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News Analysis
Musharraf’s musings on Kashmir are not proposals
by K. Subrahmanyam

It is extremely unfortunate that at a time when General Musharraf calls for a realistic debate on the issue of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in his country it is misinterpreted by several sections of the electronic and print media in this country as his proposals to solve the Kashmir issue. Even the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs implied such an interpretation when he said that such proposals should come through official channels.

General Musharraf was making no proposals to the Government of India at all. He was calling on the Pakistani media, academia and political parties to think of the Kashmir issue beyond the one dimensional obsession that has characterized the Pakistani thinking for the last half of a century. He has specifically stated he would talk to the Indian Prime Minister keeping in view the people’s opinion.

Through his remarks he was giving food for thought to the media so that the options based on seven regions could be debated. By reading and listening to the views of the people and experts he would judge what solution the masses desired. He could not have been more explicit in making clear that at this stage he was making no proposals whatsoever.

Still through his characterization of seven regions — two under Pakistan and five in India — he was communicating certain concepts he has formulated. The very first concept is his rejection of the thesis of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that the former princely state of Kashmir is to be dealt with as a single entity. He is endorsing what Justice Owen Dixon said in 1950 in his report “The State of J&K is not really a unit geographically, demographically or economically. It is an agglomeration of territories brought under the political power of the Maharaja. That is the unity it possesses”.

The second concept he has put forward is that while there is a linkage between the populations on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) adjoining what he calls AJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) — Pak-occupied Kashmir in Indian terminology — and on the other side and also between the population of Balti-speaking Shia muslims in India (Kargil) and the peoples of the Northern areas under Pakistani occupation. He claims no similar ethnic linkages on either side of the Line of Control among peoples in Ladakh, Jammu and the Kashmir Valley. This is something very important for people in India to take note of. Divided families are across LoC in PoK and Indian Jammu region and Kargil -Northern areas. All of the Kashmir valley is in India.

His third concept is that for progress towards the solution to the Kashmir issue (progress implies incremental advance or step by step approach) should be through identification of these regions, demilitarisation and change of their status. His concept of change of status is condominium, UN mandate or sovereignty. He is reconciled to look at a solution to the issue, in view of India’s opposition to division on religious basis because of its secular facade, on the basis of geography or ethnicity.

There is quite some logic in these concepts. There can be no disagreement that ethnic divisions are in the Kargil and PoK (AJK) areas and not in Kashmir Valley. Apart from that, the people of Pakistan’s Northern areas do not have the elementary human right of being citizens of a nation. Because of Pakistan’s obsession with the UN plebiscite the area has not been incorporated into Pakistan as that would be a violation of UN resolution. So it would be logical to start the search for progress with the identification of the Northern area under Pakistani occupation and adjoining Shiah areas in India (the Kargil areas).

A start can be made by demilitarizing the Northern areas of Pakistan and adjoining Kargil area as proposed by the General. What should be their status? Surely Pakistan would not like to surrender that territory totally and allow it to become sovereign. Would it prefer UN mandate in that area or condominium? Since India has the Leh-Manali road and is also building a bypass to Kargil road there should be no objection to either UN mandate or condominium if the Northern areas of Pakistan are to be totally demilitarized along with Kargil.

So also there are advantages in treating the PoK and its adjoining areas in India as a single unit. If the two proposals are taken up for implementation it would amount to adjustment of Line of Control in Jammu and Kargil regions. In PoK areas and its adjoining territory there can be no objection to UN mandate or condominium though it is obvious that Pakistan would prefer condominium.

The strong denunciation of such Musharraf concepts in Pakistan are indicative that they are likely to be nonstarters. But it shows a flexibility of approach by the General and he is prepared to explore alternatives to the Kashmir issue other than UN plebiscite. It also indicates that he has moved beyond insistence on a time frame for solution.

In fact, the Musharraf musings would signal that in Indian Kashmir too there has to be interaction among various groups. That appears to be a message to the hard-line Hurriyat leaders.

In India, there should be facilitation for various parties in Jammu and Kashmir to come together and discuss among themselves what are their ideas about the future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. At present those leaders who have not taken part in the elections have just been making their individual group’s demands on Delhi without discussing them with other parties who have taken part in the electoral process.

Musharraf’s suggestions for debate in Pakistan also constitute a challenge to those Hurriyat leaders that they should enter into a debate with their fellow Kashmiris to develop new ideas. Therefore there is a lot of scope to look at Musharraf’s suggestions to his countrymen constructively in this country. They should not be confused as proposals for negotiation at this stage.

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