Kashmir ruffles feathers ~ kuldip nayar
I do not know why Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif goes over the same exercise on Kashmir every two-three mon-ths. He raised the question at the UN General Assembly and again mentioned it during his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York. Now, he has brought up the matter before his talks with US President Barrack Obama at Washington. Probably, he sought his services.
America has iterated its stand that it considers Kashmir a bilateral issue which the two countries should resolve. This is what India has been saying. By insisting that Kashmir is a core issue for any conciliation with India, Pakistan is not bringing the opportunity for any solution nearer.
What does not go with the style of Nawaz Sharif is his remark that both countries are nuclear powers. Is that a threat? How can any country even say that it has a nuclear weapon or, for that matter, its opponent has? It means extinction of Pakistan and northern India.
One other ominous change I have noticed on the part of Islamabad is that it has stopped mention of the Shimla agreement. The earlier statements stated that Kashmir should be sorted out according to the UN resolution and the Shimla agreement.
At that time, the erstwhile Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had told his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi he would see to it that the ceasefire line on the border became the international border. He went back on the undertaking because he could not sell the proposal to a country which had lost its eastern wing. Still, Pakistan must realise that there is no solution to Kashmir except through talks. Therefore, the Shimla agreement has the greatest chance of making it to the page. True, there is the pressure of rightists on Sharif. But this is not what an average Pakistani feels. Not long ago, when I went to Pakistan and asked a cab driver what he thought of Kashmir, he replied: “I have to think of how to earn the next meal, not bother about Kashmir.” An expert in Pakistan once remarked that what they could not win in the battlefield, they could not expect to win at the negotiating table.
Sharif’s proposal, when he was in the wilderness, is worth implementing. He had said that the two countries should set up a committee to talk about Kashmir without interruption. After having done that, both counties should open up for trade and business. And visas should be made easy for people-to-people contact. In fact, the Pakistan Prime Minister should be pursuing his own proposals seriously.
In the meanwhile, the allegations by the former chief of Army staff General V K Singh that the Indian army had been financing ministers in Kashmir to maintain "stability" in the state have taken a serious turn. The Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has ruled that he would summon the General to explain the accusation to the house. However, some of us who have followed the situation in Kashmir since its integration with India are not surprised. New Delhi always had a finger in the pie. Even a popular leader like Sheikh Abdullah had to be subservient to New Delhi. Once he did open his mouth to say that they would rather starve than accept India’s diktat and he had to spend 12 years in detention.
In fact, there were no elections in the years soon after the state joined the Indian Union. Sheikh Abdullah, then called the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, accepted the fait accompli which was decided in Delhi. The practice was vigorously pursued when Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad replaced the Sheikh when the latter was detained. The decision about who should head Kashmir was taken at New Delhi.
There was a separate department on Kashmir affairs in the External Affairs Ministry. Probably, it was meant to convey that since the matter was before the UN, it had to be dealt with by the External Affairs Ministry, headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The department was transferred to the Home Ministry when the more sagacious Govind Ballabh Pant took charge after quitting as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The department is still part of the Home Ministry.
It must be said to the credit of Nehru that he did not accept Maharaja Hari Singh’s request to join the Indian Union until it had the approval of the then popular leader Shiekh Abdullah, in jail at that time. It is unfortunate that the Sheikh turned out to be a disappointment. He took to New Delhi’s dictated arrangement like a duck to water.
Since then, chief ministers in Srinagar ~ Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of People’s Democratic Party or Farooq Abdullah ~ have understood that Srinagar has to tilt its sails according to the winds blowing from New Delhi. The state’s young chief minister Omar Abdullah makes proper noises, but it is no more than a storm in a tea cup. He is rightly strengthening the state police so that the use of Indian Army, stationed in the state, is as little as possible.
But he is defeated by the Pakistan Army which keeps the pot boiling. It was a relief when the two countries agreed not to violate the LoC. But the line has been violated all the time in recent times. Pakistan is more to blame because it is giving covert support to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan to infiltrate into India before the winter sets in and clogs the passes because of snow.
If insurgency in Kashmir is part of Islamabad’s policy, what was the purpose of Prime Minister Sharif’s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? They agreed to honour the agreement reached in 2004 to make the LoC sacrosanct. The Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries were to meet. True, no time frame was fixed. But they should have met by this time, although their meeting may have turned into a formality. Political masters have to realise the futility of cross-border firing. Three wars should have made it clear to Pakistan that it cannot wrest Kashmir forcibly from the hands of India.
The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator