Kashmir: Restoring the Vision
There is something very high schoolish and unsophisticated about the barbs and threats being traded between Pakistan and India, where fully grown men given the responsibility to manage nations shout at one another like two boys in a park squabbling over some Barbie Doll standing on the sidelines, who invariably has a look of disgust on her face. Think Kashmir. Yes, there have been two wars between the two over Kashmir, but too much is at stake. The statesmanship dictates that neither of these two countries should go to war, not nuclear war, because that might prove devastating to both countries. But they’ve got to beat their chests , behaving as though they’ve got something to prove.
Meanwhile, the cost of doing nothing about what stands between them continues to rise, and it isn’t pocket change. Someone pays for all this. The crossfire disputes at the Ceasefire Line are paid for in lives and infrastructure of the people of Kashmir caught in the middle who live along the disputed border.
It’s interesting that former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri has written a book due to be released soon called Neither Hawk, nor Dove in which he states that he was party to back channel discussions between India and Pakistan that took place during his term in office between 2002 and 2007 in which the two countries came very close to agreement on resolving the crisis over Kashmir.
As we know it now, the plan proposed by President Musharraf was as follows: i). Identifying the geographical regions of Kashmir; ii). Demilitarizing the whole of Jammu & Kashmir; iii). Introducing self-governance; and iv). Joint management mechanism consisting of Indians, Pakistanis and Kashmiris.
So what has happened since? Why did this agreement fall apart? President Musharraf who wanted to sell it to the people of Kashmir failed to do that. He said later in an interview that Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Geelani did not endorse his four-point formula. In other words, the history makes it clear that if an agreement is reached between India and Pakistan without the participation of the Kashmiri leadership, it is bound to fail. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to Musharraf’s 4-point formula.
Given the current state of crises-based relations between India & Pakistan, it’s very difficult if not impossible to initiate diplomatic efforts to diffuse tensions without addressing the Kashmir dispute. There was a glimmer of hope when a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Modi took place during the latter’s inauguration in New Delhi. But rational diplomacy has been a major casualty of events since. Violations of the Ceasefire Line have occurred almost unabated during this past summer, and the Modi plan now is clearly one of unilaterally making efforts through elections in Kashmir to enable the BJP to seize control of the Assembly, abrogate Article 370 which gives semi-autonomous status to Kashmir, and fully integrate Kashmir into India.
Still, the friction between Pakistan and India remains volatile. On August 18, 2014, New Delhi canceled the foreign secretaries’ scheduled meeting on the pretext that Pakistani High Commissioner met with the leadership of All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC), although, this has been the routine consultation between APHC and Pakistani High Commissioner since 1990.
It is interesting to note that such meetings happened during the administration of another BJP leader, Atel Behari Vajpayee – the mentor of Prime Minister Modi – as well as Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Indian National Congress.
Following this cancellation, the violence on the border immediately escalated, and according to a Reuters report, the new Indian NSA and counterinsurgency strongman Ajit Doval authorized Indian BSF and ground commanders in Jammu ‘no-holds-barred’ retaliatory powers — quite a departure from previous government policy. This came in the context of a refusal by India to allow UN relief agencies to aid in rescue efforts of flood victims.
“The enemy (Pakistan) has realized,” Prime Minister Modi said on October 9, 2014 , “that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated.”
Modi’s rhetoric set off alarm bells across the border. In response, General Raheel Sharief, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff declared, “Let there be no doubt that any aggression against our beloved country will get a befitting response.”
“Lasting peace in the region ,” he said, “will only come about with a fair and just resolution of Kashmir issue in accordance with the will of Kashmiri people, as enshrined in the UN resolution.”
Further, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised the issue of Kashmir at the United Nations and said “We cannot draw a veil on the issue of Kashmir, until it is addressed in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has had a presence in Srinagar and Rawalpindi since 1948 to monitor ceasefire violations.
In July 2014, however, India asked the UN Military Observer Group to vacate the government bungalow that has been provided for them for the past 40 years, asserting as it has for some time that the UN organization has “outlived its relevance” and made obsolete by the Simla Agreement of 1972, an agreement between India and Pakistan to resolve the issue of Kashmir bilaterally. Pakistan has frequently called on the UN to intervene whenever Ceasefire violations have occurred, but India has lodged no complaints to the UN since that agreement was made. In addition, they have restricted the activities of UN observers on the Indian side, making it difficult for the true facts to be known about these violations. It’s been made quite clear in debates on the issue and addressed very clearly in the UN Security Council resolution, however, that bilateral agreements like Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan cannot supersede the resolution which mandated the observer mission.
More pertinent to the issue is that the Kashmiris themselves were not consulted. In respect to India’s actions regarding UNMOGIP, the spokesman of the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani. stated that “Kashmiri people are not the party to the Simla Agreement, therefore they are neither bound by such agreements, nor has this agreement impacted the international status of Kashmir dispute. The UN passed 18 resolutions regarding Kashmir and both India and Pakistan are signatory to these resolutions. The order of the government to vacate the office premises of UNMOGIP is equal to running away from the reality,” he said.
The United States has expressed concern over the hostilities between India and Pakistan and has recommended that both countries resolve all issues including the issue of Kashmir through bilateral talks. We all know that bilateralism between these neighboring countries has failed. When bilateral dialogue and the peace process fails, it automatically gives birth to trilateralism. Trilateralism is not an insult but a vital part of international diplomacy. So the world powers including the United States should persuade both India and Pakistan to initiate dialogue with the Kashmiri leadership to set a stage for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
As Husain Haqqani stated in his book Magnificent Delusions, (2013), “Obama wrote that the United States would tell countries of the region that ‘the old ways of doing business are no longer acceptable’. He acknowledged that some countries – a reference to India – had used ‘unresolved disputes to leave open bilateral wounds for years or decades. They must find ways to come together.'”
Perhaps now is the time for President Obama to act on his vision. The United States should realize that the time to merely try to defuse the tension between India and Pakistan is over. Now is the time to address the root cause of the tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad — the unresolved dispute over Kashmir. The vision of President Obama that was offered by him on September 25, 2008, to “continue support of ongoing Indian Pakistani efforts to resolve Kashmir problem in order to address the political roots of the arms race between India and Pakistan,” could still come to pass, if the President gets involved. Both sides need to put away their bullish talk and take into consideration the views of Kashmiris themselves by including them in the peace process.
The way to resolve the issues clearly is through dialogue and not war.