Sentimentality and Diplomacy

Sentimentality and Diplomacy
Realpolitik demands a deeper engagement

It’s alarming. A story carried in a Kolkata daily attributing a statement to Octogenarian Kashmir leader Syed Ali Geelani which was picked up by this newspaper also, besides sending alarm bells in political circles supporting his political beliefs also caused some “stir” in a section of the civil society contributing to the political beliefs other than those in corridors of power. Geelani is reported having told Pakistan Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar during a meeting in New Delhi, “to set your house in order before approaching Kashmir issue.’ “Geelani appeared particularly upset at the affairs in Baluchistan and parts of Sindh”, the paper said that he told Pakistan delegation that unless Pakistan establishes “peace and dignity” for the people in these two provinces, it was pointless making their case in Kashmir”. The paper also reported that Geelani was not sending ‘a pointed don’t interfere message to Pakistan, he is telling them that they are no longer in a position to call shots because they have lost both stability and credibility as nation’.  The APHC (G) chief  has not contracted    the story.

The story was  more or less in consonance with the statement circulated by the spokesman of the organization to the press   that quoted SAG having told Pakistan leadership that ‘Kashmiris were not in a hurry and don’t rush for  hasty decision that might adversely compromise the principle stand of people of Jammu and Kashmir.’ A fellow columnist Abdul Majid Zargar comparing Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s ‘hurry’ in 1972 after dismemberment of Pakistan  that caused 1975 Kashmir Accord with Geelani ‘not in a hurry’ statement, has hailed him. There can be no two opinions about commitment and steadfastness of SAG to his ‘cause’.  Notwithstanding some of his adversaries stretching the statement far from his stand  it would be wrong to read his well meaning statement from a negative perspective. But it does throw up two important points rather posers. One, should in the  given situation     Pakistan not talk to India  about Kashmir; should the two countries  put this main ‘stumbling block’ in their relations on the  back burner or in a cold storage. Two, if the changing scenario in the Asia Pacific and South Asia that includes fast approaching endgame in Afghanistan, changing power balance in the region, US distancing from its old ally Pakistan in the region and entering into stronger strategic alliance with India, Washington looking for support for containing growing influence of China in the region,  2011 being considered as year of Sino-Pakistan friendships and the role Beijing   envisages in Afghanistan after US withdrawal hold prospectus for New Delhi and Islamabad engaging in a serious talks for resolution of sixty three year old dispute that has remained a flashpoint of conflict between the two neighbors.

The posers deserve to be analyzed in the lights of the developments that are taking place in the region. But, before looking at these questions the suggestion made by SAG to HRK, throws up yet another debate that if Pakistan lacks much needed diplomatic skills for negotiating a settlement during adverse situations.

There is needed to look at this issue in the context of history of this dispute. Some Pakistan historian and analysts have been blaming the manner and style of the Muslim League in dealing Kashmir for the birth of this dispute. Dr. Hafeez Malik in his recent book US Relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan Published by Oxford  in a detailed chapter on Kashmir writes how India would bring in accession of the states ‘remained beyond the Muslim League’s intellectual horizon’. He writes, “Like an accomplished lawyer, Jinnah attempted to tackle the accession issue in legal framework. Yet the strategy in the transformed political milieu called for the technique of realpolitik. This implied that the Muslim League leadership should have bargained with Indian leadership: Giving to India what India wanted most – smooth and non-disruptive transfer of States of Junagadh and Hyderabad where Pakistan exercised decisive influence, and quid pro quo receiving Kashmir.”Swaminathan Ayer a prominent journalist and writer in an article in 2008 published in the Hindustan Times had a different take on this issue. In his words, “The politically correct story of the Maharaja’s accession ignores a devastating parallel event. Just as Kashmir had a Hindu maharaja ruling over a Muslim majority, Junagadh had a Muslim nawab ruling over a Hindu majority. The Hindu maharaja acceded to India, and the Muslim nawab to Pakistan. But while India claimed that the Kashmiri accession to India was sacred, it did not accept Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan.”

Whether things would have happened   or not as perceived by Dr. Malik   but the fact remains it was diplomatic rugby played on the UN turf by Zafarullah Khan that placed Pakistan on an advantageous position on Kashmir and renewed its claims on the state at the international level.  Kashmir has been all along at the centre stage of India and Pakistan relation.

The two countries have been talking about the resolution of this dispute from the day it was born and failure of the talks have always degenerated into acrimony and including wars. In the wake of Pakistan dismemberment and birth of Bangladesh the 1972   Shimla meet between Mrs. Gandhi and Mr. Z.A. Bhutto had almost collapsed on New Delhi demanding making of the Ceasefire line into a permanent border. Former Pakistan Foreign Minister, who was a part of delegations in his recent book Pakistan’s Foreign Policy 1947-2009, giving inside details about the crucial deliberations writes that Indian side even offered minor territorial adjustments but this idea was a non-starter because Pakistan was resolved not to barter the Kashmir’s right to self-determination. Pakistan had lost a portion of its territory,  Sattar writes, “Although the offer of withdrawals to International borders  was attractive, the final draft was loaded with formulation designed to convert the Line of Peace in Jammu and Kashmir into an international boundary. Faced with take-it-or-leave-it choice, Pakistan decided to leave it and so informed Indian side about 3 PM. The Conference had reached dead end. In fact Bhutto even made announcement about the failure of talks. It was at the last moment that Mrs. Gandhi agreed to the deletion of some clauses including making “peace line into an international boundary that an agreement was signed. The story of India and Pakistan relations over Kashmir is full of these high dramas. The 2001 Agra summit had its own drama. New Delhi in 2001 believed, as was made known by then Foreign Secretary J.N.Dixit, that Pakistan was on the verge of bankruptcy and was confronted with serious instability would agree to converting LOC into a permanent border with some minor adjustments. But fact of the matter is that it did not happen. In fact in 2001, New Delhi had repeated what Nehru had told Pakistan in 1948-49. The purpose behind quoting these instances from the pages of history is to state that no country can afford to take risk of compromising on its principal stands when it is confronted with challenges threatening its sovereignty.

 Syed Ali Geelani suggestion to Pakistan Foreign Minister virtually asking for putting Kashmir on the back burner was more based on sentiments than on realpolitik. But it needs to be understood that diplomacy, aimed at negotiating a settlement of a dispute that has caused wars and continues to pose threat to the security of most volatile region of Asia, is not guided by sentiments but by realpolitik.

Now when South Asian region is on the threshold of major changes and paradigms of security in the region are changing  the realpolitik is that there should be deeper and stronger engagement between Islamabad and New Delhi for resolving their main disputes.  The countries will have to be on guard against powers having interest in the region pitting them against each other. And at this juncture Kashmir leadership  need to support the engagement between the two countries.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)