Kashmir: Ripe For Resolution

 The King is dead. Long live the King. A phrase that found its place in political lexicon some six hundred years back. This proclamation was  first made upon the coronation of Charles VII following death of the death of his father Charles VI in 1422.  Monarchy in most parts of the world has died but the phrase lives in the dictionary with all its connotations. This phrase came instantly to my mind past week on reading two statements in the newspapers, one by a political leader and another by an army general:

On April 23, after attending a closed door discussion between India and Pakistan intelligentsia at a conference organized by two media giant of the sub-continent The Times of India group and the Jang group in Lahore the former Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri  in a televised Panel discussion stated  that Pakistan and India had been “hair’s breadth” away from a settlement of Kashmir. The two sides he said ‘had agreed upon a point between complete independence and autonomy and all was left to sign on the dotted line. All that remained to be done was formal signature of all the three parties to the issue – Pakistan, India and representative of Kashmir. The entire paper-work had been done. The copies of related documents are safe with some friendly countries as well. The demilitarization of entire state of Jammu and Kashmir including Azad Kashmir had been agreed upon.”

On May 5, talking to a news agency in New Delhi a former Pakistani army chief Jehangir Karamat that a ‘considerable progress had been made between 2004 and 2007 and the two countries had reached to close to demilitarization of Kashmir.’ The statement made by a former minister and a general very candidly suggest that the four point formula of former Pakistan President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf was about to be translated into reality. No important leader of reckoning in India has so far publicly corroborated the claims by them. The only statement in this regard was made in 2007 by Mr. Naraynan former Advisor to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. He had very vaguely suggested some forward movement on Kashmir.

General Pervez Musharraf is living in self-exile for two years. And the people in Pakistan have from rooftops proclaimed the King is dead. Long live the King. But for the past one month his ghost more particularly with regard to Kashmir is again hovering over the political firmament of the sub-continent. I am not here to dispute the veracity of the statement made by former Pakistan foreign minister or to deliberate upon his statement about stubbornness of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. There has been a lot of debate in media on the statement made by Mr. Kasuri  with regard to octogenarian leader that he was the “only Kashmiri leader to refuse the deal  who would accept nothing but merger with Pakistan, which ironically is something we too wanted but knew wasn’t practical. I once had a seven-to-eight hour meeting with him and even Musharraf met him but he refused to budge.’’ I am not here to debate whether Pakistani leader by stating that merger of Kashmir with Pakistan was impractical was negating the very philosophy that had caused the birth of Pakistan nor I am going to debate that if it eroded the concept of   very name given by Choudhary Rahmat Ali in 1932 to the country that came into existence in 1947. That might be an engagement of Pakistani analysts and political scientist but what caught my attention and made me to relook at the much debated four point formula was a line in the statement made by the former Pakistan Foreign Minister. Let me reiterate the line quoted above:

“The entire paper-work has been done. The copies of related documents are safe with some friendly countries as well.”

The statement when read in perspective of the statement made by Pakistan Foreign Office about a month back that said there were no documents available in their office regarding    progress having been made on the resolution of Kashmir and demilitarization has two dimensions, one, it says that the Pakistan Foreign Office was not directly involved in the Track Two deliberation but was being handled directly by the President’s Office and Pakistan Foreign Minister and second  the whole process was being arbitrated and supervised  by a third country  that has taken over custody of the paperwork   mentioned by Mr. Kasuri.  On the basis of statements made by the former Pakistan foreign minister and former chief of army and ambassador to the United States it could be constructed that Washington had been mediating behind the scene between India and Pakistan between 2004 to 2oo7.  It would not be a revelation if Washington also comes out with a statement that it was mediating between New Delhi and Islamabad between 2004- 2007. Historically, the United States’ presence is distinctly seen in Kashmir problem right from its birth in 1947 and despite New Delhi disclaiming it has mediated between the two countries in all hours of crisis. Scores of instances about US mediation pop up from the pages of history of relation between India, Pakistan and United States. Long before Frank Morass on the basis of his meeting with Pandit Nehru   wrote in his book Witness to an Era that in 1953 India had sent feelers to Pakistan about division of Kashmir. In 1962, during the India-Pakistan talks that followed the Sino-India conflict, an attempt was made to work out ground rules for access of both India and Pakistan to valley.

Though Americans had not explicitly defined their attitude but through statements they suggested that while valley should go to Pakistan and India should be guaranteed a corridor through valley to enable it to supply to Ladakh, a frontier area directly threatened by Chinese.  It is not only during the cold war that the United States virtually meditated between the two countries but continued to do so after 1965 and 1971wars. In the post-cold period Washington believed that ‘it had brought new opportunities for reconciliation between India and Pakistan and United States remains essential to future peace in the sub-continent.’  As rightly pointed out by Shirin Tahir- Kheli in the preface of her book India-Pakistan and United States, Washington “was unwilling to insert itself into squabbles of the sub-continent”, but it was ‘uprising in Kashmir in 1989’ signaling a situation that could promote spread of nuclear race in the region that renewed the US interest in Kashmir.  Between 1993 and 1994, a group constituted by it debated over situation in the region at the Council of Foreign Relations to give a future direction to the relations between the two countries. This process which started during the Clinton administration seen in right perspective reached to a stage during the Bush administration that found a manifestation in the four point formula attributed to General Pervez Musharraf that Mr. Kasuri   tells us failed the execution.

The pertinent question now arises that if the formula still carries the same strength as it had in 2007 or like other fifty formulas that have been debated and deliberated upon during the past sixty years has been relegated to the archives.  There are indications that all the three parties; Pakistan, India and Washington are not tethered to the ‘paper work’ done at the back channels during 2004-2007 but are perhaps working on different lines that are in tune with what Obama administration has been calling as regional approach to Kashmir problem.

The Pakistan government for its own political compulsion    in no way will be ready to subscribe to a formula carrying tag of a ‘dictator’. The formula is avowedly opposed by all important opposition parties including Muslim League (N) and Jamaat-e-Islami. India also has very subtly wriggled out of the agreements arrived at Track Two, this became clear when after fifteen months hiatus India and Pakistan Prime Ministers met in Bhutan and announced that the dialogue between the two countries on all contentious issues will be resumed but this would not be continuance of the peace process that was going on between the two countries.

In view of the changed political perspective I see remote chances for the resurrection of the 2007 “Unsigned agreement between Mr. Manmohan Singh and Gen. Musharraf” but given to the developments in the region I do agree with the analysis carried out by two scholars Adil Najam and Moeed Yusuf  published in the scholarly journal Third World Quarter that the way that the events surrounding the Kashmir dispute have been transpiring – for some time – in a manner that makes the situation ‘ripe’ for resolution.”