Originally Published 2004-10-01 09:46:06 Published on Oct 01, 2004
In agreeing to explore with Pakistan a final settlement of the Kashmir question as part of a normalisation of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pushed the India-Pakistan dialogue into what could be an exciting, if not decisive, phase.
Moving forward on Kashmir
In agreeing to explore with Pakistan a final settlement of the Kashmir question as part of a normalisation of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pushed the India-Pakistan dialogue into what could be an exciting, if not decisive, phase.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Dr. Singh and President Pervez Musharraf seem to have created, for the first time since the Shimla Agreement of July 1972, a basis to resolve the Kashmir question as well as move towards a normal relationship.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Between 1972 and 1989, neither side actually sought a meeting to discuss Kashmir as envisaged under the Shimla Agreement. And since 1989, despite some high-profile summitry, the two sides have not been able to find a sustainable framework that allowed simultaneous normalisation of bilateral relations and a resolution of the Kashmir question.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> On January 6, 2004, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Gen. Musharraf put down the broad contours of that framework; the actual implementation of this new approach was left open-ended.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The dialogue at the official and ministerial level, which resumed after the general elections in India, could not find the political formula for moving forward. Last week, Dr. Singh and Gen. Musharraf cleared the air for serious negotiations on Kashmir.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The joint statement issued in New York on September 24 states that the two leaders "addressed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed that possible options for a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the issue should be explored in a sincere spirit and purposeful manner."&nbsp; <br /> <br /> In return for this Indian willingness, Gen. Musharraf agreed to "restore normalcy and cooperation between India and Pakistan" and implement the various confidence-building measures that have been proposed in the first round of the dialogue.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> In engaging Gen. Musharraf in a serious conversation on Kashmir, Dr. Singh has ended years of Indian defensiveness on the subject. In the last few years, the Indian emphasis has been the terms under which such a dialogue could take place rather than Kashmir itself.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> As always, once you break a political taboo, the hand wringing on the eve of it seems overdone. By refusing to avoid a serious conversation on Kashmir, Dr. Singh has demonstrated that India has no reason to be afraid of a final solution to the Kashmir dispute.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Any sensible discussion on Kashmir between the top leaders of India and Pakistan, such as the one that took place in New York, would have to come up with a set of agreed markers.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> One, the process must be peaceful. Any violence will lead to an end to the conversation. Whether it is written into the joint statement or not, rising levels of terrorism will destroy the promising engagement between the two sides. Two, in any win-win solution, there can be no significant exchange of territory in Jammu and Kashmir. In other words, if both sides have to claim victory from a final settlement, the political focus must shift away from considerations of territoriality. Three, India and Pakistan have always understood that independence to Jammu and Kashmir is not an option.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Four, the problem must be resolved in a bilateral framework. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Gen. Musharraf endorsed this proposition with the caveat that this would be the last time such an approach would be attempted. Five, while there can no independence for Kashmir, common sense dictates that the people of Jammu and Kashmir must get political satisfaction. Mutually acceptable ways for ascertaining their wishes must be found within the bilateral framework.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> In moving beyond the traditional posturing on Kashmir, Dr. Singh and Gen. Musharraf have created a template in which their representatives can explore the elements of a final settlement.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> While the five principles listed above remove much of the political clutter around the India-Pakistan discourse on Kashmir, it will need considerable political imagination and some clever diplomatic footwork to hammer out a settlement of the Kashmir question. But it is by no means impossible.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> <br /> The boldness demonstrated by Dr. Singh and Gen. Musharraf in New York must now be followed by a series of unilateral and negotiated steps to improve the political and security conditions in both parts of divided Kashmir and establish connectivity between them. Expanded economic cooperation between the two nations and the initiation of new projects such as natural gas pipelines would create a positive environment.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> If the current peace process moves forward, there is enough credit to go all around. While Dr. Singh has demonstrated political courage, the ground for a new approach was prepared by his predecessor, Mr. Vajpayee. Maintaining the national consensus at this moment on conflict resolution with Pakistan is indeed critical. <br /> <br /> The author is Professor of South Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Advisor, US Studies Programme, Observer Research Foundation. <br /> <br /> Courtesy: The Hindu, Chennai, October 1, 2004 <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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