The Story of Paradigm Shifts
Of Indo-pak visits in the past and their echoes at present
Are we a paranoid people- you and me included? Is it fear rooted in my mind that makers ponder over something, I would in normal course dismiss as nonevent.
Chairman APHC (M) and four other members of his executives’ council are visiting Pakistan in November. What is ‘big deal’ about it? For past many years, these leaders have been visiting Islamabad and meeting men in power. Now their visit to the country and meeting leaders’ is no news, why should it engage my attention.
There were times when Kashmir leader visiting Islamabad made big news. In 1964, when Sheikh Abdullah at the behest of Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru visited Islamabad it made big news on two counts: one, Sheikh was visiting the new country for the first time and second he was traveling with a brief from Prime Minister of India for President Ayub Khan. Nehru’s brief/ formula continues to remain classified document and if Stanley Wolpert in Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan is to be believed it revolved around division of the state along Chenab, a step further to the discussions during late fifties between Swaran Singh and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Since it was first it finds a mention in the footnotes of Kashmir history.
In 2005, when leaders of this umbrella organization travelled through Jhelum Valley Road to Islamabad for meeting then President General Musharraf, there was no element of surprise in it as the purpose of the visit was more than obvious. The President wanted, their nodding for his half-baked 4pt formula broadly discussed in a 60 page booklet, “India Pakistan and The Kashmir Tangle- What Next by Pran Chopra in 1994. And further amplified by Eqbal Ahmed in a couple of articles published in Dawn Pakistan in nineties. Chopra had written about making LOC porous, allowing people to travel and trade across it with ease. He had also talked about joint management but casted doubts if Pakistan would “ agree” as it was would major shift in its Kashmir policu but was certain “India would.” Talking about Sino-Indian and Indo-American relations he had further said, “India and Pakistan relation should also cease to be hostage to the disputes between the two countries, and while both the countries should certainly chisel away at disputes, the scope of agreements in uncontroverted areas should be allowed to rise to its full potential.” He had doubting Pakistan agreeing to this proposition also as Pakistan stated position at that juncture was that the ‘resolution of core issue- Kashmir’ is gateway to resolution of all other disputes. It can be construed that 4pt formula originated from New Delhi and not Islamabad.
The apprehension of expressed in essay written under the aegis of India’s Centre For Policy Research has now been set at rest as ‘making India-Pakistan relations’ hostage to Kashmir’ is now the policy plank of the government in Islamabad. Some Pakistan commentators see it as, “countries diplomatic retreat.
On a number of counts, the proposed visit of a faction of APHC (M) looks different than that in 2005: one, the timing. Two, it making a departure by talking about the visit to people outside the caucus and inviting LoC traders, some professionals and activists for drafting a “blue Print” for talks, third suggesting that it has no set agenda for the talks and fourth the phraseology used with regard to resolution of Kashmir dispute in the party press notes. Of all these, it is the phraseology used in the party press notes that caught my imagination. It reminded how phraseology has been a determinant in changing the contours and contents of the major Kashmir narrative and how it has delayed the resolution of the problem. In fact, change in phraseology has been a presage of change in the narratives of political organizations in the state.
History of phraseology changing the content and contours of political struggle can be traced to mid thirties. It is beyond the scope of this column to dwell how the Congress leadership more particularly Jawaharlal pushed in the communist ideologues into Kashmir to added a new phraseology to the struggle and steer it in a desired direction. Let me start with the most recent period, from 1955 to 1968, the main narrative of the Plebiscite Front was ‘right to self-determination for people the state as enshrined in UN resolutions and the catch phrase was “plebiscite.” In 1968, by calling the State Peoples Convention for exploring ‘alternative solution’, it in fact questioned the very constitution of the organization. After 1972, it dropped phrases like right to self-determination and plebiscite and invented new phraseology, “our battle with New Delhi is not over quality of accession but quantum of accession”. This paradigm shift in phraseology led to the dissolution of the Front and burial of old phraseology- then many more phrases like ‘Azat-Abaroo Kay Muqam”etc were added to the political discourse.
In 1990, when a phrase Azadi- which was one word substitution for right to self-determination resonated allover and it became the only political phrase which caught international attention, the political leadership felt the urge of giving it an organized content. The Hurriyat Conference was born, in its constitution, it incorporated word “negotiated settlement”, I saw this incorporation as a paradigm shift for creating scope of flexibility in the main narrative and coinage of new phrases. The APHC(M) in place of ‘right to self-determination has coined a new phrase, “K-resolution according to emotions and aspiration”. This conjuration is not a part of any international lexicon about resolution of the disputes. Is this changed phraseology indicative of any mindset with which the group is going to Islamabad? If it is an indicator, the scope of discussions is restricted to the strengthening of some Kashmir related CBM, like trade and travel across.
If the travel is regarding CBM’s, even then it raises some questions, why discussion first with Islamabad and not New Delhi. Is New Delhi privy to the agenda the five are carrying to Islamabad- in other words is it in the ‘loop’- or do they at all have an agenda or they are going their to get some points- what could be those moot points. The visit cannot be without New Delhi’s nod as a top leader of the group, “I do not know if New Delhi is informed about agenda but it is a long pending visit and it cannot happen without New Delhi’s approving our travel documents.”
The visit needs to be watched if it does not mean presage a changing main discourse…”