Post Conference Report: “Revisiting Kashmir Policy”
One day Conference on ‘Revisiting Kashmir Policy’ was organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). Following are the proceedings of the conference.
Ambassador Sohail Ameen, President IPRI, in his welcome address highlighted the importance of the Conference and the emerging trends in India-Pakistan relations. He said that South Asia’s peace and stability would remain elusive unless the issue of Kashmir was resolved. He identified Kashmir as a core issue between the two states and termed it a direct or indirect cause of various military conflicts between them. He said that Pakistan wished resolution of Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolutions and according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir. He said that both states had different stances on Kashmir but they had to make choices to find a way to the resolution of Kashmir. He said that it was generally believed that after India’s elections, the dialogue process would resume.
The first speaker of the conference Dr. Tahir Amin, Chairman, National Institute of Pakistan Studies (NIPS), Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, spoke on “Kashmir Issue: political, social and economic dimensions”. While highlighting the significance of Kashmir, he termed it as unfinished business of partition and a cause of wars between the two states. He expressed the possibility of future limited wars on Kashmir that would have potential to lead to nuclear conflagration. He identified that Kashmir had become part of politics and talked about Indian viewpoint of Kashmir that Indian leadership considered Kashmir as a symbol of Indian secularism and did not show flexibility on their stance because Indian integration depended on Kashmir being retained as part of India. He also highlighted the previous divergent approaches that both states had employed as conflict resolution mechanism. Pakistan had adopted a holistic approach that gave priority to Kashmir issue than other issues. India preferred to adopt step by step approach that dealt with resolution of smaller issues first that would create conducive environment for the resolution of Kashmir. He said that Pakistan had shown flexibility and even resorted to Indian step by step approach under Simla accord, and then General Musharaff employed pragmatic approach, which the present government also considered. But despite all these steps conducive environment for the resolution of Kashmir never emerged. He said that Pakistan had missed opportunities to resolve the Kashmir issue by engaging the West.
The second speaker of the conference Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema,Dean Faculty of Contemporary Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad, spoke on “Different Approaches for Kashmir Solution: A way forward”. He said that India had mastered the evasion technique to avoid the unfavorable situations. He listed the past bilateral and multilateral initiatives to address the Kashmir issue starting from Jinnah-Mountbatten meeting in 1947 to 2004 composite dialogue process. He recognized the futility of multilateral approach and asserted that outside powers had their own interests. He said that India always used military means to resolve the conflict. He highlighted five factors that hindered the progress. These included burden of history; different concepts of security; domestic developments; images and perceptions. He put forward following suggestions to deal with the Kashmir issue. These included: recognizing the changing realities in Kashmir and respecting the sentiments of the people of Kashmir; introducing flexibility in attitude and approaches and considering each other’s sensitivities; adopting soft border approach between AJK and IHK for about four years and then come back to grand bargain.
The third speaker of the conference Mr. Khalid Rahman, Director General, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad, spoke on “Future of Kashmir: Emerging Trends in Indo-Pak Foreign Policy”. He gave the historical background of the Kashmir issue and highlighted the status of Kashmir in Indian and Pakistani constitutions. He talked about emerging regional trends such as elections in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India including Jammu and Kashmir and discussed the election manifestoes of Indian and Pakistani political parties. He said that all the parties had expressed the resolution of Kashmir as a prerequisite for improved India-Pakistan relations and regional stability while Indian political parties Congress and BJP had divergent views regarding Kashmir. The Congress was supportive of dialogue process with Pakistan on Kashmir and BJP rejected any possibility of negotiations on Kashmir and termed it as an integral part of Indian Union. He also referred to Pakistani Prime Minister’s address to General Assembly where he reiterated Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmiri’s right of self-determination and Indian Prime Minister termed terrorism as the grave threat to India. He argued that India continued to link Kashmiri struggle with terrorism. He said that public opinion in both states despite having negative views about each other was in favour of good neighborly relations by resolving the conflicts.
Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, in his concluding remarks said that composite dialogue had eight items on the agenda and in case of resumption of dialogue process, progress should be made on all issues. Pakistan should not compromise on its principled position and should highlight the human rights violations to press world opinion to tarnish Indian image.
Pakistan cannot ignore global trends. It should consider changed geopolitical environment where military concepts are receding and theories of economic interdependence are gaining currency. Given the ineffectiveness of past approaches, Pakistan should be cautious in adopting step by step approach alongside the Kashmir issue. It should continue to support the Kashmiri people and should encourage the intra Kashmir dialogue.