Curtains had almost been drawn on ten year old UPA rule in New Delhi. Dr. Manmohan Singh had almost stuffed his suitcases at 7-Race Course and was readying to move out to his retirement retreat at 3-Motilal Nehru Road, that Kashmir University hosted an unusual guest from the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Satinder K Lambah, – man engaged on Track II with Pakistan. There was nothing unusual about an “outfit”, of the University with terrifyingly dubious track record since its inception organizing a “selected” gathering for the Prime Minister’s special envoy. But, what caused curiosity amongst political circles in Srinagar was timing of the visit and the content and the context of the visiting diplomat’s speech.
Kashmir related Track-2 diplomacy between New Delhi and Islamabad picked up during the NDA government, continued with all its peaks and valleys during two terms of the UPA government. Lamah was appointed by Manmohan Singh as special envoy for Track-2 dialogue with Pakistan. During his tenure, he never-ever had an interface with the people of Kashmir. It is for the first time that he made his nine point formula for resolution or dissolution of the Kashmir Dispute public. Ostensibly, he has been engaged with his Pakistan counterpart around these points only.
Much before analyzing the formula that Lambah articulated before the “selected” gathering, it is important to know if an internationally recognized dispute with United Nations Security Council having laid out a well defined formula for its resolution needs to be discussed on the Track-2, by the parties that are committed to uphold the pledges made before the comity of nations. Here arises a fundamental question. What is Track-II diplomacy and what circumstances necessitate this mode of diplomacy. Theorists and academicians have defined Track-2 diplomacy as “unofficial, informal, interaction between adversary groups or nations that aim to develop strategies to influence public opinion, organize human and material resources in ways that might help resolve the dispute”. The definitions given by theorists sound plausible but there are some inherent contradictions in this genus of diplomacy coined some thirty years back. The actors involved in Track-two have scant ‘ability to influence foreign policy’, power structure and public opinion. Apparently, they have a freehand but in fact their hands are tied down to the stated policies of their countries that denies them sustained leverage for arriving at agreements. Looking in this perspective at the decade old Track-2 diplomacy on Kashmir, it at best has been “a feel good exercise”.
If one takes the nine point formula claimed by Special Envoy to Prime Minister of India as “personal”, as the cumulative outcome of the Track-2 diplomacy, it can comfortably said, ten years have gone down the drain. For constraints of space, it may not be possible to reproduce all the points of his formula in this column but the very first point that talks about converting the LOC into a ‘border between two normal states’ is a blatant denial to the history and legality of the dispute. Most of the points in the formula are nothing but replications or amplification of the much touted four point formula of General Musharraf. When this formula was first time announced, in this column I had written it offered no solution for the Kashmir dispute instead as a Pakistani commentator Asif Ezdi wrote sometime back Musharraf ‘sowed seeds of confusion by announcing dropping of UN resolution on Kashmir out of blue without popular mandate and initiating backchannel dialogue on his half-backed and ill-conceived formula.” The fact remains, not raising strong voices of dissent against any such formula eroding the very edifice of the people’s fundamental right or by not calling a spade a spade we have been adding confusion to the Kashmir problem. Had strong dissent been expressed against 4pt formula perhaps Asif Zardari would not have continued the Track-2 diplomacy on same lines with Ambassdor Riaz Mohammad Khan as his interlocutor.
When Joseph V Montville coined the phrase he had not seen it as an alternative to Tack-I diplomacy but it “grew out of the observation that private individuals, meeting unofficially, can find their way to common ground that officials negotiators can’t.” My belief is that Track-II diplomacy works in immediate conflict situation that cause diplomatic breakdown and standoffs- situation like that of 2008 when terrorists had attacked two Mumbai hotels and not in dispute that have been part of Tack-I diplomacy. By all definitions, Kashmir falls under the category Track-I diplomacy or official diplomacy. It needs to engage “track one players” that include heads of the States of the two countries, United Nations or any other organization. A scholar in Cartier Foundation has drawn long list of Track-I actors that could be engaged in resolving disputes like that of Jammu and Kashmir. The time, date and venue chosen by Prime Minister’s Special envoy Lambah for making his ideas known about the resolution of Kashmir has raised a fundamental question what promoted him to talk about it when new government is about to take over. A leading New Delhi newspaper saw the move “to set out the backdrop for Modi Government if they decide to pick up the baton on Kashmir negotiation”. It can be said that Mr. Lambah left a handover charge note, in case the new government appoints another special envoy for Pakistan. But, it would be too early to say about the new government in New Delhi, whether it engages itself with Islamabad on Kashmir on Track-one or Track-2 or not at all. Notwithstanding, Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif immediately after victory of BJP inviting Narendra Modi to Pakistan, according to leading Pakistan newspaper (Tribune) there are apprehensions in Pakistan that Modi may “not augur well for regions stability” and there are also “fears that he may team-up against Pakistan with Dr. Abdullah who is all set to become Afghanistan.”
In this bizarre scenario one can only “wait and watch.”