris are conferred self-governance.
My interview with President Musharraf was intended to elicit clarification on his pronouncements, in the light of the Prime Minister’s pronouncements, in order to ascertain the areas of common ground and the precise points of difference.
The President made these significant points: 1. “Demilitarisation can be by steps;” begin as talks begin and end with conclusion of an accord. 2. The Prime Minister’s suggestion, of “institutional arrange- ments” between the two parts of Kashmir “is a starter. This is a very good term.” The term “institutional arrangements” is “what I think is correct. But we need to define the modalities.” 3. Asked if an irrelevant LoC meant that “de jure the sovereignties end at the line on the map, but de facto the State becomes one,” the President replied: “Yes, that kind of an arrangement … needs discussion and thought.” 4. “We need to define what is the maximum autonomy that you are talking of and what is the self-governance that I am talking of. We need to see how the people should govern themselves. Also “we have to find a word which replaces ‘autonomy,’ because it creates negative optics.” He suggested “a joint framework for self-governance.” An India-Pakistan accord on the quantum of powers each part of Jammu & Kashmir should enjoy in equal measure would meet these criteria.
The heart of the problem is to devise an “institutional arrangement” which does not abrogate the LoC yet gives Pakistan – and India – as the President put it, “some responsibility and some commitment; some involvement, I would say, in having their say on both sides of the bor- der.”
The “four elements” he formulated on page 303 of his book In the Line of Fire: A Memoir; (Simon & Schuster) in greater precision than before, facilitate fleshing out the themes.
Those four points are: “
1. First, identify the geographic regions of Kashmir that need resolution. At present the Pakistani part is divided into two regions; Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir. The Indian part is divided into three regions: Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh. Are all these on the table for discussion, or are there ethnic, political, and strategic considerations dictating some give and take?
2. Second, demilitarize the identified region or regions and curb all militant aspects of the struggle for freedom. This will give comfort to the Kashmiris, who are fed up with the fighting and killing on both sides.
3. Third, introduce self-government or self-rule in the identified region or regions. Let the Kashmiris have the satisfaction of running their own affairs without having an international character and remaining short of independence.
4. Fourth, and most important, have a joint management mechanism with a membership consisting of Pakistanis, Indians, and Kashmiris overseeing self-governance and dealing with residual subjects common to all identified regions and those subjects that are beyond the scope of self-governance.
This idea is purely personal and would need refinement. It would also need to be sold to the public by all involved parties for accep- tance.”
As happens all so often in Indo-Pak relations an incident, the Mum- bai train blasts on 11 July 2006 impeded progress. The President and the Prime Minister set up “an India-Pakistan Anti-Terrorism Institutional Mechanism” on 16 September, 2006 when they met in Havana during the NAM summit. On Kashmir they said “there have been useful dis- cussions. There is a need to build on convergences and narrow down divergences” (italics mine; press release Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi).
The task was left to the highly publicized back channel compris- ing Tariq Aziz and Satish Lambah. The fate of this Mechanism and for that matter, of other issues is beyond the purview of this article. It bears mention though that a Joint Commission that was set up by an Agree- ment signed on 10 March 1983 languished. It was restored to life on 4 October 2005 and held its second meeting on 21 February 2007. (For An able survey of the diplomatic record vide Nabiha Gul; Pakistan Ho- rizon; Vol. 60(2); April 2008; pp. 47-64). channel; not altogether accurately, though. Farhan Bukhari and Johnson reported in the Financial Times (London) on 29 May 2007 “the five ele- ments” which were only a fleshing out of the Four Points. More signifi- cant was this revelation. “‘The deal is there to be done and what is more, a lot of it is written down and cannot be denied,’ says one diplomat privy to the discussions, who believes the BJP is keen to slow down the talks so it can do the deal if it wins power in 2009 and would ‘pick holes’ in any earlier attempt by Congress. ‘Of course, it binds nobody, but it means that even if governments in both countries change, unless the new leaders turn out to be irresponsible, we’ll still make progress.’”
Steve Coll’s report in The New Yorker of 2 March 2009 won greater attention. It was entitled “The Back Channel: A Reporter at Large.” The core of his report bears quotation in extenso: “The most recent version of the non-paper, drafted in early 2007, laid out several principles for a settlement, according to people who have seen the draft or have par- ticipated in the discussions about it. Kashmiris would be given special rights to move and trade freely on both sides of the Line of Control. Each of the former princely state’s distinct regions would receive a mea- sure of autonomy – details would be negotiated later. Providing that violence declined, each side would gradually withdraw its troops from the region. At some point, the Line of Control might be acknowledged by both governments as an international border. It is not clear how firm a commitment on a final border the negotiators were prepared to make, or how long it would all take; one person involved suggested a time line of about ten to fifteen years.
“One of the most difficult issues involved a plan to establish a joint body, made up of local Kashmiri leaders, Indians, and Pakistanis, to oversee issues that affected populations on both sides of the Line of Control, such as water rights. Pakistan sought something close to shared governance, with the Kashmiris taking a leading role; India, fearing a loss of sovereignty, wanted much less power-sharing. The envoys wrestled intensively over what language to use to describe the scope of this new body; the last draft termed it a ‘joint mechanism.’ ”
“Manmohan Singh’s government feared that successor Pakistani regimes would repudiate any Kashmir bargain forged by Musharraf, who had, after all, come to power in a coup. The Indians were not sure that a provisional peace deal could be protected ‘from the men of violence
– on both sides,’ the senior Indian official who was involved recalled. And they wondered whether the Pakistan Army had really embraced the non-paper framework or merely saw the talks as a ploy to buy time and win favor in Washington while continuing to support the jihadis. ‘I remember asking Tariq Aziz, ‘Is the Army on board? Right now?’ the senior official recalled. “As long as Musharraf was the chief, had the uniform, I think he had a valid answer. He said, ‘Yes, the chief is doing this.’ ”
In March 2007 Musharraf had gravely undermined his own author- ity by summoning the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Choudhary and demanding his resignation. On 18 May 2007 Talat Hus- sain of Aaj TV asked him whether the back channel had drawn up the “buniyadi contour” of a Kashmir accord. The President replied: “Yes, it is a fairly fair assessment. We have made progress on the Kashmir dispute, but we have to reach a conclusion. It is a very very difficult situation and as I keep saying it is a sensitive issue. Sensitivity ye hai kay agar hamne kisi solution pe pahunchna hai, dono ne give up karna hai kuchh. Aur dono ne jab give up karti hain to dono ki oppositions hain apne apne mulk, main, to shor sharaba aur ye voh, Yahan to phir vohi consensus wali baat aa gai. Aap jo kahte hain na consensus develop karo, array bhai kaise yahan consensus develop karo?” (The sensitivity is that if we have to arrive at a solution, both have to give up something, both have oppositions in their countries so there will be protests. So here again the issue of consensus comes in. It is easy to say “develop consen- sus” but how does one achieve this?”)
The President’s fears came all too true; but more on the Indian side than within his own country. When his Foreign Minister Khur- shid Mahmud Kasuri visited New Delhi, on 21 February 2007 he was warned by L. K. Advani, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister against “any haste.” This, from a man who had single-handed- ly wrecked the Agra summit at the very last moment when it was on the Vajayee administered the same caution to the visitor; namely, the ac- cord should not be rushed through. An aide repeated the admonition with the assurance that Pakistan would get a better deal from the BJP which, he predicted, would return to power. The 2009 elections to the Lok Sabha ruined its prospects for the future as well.
So swift and significant was the progress after Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister in May 2004 that Vajpayee was provoked to write to him on 16 June 2005 expressing his concern at “the disturbing turn that the peace process with Pakistan has taken” and at the promi- nence that was being given to the Hurriet. The Prime Minister stood his ground in his reply on 20 June 2005.
Two years later on 13 March 2007 Advani renewed the charge. “General Musharraf’s four-point formula about J & K has introduced new and unacceptable dimensions to our already complex situation, the concept of joint supervisory mechanism, soft borders, demilitar- ization and self-governance are aimed at diluting India’s sovereignty over J & K. Why have we not rejected this outright? Observations attributed to you about making borders irrelevant have further contrib- uted to the prevailing confusion.”
He asked for clarification. The issues he raised are certain to be raised again if and when success greets these efforts which is why Man- mohan Singh’s reply of 14 March 2007 is reproduced in full: “I have carefully noted your views. It has been our effort to build a consensus on such issues of national interest and it was in that spirit that we had the occasion earlier of discussing our ties with important countries, in- cluding Pakistan. Several ideas having a bearing on improving relations between India and Pakistan are being discussed at various levels. In carrying on these discussions on different subjects, full regard is being given to our administrative and constitutional requirements and also to the overriding imperatives of national security. At the same time we do not believe in conducting diplomacy in public and have conveyed our positions on these questions through the appropriate channels.
“I have publicly stated a number of times that the dialogue with Pakistan cannot make meaningful progress unless Pakistan lives up in letter and spirit to the commitments it made in January 2004 on con- trolling terrorism. Subject to this, we are prepared to explore creative and cooperative solutions that can bring long lasting peace and amity between the two countries.”
In the Congress Party there has always existed a significant core which shared the BJP’s communal outlook, as Nehru’s Autobiography noted. The outlook prevailed in all these circles before the Jan Sangh was set up in 1951 and its heir the BJP in 1980. A wider core in the Congress has reservations on Manmohan Singh’s policies on the Kashmir question and on Pakistan. He has in his own quiet and firm way persisted in his policies within the Cabinet, the party and a large segment of the Establishment, the media included. He has, sad to add, received less acknowledgment of this courageous course than is his due from influential Pakistanis. In consequence they undermined the response that the task required.
On Pakistan’s side the new and democratic regime understandably looked askance at policies followed by the military dictator. Yet official pronouncements do offer hope that the baby of the achievement of a consensus will not be thrown out with the bath water of partisan policies.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told an Indian TV channel, on 10 May 2008, that the proposals discussed with India were “half-baked things that did not have the mandate of Parliament.” He added, how- ever, that there should be a rethinking on the Kashmir issue and his gov- ernment could “go beyond” the UN resolutions. “I think it (the Kashmir issue) needs to be debated; there should be a rethink about it and may be Parliament thinks the same.”
On the four-point proposals he said “actually, that was the Presi- dent’s idea. This is not the idea of the newly-elected government.” This was formally correct; it, however, overlooked the fact that when he spoke as he did, an Indo-Pak consensus was already in place. It bears no basic structural change. It can be enriched with new insights.
At a joint press conference with India’s Minister for External Affairs, Pranab Mukherjee, in Islamabad on 21 May 2008, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the new government was “open to innovative ideas that can facilitate movement” on resolving Kashmir while studiously refraining from commenting on the Four- Point proposals.
Qureshi repeated his hints on 11 July 2008 in a speech at the Brook- ings Institution in Washington, D.C. on 11 July. “We have to look at innovative ways of resolution (of Kashmir). We have our minds open on such issues.”
The four-points won endorsement from Syed Salahuddin, head of the United Jehad Council and of the Hizbul Mujahideen. He hailed them on 26 February 2007 as a possible first step which, indeed, they were. (Kashmir Uzma, a Srinagar Urdu daily of 27 February 2007 “pahlaqa- dam”).
Predictably Syed Ali Shah Geelani had no use for them. Among the separatist leaders Mir Waiz Maulvi Umar Farooq adopted the most constructive stand. He said on 20 March 2007: “The Hurriyat Confer- ence will soon strengthen its public contact programme to make people aware of the four-point formula of President Musharraf.” In an inter- view to Kavita Suri published in The Statesman on 10 October 2002, he said; “An autonomous region with the other side being a party to it could address the issue in such a way that India can sort of live with that; Pakistan can also live with that too, and Kashmiris can also get some- thing they have been aspiring for. So we should be ready to discuss all the options and, as I have said earlier, autonomous identity for Kashmir could be the solution.”
This is no different from the PDP’s demand for self-rule or the NC’s for greater autonomy. His colleague, Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat, said at a seminar in New Delhi on 7 November: “Pakistan wants all Kashmiris to put their heads together. This includes the PDP, the NC, the JKLF and even Geelani.” On the same day and at the same forum, Mehbooba Mufti said the differences with the separatists had blurred and a fair amount of consensus had emerged.
The Hurriet split in 2003. A promising platform to serve as a repre- sentative interlocutor was destroyed by ego clashes. India and Pakistan took turns to promote the destruction. It had a promising beginning.
The process leading to the formation of this body was initiated by the Mir Waiz. After his father Mir Waiz Maulana Farooq had been as- sassinated in May 1991, he showed considerable courage and maturity at a very young age. On 27 December 1992 he called a meeting of repre- sentatives of various parties at the historic Mujahid Manzil in Srinagar, which once housed Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference and later the Plebiscite Front headed by his trusted friend Mirza M. A. Beg. The meeting set up a Screening Committee. Its report was considered by a full Assembly of representatives of the constituents on 8 March 1993 which, in turn, adopted a Committee to draft the Constitution.
The draft Constitution was adopted by the Assembly on 31 July 1993. Initially representatives of 29 organisations signed the Constitu- tion of the All Parties Hurriet (Freedom) Conference in Srinagar. The Objectives Clause (Chapter II para 2) sufficed to expose the divisions. “The objects for which the All parties Hurriet (Freedom) Conference has been formed shall be as follows:
“(i) To make peaceful struggle to secure for the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir the exercise of the right of self-determination in accordance with the U.N. Charter and the resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council however the exercise of the right of self-deter- mination shall also include the right to independence. (ii) To make en- deavours for an alternative negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute amongst all the three parties to the dispute viz. (a) INDIA, (b) PAKI- STAN, (c) PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR, under the auspices of U.N. or any other friendly countries, provided that such settlement reflects the will and aspirations of the people of the State. (iii) To project ongoing struggle, in the State before the Nations and governments of the world in its proper perspective as being a strug- gle directed against the forcible and fraudulent occupation of the State by India and for the achievement of the right of the self-determination of its people. (iv) To make endeavours, in keeping with the Muslim ma- jority character of the State, for promoting the building up of a society based on Islamic values; while safeguarding the rights and interests of the non-Muslims. (v) To make endeavours for the achievement of any objectives which may be ancillary or incidental to the objectives speci- fied above.”
“EXPLANATION: For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that in this Article; negotiated settlement shall not be deemed to include any settlement within the framework of the Constitution of India.”
By emphasizing the “Muslim majority character of the State” the APHC proclaimed its irrelevance to Jammu and Ladakh. The Explanation reflected a vain hope that “the occupation of the State by India” could be ended by the APHC’s exertions. Time exposed a contradiction between sub-para (ii) and the Explanation. What if Pakistan itself agreed with India on a “non-territorial” solution and a significant number of Kashmiris accepted the four points?
The self-rule which those points envisage can only be conferred by India on West Kashmir and Pakistan on East Kashmir as part of an overall settlement which provides also for a joint mechanism for both sides. (Incidentally, is it not time we adopted this nomenclature rather than “Indian-occupied Kashmir” and “Pakistan occupied Kashmir”?).
The APHC showed initial promise thanks to a rapport between the two top seniors Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Abdul Ghani Lone. In 2000 seeds of distrust sown by New Delhi in Jail during their imprisonment sprouted. In 2003 the APHC split, Pakistan rushed to proclaim Geelani’s faction as “the real” APHC only to switch to the Mir Waiz when Geelani went on a limb of his own.
In all these years the APHC showed no ingenuity in formulating a plan of peaceful action. It became a party of strikes, hartals and bandhs inflicting grave hardship on the people. Its failure to respond to Sala- huddin’s announcement of cease-fire in 2000 reflected a lack of political sense and sense of realism. For all the noise it emitted, the APHC had nothing to show by way of results in the entire decade of its fitful existence. Amidst an obscene clash of egos, the leaders vied with one another desperately to secure recognition of their representative credentials from Islamabad, New Delhi and OIC.
Geelani was the only one to admit on 16 June 1998 with characteristic courage and honesty. “We are not in a position to stop the use or misuse of the gun. There is no rapport between the APHC and the gunmen.” The Hurriet was then a united body. Devoid of an electoral mandate or sanction of armed militancy the APHC’s leaders have only themselves, and such following as each can command, to offer as their credentials.
But negotiate they cannot without stripping themselves of the fig leaf of separatism which the APHC’s Constitution held out tantalizingly. They cannot publicly accept even the greatest autonomy within the Constitution of India. New Delhi will not concede secession and Islamabad has long ceased to demand that it do so. It wants only that the separatists and New Delhi kiss and make up thus enabling it to sell the four-point deal to the people of Pakistan.
It is not a bad deal for the people of Kashmir at all. The State of Jammu & Kashmir will be re-united de facto, though not de jure. Only those bereft of imagination will cavil at it. The possibilities which free movement across the LoC of persons, goods and ideas will throw up are incalculable. The expression “just lines on a map” is a metaphor. Translated into action what precisely will be the facilities which feuding India and Pakistan will afford to the hapless people of Kashmir?
Sadly in all the discourse Kashmiris have refused to offer any concrete suggestions to give meaning and efficacy to the four points. What will be the quantum of self-rule? What will be the guarantees against its violation, in the light of India’s systematic violation of Article 370 of the Constitution. A provision designed to guarantee J & K’s autonomy was perverted to destroy it since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. It was “eroded” he blithely remarked in 1963 and promised its further “erosion.”
The joint mechanism must have play at the joints; potentiality for growth. The one place where one would have expected creativity is Kashmir University. Its teachers of note fill newspaper columns with articles that proclaim abiding zeal for azadi but not a capacity for reflection and realism.
To this, it must be said there are three exceptions. One is the courageous stand of the Mir Waiz, noted earlier. The offer is the unionists’ able detailed exercises in fleshing out their rival concepts of autonomy and self-rule.
First came the Report of the State Autonomy Committee submit- ted to the State Government headed by Farooq Abdulah in April 1999. The printed text omits the reservation of Piyaray Lal Handoo ! “I en- dorse the recommendations” implying that he disagreed with the well documented survey of erosion of autonomy. It sought, basically, a re- turn to the autonomy that subsisted under the Delhi Agreement in July 1952 between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the State’s Premier Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. It focused exclusively on Union – Kashmir relations to the total exclusion of the external dimension – Pakistan. The Report was formally endorsed by the State’s Legislative Assembly on 26 June 2000. The NC was then a partner of the BJP in the coalition it led at the Centre. Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister’s son, was a Minister in the Government. The Union Cabinet brusquely rejected the resolution and the Report. The Cabinet’s decision was made public. The BJP has always demanded deletion of Article 370. If this be the BJP’s stand on autonomy, one can well imagine its stand on resolution of the dispute with Pakistan.
Perusal of a special compilation of “Assembly Debates on Autono- my Report” published by the Assembly’s Secretariat shows the surge of Kashmiris resentment even in members of the NC.
In 2002 the PDP formed a coalition with the Congress. Such is the compulsion of demography and politics that Jammu and the Congress will ensure coalition rule with the Congress (read: New Delhi) as the king maker. In 2009 Omar Abdullah formed a coalition with the Congress.
The PDP made a bold bid for popular mobilization on the twin planks of human rights and autonomy which included the external di- mension. It advocated strenuously a settlement with Pakistan. In 2002 it drew up an outline for self-rule. In October 2008 the PDP published “The Self-Rule Framework for Resolution.” It says: “The centerpiece of the governance structure under self-rule is the cross border institution of Regional Council of Greater Jammu and Kashmir. The Regional Council of Greater Jammu and Kashmir will replace the existing Upper House of state assembly, and will be a kind of a regional senate. Members of the Regional Council will be from J&K as well as from Pakistan administered Kashmir. At present the state assembly of J&K holds 20 seats for representatives from across the line of control. These will be given up and replaced by the same number of seats in the Regional Councils of Greater Jammu and Kashmir. This will serve as a major cross-border institution, which will ensure long-term coordination of matters and interest relating to the state.
A footnote on the dispute between India and Pakistan concludes: “The resolution of territorial disputes is obviously emotional and goes directly to each country’s definition of national interests. No nation wants to make territorial concessions, especially when it can have strategic implications. Nonetheless, the failure to resolve or at least bypass such territorial issues has prevented the two neighbours from normalizing relations and dealing with pressing social and economic issues. Thus it is important that any territorial differences be resolved or bypassed on a mutually acceptable basis in accordance with economic rationality and political sagacity.”
This is a clear hint of a “non-territorial” solution. The PDP’s self- rule formula fits the four points like a glove, envisaging as they also pledged the PDP to “Make ‘Self-Rule’ happen.”
The NC rejoined in the same month with its “Vision Document for Jammu & Kashmir.” Its accent was on good governance, not autonomy. It stood pat on its Autonomy Report.
Meanwhile Manmohan Singh was at work on two fronts. He met the APHC leaders on 5 September 2005 and 3 May 2006 and Yasin Malik on 11 February 2006. They had met earlier L. K. Advani on 22 January 2004 and 27 March 2004. The Prime Minister convened Round Table Conferences of the political parties, which all the separatists boycotted. They were held on 25 February 2006, 24 May 2006 and 24 April 2007. The RTCs set up five working groups, one on economic issues, another on good governance. The other Working Groups also submitted useful Reports; especially the ones by M. H. Ansari now Vice-President, on good governance and M. K. Rasgotra on relations across the LoC. Jus- tice Saghir Ahmad is yet to submit the Report of the Group on relations between Srinagar and New Delhi – the most important issue before the RTC.
In contrast there is no sign of ferment or movement in West Kash- mir. On the contrary as recently as June 2006 nomination papers of 33 candidates of the JKLF were rejected because they stood for azadi, not accession to Pakistan.
Results on the Indo-Pak front are depressing. There has been little movement since the Mumbai blasts of 26 November 2008. The summits at Yekaterinburg on 16 June 2009 and at Sharmel Sheikh on 16 July 2009 yielded little result.
In an article published in The New York Times on 10 December 2009 President Asif Ali Zardari urged the U.S. to mediate. This is unfortunate for three reasons – India will not accept mediation, it is unnecessary and will wreck progress. Kissinger once famously said do not ask an Ameri- can for advice because if you do, he will give it. Americans are raring to have a go at mediation on Kashmir and with hare-brained ideas, too.
Kashmir Study Group he set up was unwieldy and comprised some whose relationship with realities was tenuous. This writer has listened in embarrassment to more than one of its members as he patted himself resoundingly on his back while holding forth on the Group’s indispens- able contribution to the progress in talks on Kashmir with laboured far- fetched pointers of “affinities” between the four-point proposal and the Group’s Report. Like beauty, affinity lies in the eyes of the wide-eyed beholder.
The Kashmir Study Group’s exertions had not the slightest impact on Indo-Pak deliberations. The first set of proposals in 2000 were wildly unrealistic – J & K to be a “sovereign” entity, without an “intentional personality.” The KSG thus instantly counted itself out of reckoning. The second set (2005) – “five self-governing entities” was cumbrous. Neither the “American specialists” nor its NGOs nor the seminars have contributed. The proposals were unrealistic and Indians and Pakistanis spoke at the seminars like “patriots” as a Pakistani participant revealed. The writer’s impression was no different.
In extended talks with this writer on 1 August 2006 and later, on and off the record, President Pervez Musharraf did not even once make the slightest reference to the KSG’s venture though many a model was cited. Nor did he mention it when speaking pointedly of models in a TV interview on 12 May 2007.
On 28 October 2009 Manmohan Singh said: “We had the most fruitful and productive discussions ever with the Government of Pakistan during the period 2004-07 when militancy and violence began to decline. Intensive discussions were held on all issues including on a permanent resolution of the issue of Jammu & Kashmir.”
How close the two sides had come, he revealed on 2 May 2009 “General Musharraf and I had nearly reached an agreement, a non-territorial solution to all problems but the General got into many difficulties with the Chief Justice and other forces and the whole process came to a halt.” (italics added). separatists. On 14 October 2009 Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Jammu: “The Prime Minister has given me the task of finding a solution to the J&K problem… We cannot afford to pass on this issue to generations ahead.” He has rightly opted for “quiet diplomacy with all the political groups in Kashmir … We’ll build a consensus, which would then be made public.”
He outlined, on 30 October a business-like procedure. Talks will be held one-on-one or with two or three to “discover the contours of the proposals of each group.” He amplified: “Then we can perhaps put down on paper what is the outline of the package.” He would visit Srinagar once every six weeks to review the progress on the Prime Minister’s reconstruction package; presumably also on the progress in his inter- locutor’s soundings. No previous government had shown such serious- ness. Clearly Manmohan Singh means business and so does the Home Minister.
This process is not to the exclusion of Pakistan. It envisages a settle- ment with Pakistan of which “self-rule” is an integral component. Prog- ress has been held up by the Battle of Dossiers after 26 November 2008. One hopes the impasse is resolved soon. We have reached the very gates of a solution to the Kashmir dispute on our own by following a purely indigenous route. The next step towards it will mark the end of the pen- ultimate phase in this process.
Transition to the last phase is inevitable even if the skeletal frame- work is discarded or wrecked. For, the wreckers will have no viable alternative to put forth but “UN resolutions” or “Kashmir is an internal affair.” Matters will get worse in Kashmir. The new generation which grew up during the militancy will be more assertive, not more quiescent. The Four Point formula will be revived. The people have no respect for wreckers.
Any settlement must conform to three tests and abide by four lim- its. It must be acceptable to all the three parties – India, Pakistan and Kashmir, all of whom have limited choices. India cannot accept Kash-border. Kashmiris will not accept any solution which does not concede azadi or self-rule, realistic in the circumstances, and which does not reunite the State. The four points meet the tests and abide by the limits. There is no secession; the LoC does not become an international bound- ary and by the joint mechanism Pakistan acquires a say in East Kashmir as India does in West Kashmir. De facto, though not de jure, the LoC goes as a barrier and the State is reunited with both its parts guaranteed self-rule.
This is a “non-territorial” solution which skirts the deal-breaker of sovereignty. The UN Security Council last discussed Kashmir on 5 November 1965 in the aftermath of the 1965 war. In 1972 the parties pledged themselves at Simla to a bilateral approach. Whether it was based on an oral understanding to settle on the basis of the status quo may be contested. What is incontestable is that during a tour of West Kashmir on 7 November 1973 Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto offered the area choice between its present status and as a Province of Pakistan. The implications are obvious.
With this accord both parties would do well to withdraw from the UN Security Council their complaints and counter-complaints made 62 years ago. The UN Secretary General had erased it from the Council’s agenda not long ago but restored it.
The non-territorial accord will acquire life over time, improve the lot of the people and, one hopes, heal the wounds. The Memorandum of Agreement can provide for a Review of these “Arrangements,” say 15 or 20 years later with a view to their improvement. Time is a great healer and the time is come for India and Pakistan finally to give the Kashmiris the opportunity to lead their lives by their own lights.