Talks alone can solve Kashmir problem

    In an address in Occupied Kashmir Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly said that the J&K issue could trigger a fourth war with India. The remark drew a prompt retort from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that there is no scope of Pakistan winning any such war in his life time. Almost immediately after the report, Nawaz Sharif’s office clarified that the media report was incorrect. It added that any issue of conflict between Pakistan and India has to be resolved through peaceful means. Nawaz Shairf’s office also said that he considered Kashmir as his prime responsibility and hoped that it would be resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and the UN resolutions.

    Sartaj Aziz, National Security Adviser, who was recently in India, added Indian forces in Siachen posed a serious threat to Pakistan’s environment and urged India to pull out its troops. India had dealt with this Siachen issue even earlier and said that this could be considered after the existing troop positions of both India and Pakistan are recorded. The Pakistan Army, which is the ultimate authority in Pakistan on political issues such as Jammu & Kashmir, had published its “mother document” which says that the growing Indian military power “disturbed (the) strategic equilibrium of the region” and that in the face of growing disparity, Pakistan may have to use nuclear weapons as a last resort. Nawaz Sharif’s obsessive approach to the Kashmir issue is known. He had earlier appointed Gen. Pervez Musharraf as the Army Chief of Pakistan overlooking several of his seniors. He had great faith in his capacity to deliver Jammu & Kashmir sooner or later. Sharif was fully in the loop when General Musharraf carried out the Kargil attack which misfired and forced Pakistanis to withdraw from Kargil.

    It was done at the instance of President Clinton after Sharif had rushed to him for relief after the Kargil debacle. The revelation of Pakistan’s special envoy to the US that President Obama had sent a secret message to President Asif Ali Zardari in 2009 that he would nudge India towards negotiations on Kashmir in lieu of it ending support to terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba had no impact on Pakistan. Obama told Asif Ali Zardari that fighting India through proxy groups was not sustainable any more. Addressing a gathering in Delhi on December 7, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that countries such as Pakistan that practiced embedded terrorism had to clean up their act and there was no choice in the matter. Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir is not going to stop in the near future and it is the view of strategic observers that Pakistan would continue to infiltrate Kashmir with jihadi militants trained in POK and that after the snow melts in the upper reaches of Kashmir, infiltration of militants would increase. Having said that, the Kashmir issue has to be resolved sooner or later to the satisfaction of India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. There had been several attempts in the past to resolve this thorny issue.

    The Simla talks of 1972 failed to produce a lasting solution. Although India claimed that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto agreed to treat the Line of Control as the permanent international border between India and Pakistan and that he would get the political groups and the people of Pakistan agree to the new solution in due course, Bhutto repudiated India’s claim and denied any such understanding. Musharraf came out with a solution of his own. In an interview with Indian an TV channel he said Pakistan would give up the claim to J&K if India accepted a four-point formula: (1) Kashmir should have the same borders but people should be allowed to move freely across the region; (2) The region should have selfgovernance or autonomy but not independence; (3) Troops should be withdrawn from the region in a phased manner; and (4) a joint mechanism comprising representatives from India, Pakistan and Kashmir to be set up to supervise the implementation of such a roadmap for Kashmir. The formula was rejected by Dr. Manmohan Singh with the observation that that the borders of J&K cannot be redrawn.

    From J&K itself there were conflicting reactions. Syed Ali Shah Geelani repudiated the formula and said that it showed that Musharraf had lost selfconfidence and was in a state of mental depression. Sajjad Lone, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Party, said that it was a welcome step and the Kashmir leadership should be fully involved. The Pakistan-based United Jihad Council, which is a coalition of terrorist groups, lashed out at Musharraf and said that Kashmiris would not compromise on their right to selfdetermination. On the other hand, Omar Abdullah stated that Musharraf’s proposal deserved a serious consideration and that he was in favor of an out-of-the box solution to the Kashmir issue. In Pakistan, Imran Khan of Tehreek-e- Insaf stated recently that back-channel discussions between the interlocutors of India and Pakistan had almost reached an amicable formula for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute when unfortunately the Mumbai attack of 2008 took place. It is known that India’s interlocutor Satish Lamba has been visiting Pakistan during the past three years. He has interacted with Nawaz Sharif even during his first term as Prime Minister. Lamba’s counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, was in Delhi in November this year and had met Foreign Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

    Khurshid reportedly expressed Delhi’s disappointment with the manner in which Pakistan was conducting itself on various crucial issues. Khurshid told Aziz that peace and tranquility on the Line of Control was one of the most important confidence-building measures which had been regrettably ignored by the Pakistan Government and its armed forces. The 136 ceasefire violations in 2013 alone were the highest in the past eight years. It was pointed out to Sartaj Aziz that the understanding reached in New York after the two brief meetings Dr. Manmohan Singh had with his counterpart on October 5 and 11 had not yielded any results. Sartaj Aziz had a brief meeting with Dr. Manmohan Singh on November 13 but no discussions took place between them, since Salman Khurshid had already conveyed to him whatever was to be said to Pakistan. It is obvious that the Kashmir problem has to be resolved only through negotiations between the two Prime Ministers or through interlocutors.With the recent election results from the four states going against the UPA, it is likely that Pakistan may not make an effective push towards a solution of the Kashmir issue and that it may well wait till the next parliamentary elections are over and a new government is in power.

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