How To Resolve Kashmir
By K Subrahmanyam
26 Feb 2009, 0000 hrs IST,
Former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri's interview to Karan Thapar has stirred up a lot of interest in his claims on the results
achieved in the backchannel negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad. Kasuri said that most of the negotiations on Kashmir were successfully completed during his tenure as foreign minister under Pervez Musharraf and draft agreements were ready to be signed. They were to have been signed during the visit of the Indian PM to Pakistan which did not take place, according to Kasuri, because of elections in India, the crisis in Pakistan following the ouster of the supreme court chief justice and subsequent polls and change of government.
There is another view that the Indian government backed off at the last moment. Some informed observers in India maintain that developments in Pakistan came in the way of the agreement being finalised. In this connection it is pertinent to recall the much-criticised comment of national security adviser M K Narayanan in an interview that India found it easier to do business with Musharraf. The latest article by Steve Coll in the New Yorker goes some way in confirming the Indian and not Kasuri's version.
In the last few days US special envoy Richard Holbrooke has been holding discussions with the Pakistani army chief and ISI chief along with senior Afghan officials in Washington on the proposed strategy for the Af-Pak region, especially in the light of the ceasefire agreement reached with the Taliban in the Swat valley. While India is staying out of this meeting, the idea appears to be to persuade the Pakistani army and ISI that the concerns of Pakistan about its eastern front, and often used as an alibi to justify the inadequate response against the al-Qaeda and Taliban, are totally misplaced. Kasuri's revelations and Coll's report should strengthen the hands of Washington.
There is general agreement in India and the US that the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack was carried out by people with the intention of provoking New Delhi to react militarily. This, in turn, would have resulted in Pakistan shifting forces from its western to eastern borders and arguing that it was unable to effectively support the US-NATO strategy in Afghanistan. India, however, did not walk into the trap. It is obvious that some people would not like to see a solution to Kashmir as envisaged in the Indo-Pak backchannel dialogue. It would also appear that such opposition may not be restricted to a small group in Pakistan but may extend to a much larger section that is not interested in a bilateral solution to Kashmir but to continually bleed India through a thousand cuts. It is unfortunate that the Simla Pact efforts to solve Kashmir bilaterally were torpedoed and the Lahore Declaration was followed by the Kargil infiltration.
There are reasons to worry whether there is continuity of policy and approach in Pakistan. General Kayani was fully in the picture, according to both Kasuri and Coll, and was supportive of the draft agreement arrived at on Kashmir. However, the present government and army chief have discarded Musharraf's version of A Q Khan being the sole nuclear proliferator. According to the findings of the Islamabad high court, the charges against Khan were not substantiated. If this was so, who authorised the proliferation from Pakistan to North Korea, Iran and Libya? For reasons best known to them, the present rulers of Pakistan have decided to repudiate past policy.
Can we be sure that in respect of the backchannel understanding on Kashmir the current regime has not repudiated that too, as they have done with the version on Khan? If the Pakistani government feels bound by that backchannel understanding, why did they use the eastern border as a security concern preventing their full cooperation against Taliban? Two books by journalists David Sanger and Ron Susskind quote intercepts of telephone conversations in which Pakistani generals had referred to Taliban leaders Haqqani and Mullah Omar as strategic assets. Musharraf was prepared to assure the Americans of his cooperation to fight Taliban and at the same time use them.
If we are able to conclude a mutually satisfactory arrangement between India and Pakistan, which is also acceptable to the people of Kashmir, we should go ahead with it. But before we do that, we have to be sure that the backchannel understanding is not one more instance of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. Second, we have to be sure that the present army leadership still stands by the understanding reached earlier and has not changed its mind as it has done in the case of Khan. The result of the repudiation of the earlier story on Khan is to restore the image of Pakistan and hold a pistol to the head of the US about the consequences of not giving full aid.
Now that Kasuri and Coll have spilt the beans, the Indian government should organise an education campaign, especially among US think tanks, that a framework for a Kashmiri settlement already exists. And as US president Barack Obama pointed out, Pakistan does not have to worry about any threat from its eastern border; its threats are from within. But the Pakistani army's leadership is yet to be convinced that Taliban is a threat and not an asset and Khan was a proliferator.
The writer is a Delhi-based strategic affairs analyst.
Courtesy: The Times of India