December 5, 2014
While addressing the delegates of 18th Summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) the Prime Minister of Pakistan gave out his vision for the South Asian region which is fight free and in which “member states instead of fighting each other fight against poverty, illiteracy, disease, malnourishment and unemployment jointly.” He also said, “We should build on convergences, minimize divergences and most of all seek to augment complementarities for the greater good of the people of the region.” These are noble words but reality is that two major members of SAARC–India and Pakistan-have serious bilateral perceptions and issues that cloud this lofty vision. Kashmir is one such issue which haunts both India and Pakistan since their independence. Pakistan and India have fought three wars with each other, were embroiled in hot conflict on Kargil and still hurl bullets and shells on each other across the Line of Control (LOC) and the working boundary killing innocent people including women and children. As long as this flash point remains, the vision of “not fighting each other” in the context of SAARC objectives is unachievable. This problem for the last 67 years has compelled both states to divert resources for investment in defense purchases which could have been utilized for those objectives which the Prime Minister of Pakistan indicated in his address.
There is no need to narrate the history of Kashmir issue, it is well documented. To high light that it is a flash point that can escalate into a major armed conflict between India and Pakistan. Both countries have fought over it three times with a minor adventure that had potential of a nuclear match. In 1947-48 the hostilities were terminated by a UNO brokered ceasefire, and establishment of a UN supervised Cease Fire Line (CFL). UNSC through a resolution also called for a plebiscite which never materialized. India and Pakistan went to war again in 1965 which ended with the Tashkent Agreement and restoration of UN determined CFL. After 1971 war the Simla agreement took this problem out of UN supervision and made it a bilateral issue to be solved with mutual deliberations. The CFL was renamed LOC which in fact accepted the defacto controls by Pakistan and India over areas controlled by them. After Simla Agreement the issue became an On-again/ Off-again affair till Kargil happened. The fight between both countries became intense with nuclear saber rattling that brought the world attention to the issue. The war fever subsided with hectic diplomatic efforts by The United States and China. With Current cross LOC gun rattling the issue can trigger another armed conflict.
The irony is that Indo-Pak dispute arise from the claim on territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir as to who should possess the land mass. The aspirations, hopes and dreams of the people of former state are incidental to the authorities who control them. Their demands and protests in the Indian side of the land are met with overwhelming force and suppression with a force of more than three military corps and para-military forces. The cost in human misery, deaths and disappearances is colossal. The world that talks about Human rights so whmently has to take notice of the situation and try to bring both countries to the negotiating table to solve this problem. Though political voices in Pakistan still talk about solution as envisaged in UNSC Resolutions, geopolitical ground realities in this region have changed; a fresh and pragmatic approach is needed for speedy and amicable resolve of this issue to keep this region safe from any future military clash.
Current GeoPolitical Environments
Geo-political location of Pakistan is such that strategic interests of a global power and two regional powers are focused on this area. The USA is militarily involved in Afghanistan and is likely to stay there indefinetly exerting its influence in the region for times to come. China, with huge military and economic potential is fast emerging as a global power and has its own objectives. India is an established regional military and economic power too has its own agenda that impacts on Pakistan. All of these are nuc;lear states whose interests and objectives meet in this region and Pakistan lies in the center. Whatever these powers do or fail to do impacts pakistan in all political and economic spheres.
The United States is engaged in an anti-terror war in Afghanistan as spreading militancy and terrorism which in its perception is centered in and around Afghanistan including Pakistan’s western tribal region. Its presence here aims to, first, free Afghaistan from militancy and establish peaceful friendly political system that will help and facilitate sustained transit of Central Asian gas and oil supplies to Gulf ports for onward transportation. Second, a strong military presence here will assure an overwatch on China that is flexing its political and economic musscle projecing a regional and global reach. Third, its presence here provides diplomatic, political and material support to india to develop into a regional power that can be propped up as counter to rising China. Though The USA has tilted strongly in Indian favors it knows that India may not bow to all its demands in the region. For that reason the USA will not like Pakistan to be reduced to that level where it cannot be called upon to assist the USA in circumstances that will need an “Ally” in the region.
China is not a regional power any more. Its military and economic potential is huge and it is moving beyond the region. It now has ecionomic interests and investment in Middle East, Africa, Europe and Americas. To sustain this world wide economic activity it needs huge energy resources at home from the Middle East and Central Asia and rouets for the transportation. For outward move of its fished goods, technical services and personnel it needs outward routes. Routes through Pakistan are cheaper and lucrative. Its asistance in building Gawader port and promise to build road-rail links is indicative of its interest. China has become a potent rival to India and the USA in this region. Despite this clash of interests China will neithr embark on military adventure nor encourage one in the region, not yet.
India is fast developing into a regional military and economic poer house. Its has a dream of becoming a regional and ultimately global power. The Indian politcal visoinary Sardar K.M. Paniker had visualized an India exerting its political and economic influence over the littoral states of Indian Ocean in his book “India and Indian Ocean.” India has that dream; whenever it comes aqbout an India exerting political and economic influence from Malaysia in the East to Middle East and along the Easter Coast of Africal will come in direct conflict with the USA and China. Presently the USA sees in India an expanding regional power that can act as a counter to rising Chinese influence. Indian and the US interest tend to meet at this point and India fully realizes this. India with the US assitance sees itself acquirng the means to realise the aim projected by Paniker’s thinking. In US estimates India need unhindered progress to develop into a strong military and economic counter to China. It will try its best to keep india out a premature military conflict that has a danger in developing into a nuclear clash. India on its part, depite a threatening posture towards Pakistan, will also avoid an adventure which may turn into a nuclear MAD scenario….mutually assured destruction; that will retard Indian progress drastically. The USA will go to all limits to avoid such a conflict. Given Indian strong nationalistic and independent diplomacy the USA will need Pakistan to fall back upon should relations with India deteriorate due to clash of interests.
Pakistan despite a strong military and nuclear capacity is economically weak. It is caught in the middle of a “great game” being played between a global power and two regional powers. Its interests meet and clash with all actors. China has stood with Pakistan through all its relationship. A stable and peacful Pakistan is in Chinese interests so that it can develop safe and operatable trade routes. The USA also sees Pakistan in that perspective. The US diplomatic efforts to difuse a possible Indo-Pak military conflict in the aftermath of Kargil and Mumbai attacks is an indication of this perspective. At this point in time Pakistan needs long peaceful interlude to channel its resources to economic and human development for benefit of its coming generation. These are powerful motives that can be used to convince all three actors to help resolve the main Indo-Pak flash point. It needs pragmatic assessment of ground realities and vigorous joint diplomatic and political effotrs from all to solve Kashmir Dispute.
Kasmir Issue – Options
Though the Simla Agreemet moved the Kashmir dispute out of international forum and turned it into a bilateral issue opinion in Pakistan revolves around a solution under UNSC resolutions. Results might have been acceptible if that were to happen soon after their passage; now thses resolutions do not hold any promise. The options open now can be listed as under with related implications affecting Indo-Pakistan relations.
The Satus Quo. Let the present day conditions prevail. The LOC stays intact and forces keep occupying position facing each other. Both countries may continue the present day cross border movement of Kashmiris on humanitarian grounds and limited trade that is permitted through the LOC. Kashmir will remain a time bomb that may explode any day triggering the threat of a nuclear war. India and Pakistan will remain adversaries and under a right-leaning Hindu government India can disturb the regional calculations. The Kashmiris will remain under suppressive rule aggravating the human rights in Kashmir.
Divide Kashmir along the existing LOC with minor adjustment to facilitate administrative management. There are strong indications that a behind the scene effort in this direction took off after Mr. Bajpai’s visit to Lahore. This track two effort continued despite Kargil conflict. The oppening of Movements through LOC are cited as evidence of these negotiations. An American author in his latest book claims that an agreement was almost ready but all efforts lapsed due to ouster of President General Musharraf. Officially nothing has been revealed. This solution may reduce tensions in the region but seriously affects the aspirations of Kashmiris who will suffer a serious political loss. There are strong factions who may go against it and another insurgency may take off with serious consequences for Kashmiris.
Referendum. Above options exclude the opinions of Kashmiris altogether. Whatever the options any solutions that ignores public opinion and choice will always be disputed. To ensure public participation India and Pakistan should agree to hold a referendum under the UNO in all parts of Kashmir to ascertain which way the population wants to go. The UNO, the USA, China and Russia-all permanent members of UNSC- should provide guarantees that referendum result will be implemented. As the situation stands today this might result in division of Kashmir on the lines it is occupied today as opinion will be sharply influenced by fear of forces deployed in the area. Scotland provides a good example of this exercise but are India and Pakistan politically and emotionally as mature as England is?
Participative Option. This suggested option for solution is spread over five to six years. It meets most of the provisions that were included in UNSC Resolutions and involves fully the population of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It envisages following steps over a projected five year period with full involvement of UNO.
· All occupying forces deployed in the State of Jammu and Kashmir should be withdrawn under the UN supervision. Simultaneously a UN Peace Keeping Force of appropriate strength is deployed in Kashmir to ward off any interference in the State.
· An interim administrative set-up is established under UN Control to look after day to day administration. This set up should enjoy all government functions.
· All kashmiris who migrated from the State under duress should be called upon to return to their native places. Those who decline should be stripped of State Nationality. This step is necessary to correct demographic balance. This step can be shelved with mutual consent.
· China, The USA, Russian Federation and the EU should provide moral support and political clout to thr UNO and State Interim Set-Up so that India and Pakistan do not interfere in the State.
· When UNO is satisfied that Demographic balance has been achieved, a non partisen forum should be ellected through direct adult balloting. This forum should consider and vote on the future path to be taken by the State—join India , Pakistan or stay as an Indipendent Sovereign State.
· Based on the decision UNO and World Community should help the State to implement it through out the state territory.
· The Political path taken by the people of the state should be recognised and accepted universally.
Kashmir is a burning issue that besides the political dimensions has immense human concerns. For the last 67 years it needs world attention which unfortunately has been missing. An entire population has been denied political and human rights, its hopes, aspirations, dignity and respect. Both India and pakistan have ignored the human aspects of the conflict and claim sovereignty over the territory. The Geo-political events taking place in the region, major powers’ economic and political interests demand that this region should remain conflict free and peaceful. That can only happen if this flash point in the region is eliminated; a nuclear conflict in the region will plung this region in total destruction severly jeopardizing strategic and economic interests of all actors engaged in this region.
Pakistan needs to cash on the major power interests in the region to impress upon them to take this issue seriously and take it to a logical conclusion. Any Decision that reflects the majotities will should be implemented.