By Kuldip Nayar
10 November, 2004
we like it or not, President General Pervez Musharraf has been able
to retrieve the Kashmir problem from the backburner. Our satisfaction
is that the military establishment he heads has realised that no solution
is possible through hostilities. This is a substantial gain because
from the days of the Tashkent Agreement in 1966 New Delhi's endeavour
has been to convince Islamabad to renounce the use of arms to end all
disputes between the two countries.
Now when the talks
look like throwing up a solution, we should not be seen flinching. The
international community is watching the progress on Kashmir anxiously.
We should not be found wanting. Moreover, this is an opportunity the
two countries cannot afford to miss.
has set the ball rolling. He first told two Indian journalists that
the solution of Kashmir lay in identifying the area, demilitarising
it and giving it a status. Subsequently, he gave shape to his proposal
by specifying seven areas: the plains, including Jammu, the foothills
up to 7,000 feet, Pir Panjal, the valley, the Great Himalayan zone,
the upper Indus valley and the Northern Areas, the Karakoram, parts
of which are with China.
For the first time,
a Pakistan ruler has proposed independence for Kashmir, besides joint
control or UN mandate. General Musharraf must have done the rethinking
after talking to the Indian journalists, including myself. At that time,
when he said that the Kashmiris wanted independence, he meant that they
would "step back" once concrete proposals were on the table.
This might still happen. But independence is an option as of now.
New Delhi has not
yet reacted to General Musharraf's proposals in any significant manner.
In the past, there have been remarks like "the sky is the limit."
Still India has been fiercely supporting and sustaining the status quo
- the four corners of our policy on Kashmir.
The Home Ministry
has a department on Kashmir which does not believe in having any input
from outside. Politicians in power and bureaucrats in the department
work out a strategy, not policy, as and when the situation demands.
A few former bureaucrats are thrown in as interlocutors every now and
then to know the minds of the leaders in the valley. The department
often gets it wrong.
What General Musharraf
has proposed is a re-division of Jammu and Kashmir. This is something
to which none in the government - the Opposition or even the experts
- has applied his mind, at least not methodically or seriously. Even
if they had, I do not think any government in New Delhi can sell to
the country a proposal which suggests a division on the basis of religion
and throws out the status quo completely. True, a sterile policy is
worth jettisoning, but when the price demanded is a seven-tier state,
the suspicion heightens.
I believe that Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh proposed to discuss certain options when he
met General Musharraf in New York, putting two riders: one, no territorial
adjustment, and two, no division on the basis of religion. General Musharraf's
proposals eschew the word "religion", but the geographical
changes he suggests are primarily on that basis.
An unsteady secular
polity like ours cannot accept this. Any division or even a hint of
it may revive the horrors of Partition. The defeated BJP is only looking
for a semblance of a chance to revive Hindutva which, at present, does
not arouse any response.
Still General Musharraf's
seven-region proposal should not be rejected outright. It can be made
the basis for riveting a setup which may ultimately overcome the objections
voiced by India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. Why not merge the seven
regions into two units so that they are viable and, at the same time,
can pass the muster to be acceptable to the majority?
I have a proposal.
Having been associated with leaders and people in the state for more
than four decades, I consider myself competent as well as involved enough
to suggest a wayout. Once youthful Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik advised
me not to make any proposal on Kashmir so that I might one day help
the process of negotiations. My profession of writing demanded me to
react to the situation prevailing at a particular time. If that rules
me out, I cannot help.
The crux of the
problem is the valley. The Indian Parliament has also asked the government
to take up "the other Kashmir under Pakistan's occupation."
So there are two units: Kashmir and "Azad Kashmir". They have
established their identity in the last 55 years - the first is Kashmiri-speaking
and the second Punjabi-speaking.
My suggestion is
that both Kashmirs should be given autonomy. The governments in these
two regions should enjoy all subjects except defence, foreign affairs
and communications. The three subjects were the ones which the Maharaja
of Jammu and Kashmir gave to New Delhi when he
signed the Instrument of Accession to integrate his state with India.
"Azad Kashmir" is directly under Islamabad and enjoys only
the crumbs of power thrown at it. My proposal gives it full autonomy
like the one in Kashmir on the Indian side.
The border between
the two Kashmirs should be made soft so that the citizens of the two
sides travel freely, without any passport or papers, in both parts.
(I hope terrorism will be over by that time). The status for these areas
is that of an autonomous unit. The three subjects - foreign affairs,
defence and communications - will vest in the government in New Delhi
as far as Kashmir is concerned and Islamabad regarding "Azad Kashmir."
Both Kashmirs should
be demilitarised, India withdrawing its forces from the valley and stationing
them at the valley's border. Pakistan will do a similar thing regarding
"Azad Kashmir". The UN and major powers should be individually
or collectively involved to guarantee the demilitarisation of the areas
if and when a final settlement is reached.
The settlement should
be final. There will be no reopening. Both countries should withdraw
their complaint from the UN and other international bodies. All the
72 confidence-building measures - India has increased the number from
eight to 72 - should be implemented straightaway so that
people-to-people contact increases and trade gets going.
I know General Musharraf
is allergic to the line of control (LoC). But there has to be some line
drawn to demarcate the border. The LoC can be straightened as Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi had suggested to the then Pakistan Prime Minister,
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at Shimla. Islamabad knows it well that the international
community is in favour of the LoC becoming a permanent border, with
Since the communications
is one of the subjects entrusted to the Central government on either
side, the autonomous areas will not feel that they are landlocked. Facilities
available in both India and Pakistan will be at the disposal of the
two Kashmirs. With soft borders, they can trade between themselves,
have a common currency if they so desire and receive tourists freely
from all over the world. Both Kashmirs can transfer more subjects to
Central governments, "Azad Kashmir" to Islamabad and the valley
to New Delhi. It is up to their state assemblies to do so once the settlement
is signed, sealed and delivered and fresh elections held.