What after Mohali? Is Third Party Intervention a way out?

Pakistan lost semi-finals to India in Mohali. Cricket is not my cup of tea. I don’t know if ‘divinity intervened’ as many in India believe. Or Pakistan’s stars are down these days as many newspapers wrote. I have no knowledge if India bats well and Pakistan has a poor batting line. Or “India    can’t bowl, Pakistan can’t bat, and both can’t field.”  My interest in Mohali match was in the diplomacy that it set into motion. It kick started the dialogue between the two countries that was in limbo for past over three years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has earned accolades in the sub-continent and at the international level for taking the initiative. The screaming headline ‘Singh is King’ of 2008, when he had won confidence vote was back in newspapers with as powerful rhythm as the Bollywood jingle. There seems a consensus amongst many political analysts and commentators that the decision of inviting Pakistan leadership for watching the match and converting the opportunity   into breaking the deadlock between the two countries was that of Manmohan Singh’s own. An international news agency reported, “Singh’s invitation to Gilani appeared to come from his own prime ministerial office rather than his foreign minister, a sign this effort was personal and key to the legacy of a 78-year-old born in a village in what is now Pakistan.”  Truth is that Manmohan Sing made best use of the excuse provided by the semi-finals and it would be difficult to say if there would have been any initiative if the cricket teams of two countries had not reached semi-finals.   It would be wrong to subscribe to the idea that there was total stalemate in the relations of the two countries before the match.  The two countries have   been meeting at back channel. The foreign secretaries meeting in first week of February in New Delhi had laid a ‘solid foundation’ for resumption of dialogue on all issue and dispute including that of Jammu and Kashmir. The process however was moving at a slow pace and Prime Minister’s initiative not only added pace to it but also some urgency. If Washington had a role in it or not, I don’t see this debate relevant at this juncture but I see it as a positive development holding promise for learning from the past failures and unburdening people of the two countries of the past mistakes of leaders that have not only given birth to Kashmir dispute but also perpetuated it.  

It would not be cynical to say that the move seems to have helped Manmohan Singh on home turf in as much as in coming out of the morass of the scandals and scams that were ‘tarnishing India’s image as an emerging global power. I am not also going to enter into debate if this “about turn in the fortune” of Prime Minister was “short-lived” but as a news report suggested that timing of the move was ‘fantastic’ and it has ‘quashed’ the speculations that he was going to lose office. The presence of Sonia Gandhi by his side during match at Mohali was seen as symbolic gesture of his total support to him. But the question that is nagging me: What after Mohali? 

History of India and Pakistan relation has more pox marks than beauty spots in it. They have more stories of hostility than friendship. There can be no denying that they have long track of holding dialogue for resolving the dispute over future of Jammu and Kashmir   but there is not a single success story during past sixty three years that the two countries can boast of. In fact   the two countries share only sordid tales of procrastinations and failures.  It would not be possible to recount all the summits and meetings between Prime Ministers and Presidents of the two countries for resolving the core dispute that in fact has been the only hurdle in their relation. History is that every summit or meeting started at a note of optimism but ended in despair and disappointment. It is not only during fifties and sixties when marathon sessions were held between Swarn Singh and Bhutto   that resolution of Kashmir seemed in sight but failed to be translated into reality but this holds true even after the two countries became nuclear states and peace in the region was imperiled more than ever before and international community was feeling more concerned.

In the post nuclear period, I see Lahore declaration as an important benchmark. This   declaration in the words   of Javid Hussain a Pakistani political analyst “ inter alia, reaffirmed the commitment of both sides to the principles and purposes of the UN charter, reiterated their determination to implement the Shimla agreement in letter and spirit, and called for the intensification of efforts to resolve all outstanding issues including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir”. This declaration was signed by Prime Ministers of the two countries- and India was represented by none other than towering Hindutva leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was followed by long and sustained back channel diplomacy. But much before the two countries would arrive at an agreement over the disputes the diplomacy was carried away like   buildings    during recent tsunami in Japan. Then we see the Agra summit in 2002 despite reaching an agreement but failing at signature stage. In 2004, the two countries started composite dialogue. In the history of relations between the two countries this initiative by Pakistan President General Parvez Musharraf was seen as a grand narrative of success for bringing ceasefire along the line of actual control (LOC) that brought respite to over two million people living along the eight hundred kilometers long line vivisected the state of Jammu and Kashmir. For succeeding in putting in place CBM’s including the opening of Srinagar-Muzzafarbad road and other routes after sixty years the process was seen moving in right direction. General Musharraf has been taking pride for having brought on board Kashmir leaders of divergent political beliefs. Often, in fact repeatedly we are told that India and Pakistan had arrived at an agreement at back channel diplomacy and it failed to be signed by leaders of two countries for disturbances in Pakistan. There are many versions about the agreement reached and the most popular version of the agreement arrived at is that it  “contained five elements: no change in the territorial layout of Kashmir, currently divided into Pakistani- and Indian-administered areas; the creation of a ‘soft border’ across the Line of Control (LoC); greater autonomy and self-governance within both Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of the state; a cross-LoC consultative mechanism; and, finally, the demilitarization of Kashmir at a pace determined by the decline in cross-border terrorism.”  The story about this broad agreement was seen as retreating amidst loud talk of victory by General Musharraf and it had provoked reaction not only from Syed Ali Shah Geelani but even by some international observers   ‘Baroness Emma Nicholson, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Kashmir,   in a letter to the Financial Times retorted that the proposed deal ‘completely overlooks the people of Kashmir in the search for a durable solution.’ Many a Kashmir observers like Howard Schaffer continue to believe that the former Pakistan President formula is the only viable solution of Kashmir.

Here I am not going to debate on lamenting by some advocates of the formula and calling 2007 an opportunity missed but I want to raise a question. If there existed an unsigned ‘non-paper’ on the agreement reached between Tariq Aziz and Satinder Lamba, where has it gone. Pakistan government has been reiterating that no paper on the subject is available in its foreign office and New Delhi   is yet to come up with the document.

I am not going to say that even if an agreement would have been reached between General Musharraf and Manmohan on the lines of four point formula if it would have been rejected or accepted by people of the state or if the two countries would put to referendum to ascertain people’s views but here I want to make a point that if a third party would have been involved in the deliberations there would be no denial about the existence of non-papers.  Even the ‘non-papers’ could have become a starting point for renewed serious dialogue on Kashmir. The history of two nations is worst of trust-deficits and for making up these trust-deficits they require a third party presence for a successful dialogue that can graduate into resolution of the dispute.

It is again history India and Pakistan dialogue after suffering a reversal never starts where it was left last but from zero. It is here where a third party could prove help.

Now when India and Pakistan are meeting after a bout of acrimony, instead of starting again from zero and dissipating their energies and wasting time they can pick up where they left in the past. Even Bhutto- Swaran talks that had covered a lot of ground could be made a starting point.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)