MFN status to India conditional to resolution of Kashmir dispute

By Asif  Haroon Raja

In India the religious right led by BJP had emerged on Indian political scene in mid 1980s with a bang. The BJP became the mother hen and political face of dozens of Hindu extremist parties and groups like RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena, all espousing Hindutva. These extremist forces kept provoking Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao regimes to use full force to crush the movement in Kashmir at all cost. RSS organised death squads to kill Kashmiri leaders and sympathisers of freedom fighters. Hindu Pundits living peacefully and co-existing with Muslims in the Valley since ages were terrorised and forced to abandon their homes and property and shift to Hindu dominated Jammu or India. Idea was to project Muslim Kashmiris in poor light. Massacre of Sikhs in Chattisinghpura village in March 2000 was stage managed by RAW to portray Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists and to malign Pakistan that it was supporting terrorism. Since the western world was not directly affected by terrorism, hence it only sympathized with India and cautioned Pakistan. Latter was also put on UN’s terrorist watch list in mid-1990s. 9/11 terrorist attacks changed the complexion of world dynamics. Terrorism became the chief threat to world peace and security. The US led the crusade against terrorism confined to Muslim world only. New rules were framed and new doctrines of pre-emption and shock and awe were conceptualized to fight the global war on terror. All freedom movements within Muslim world became terrorist movements and any country providing assistance or sheltering terrorists qualified to become a terrorist state. New rules suited Israel and India the most since both Palestinian fighters seeking independence of Palestine and Kashmiris in quest for right of self-determination were branded as terrorists. Mossad and RAW joined hands with CIA and decided to launch covert war against Pakistan to In order to exert pressure on Pakistan, which had been coerced by George Bush to betray the Taliban and to become the frontline state, India engineered terrorist attack on Kashmir State Assembly building in Srinagar on 01 October 2001 and another one on India’s Parliament building in New Delhi on 13 December 2001. Pakistan was blamed for both the incidents without even carrying out preliminary investigations or collecting a shred of evidence. After carrying out media hype, India mobilized and deployed hundreds of thousands of troops along its western border as well as Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. After ten-month standoff, near-war situation was defused by USA and India withdrew its troops. With the help of USA, India exerted so much of military and political pressure on Pakistan that Gen Musharraf was compelled to lift his hand of affection placed over hapless Kashmiris seeking justice for the last six decades. He gave his written commitment to Washington that he will not allow Pakistan soil to be used by any group for terrorism across the border and that he would proceed against Jihadi groups operating in Kashmir with an iron hand. By saying so he committed that Pakistan had been involved in cross border terrorism. In consultation with India, guns deployed on both sides of LoC were silenced and India was allowed to fence the LoC unhindered. Musharraf banned six Jihad outfits and froze their funds and took active measures to curb movement across the LoC. These confidence building measures prompted India to sign a peace treaty with Pakistan and to resume composite dialogue on all issues including Kashmir. The Kashmiris were thus left at their own to face the wrath of over 700,000 Indian security forces. From mid 2004 onwards, a sudden drop came in cross-LoC movement because of stringent measures taken by Pak Army deployed in Azad Kashmir, disbandment of six Jihadi groups supporting Kashmir liberation struggle and fencing of LoC by India. Whatever heat left in the movement was snuffed by All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who opted for peace talks with India. The lone eighty-year old hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani was isolated. He has grown too old and frail to be able to lead a separatist movement, but is still continuing with his efforts. Kashmir cause was given a mortal blow when Musharraf came out with ‘four-point plan’ for settling Kashmir dispute and sidelined UN resolutions. This was exactly what India had wished for since it had no answer to UN resolutions that were passed at the behest of India. Period of 2006-08 witnessed relative calm in IHK since Kashmiris under the influence of moderate Kashmiri leaders and lured by the prospects of negotiated settlement of Kashmir dispute remained in two minds and preferred to wait for the outcome. India on its part gained time by playing the theme of confidence building measures as prerequisites for solution of core issues. Much desired calm which 700,000 occupation forces had not been able to achieve was cashed in by India by holding state elections in December 2008. Turnout of voters was relatively better in contrast to earlier turnouts. It led to pro-India J&K National Conference led by Omar Abdullah forming the government. Over 50% attendance on polling day gave heart to India to triumphantly claim that situation in occupied Kashmir had been stabilized and foreign supported insurgency crushed. Indian leaders claimed that it was a popular approval of Kashmir’s integration with India. There on, they not only began to drag their feet but also started stating that there was little need for tripartite conference on Kashmir as desired by Pakistan and Kashmiri leaders. Perceiving that they had snatched Kashmir card and Pakistan was deeply embroiled in war on terror, their attitude stiffened. Moreover, Musharraf regime in principle had agreed to accept LoC as permanent border and to term it as soft border to allow two-way trade and movement between two Kashmirs. But for lawyer’s movement in 2007 which weakened the authority and credibility of Musharraf, the two sides would have inked an agreement to maintain status quo by end 2008. Musharraf’s departure in August 2008 was a big loss for India. In order to step out of composite dialogue, which had made good progress on all issues, India manufactured Mumbai attacks on 26 November 2008. After putting the entire blame at the doorsteps of Pakistan, India called off composite dialogue in a huff. Throughout 2009 and half of 2010, Indian leaders remained in a haughty and uncompromising posture and rejected each and every effort of Pakistan to resume talks. Indian strike formations also were deployed offensively and both civilian and military leaders kept hurling series of threatening statements to keep the temperature boiling. Idea of playing terrorism card was to force Pakistan to play on the back foot and forget about Kashmir. In contrast to Pakistan’s stance that normalization of bilateral relations is not possible without a resolution of the core issue of Kashmir, India now maintains that Indo-Pak relations can best be normalized by promoting closer economic and cultural ties. Behind the screen of enhancing trade, India wants to push forward Musharraf’s four-point scheme, which amounts to putting Kashmir issue in cold freezer. Under Washington’s pressure, Pakistan in principle has agreed to grant MFN status to India by the end of this year. MFN status will enable India to tilt trade balance completely in its favor since even now when Pakistan enjoys MFN status since 1996, its exports to India are worth $200-$350 only and that of India without MFN status are $2.3 billion. Once India is bestowed the MFN status, it would not only flood our markets with Indian goods but would also facilitate India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asian markets through Pakistan, thus fulfilling its dream of monopolizing the economics of South Asia and Central Asia. Grant of MFN status to India should be made conditional to resolution of Kashmir dispute. The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email:

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