Tomorrow Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Gilani will meet when they view the World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan. It will be a happy occasion. It will undoubtedly enhance a cordial atmosphere between both nations to facilitate the resumption of peace talks. Although both the Army Chiefs could also have been invited. The intention of both PMs that made possible the occasion is laudable. Nevertheless it will most likely prove to be a waste of time. The truth is that the atmosphere between the most influential segments of the civil society in both countries requires little improvement. India-Pakistan discord is not the result of a trust deficit or lack of adequate communication and empathy as most Indians would like to convince themselves. There is a core issue dividing both nations. Without resolving it peace and normalcy with Pakistan will not come about.
The core issue is Kashmir. Colonial Britain created the Kashmir dispute to perpetuate the Partition. Now the spirit of the Partition will not be undone without resolving the Kashmir dispute. Indians point out that the tangible gains and losses that could accrue to both nations have little to do with Kashmir. That is true. But the problem will not be solved by bettering the material well being of the people in Pakistan. The problem will be solved only if the obsession that overpowers the Pakistani mindset is diluted. Pakistanis believe that they have been cheated in Kashmir because the Valley does not belong to India. They believe that India was instrumental in breaking Pakistan by helping Bangladesh liberate itself. They believe that unless Pakistan dilutes India’s hold over Kashmir their honour will not be vindicated.
One may summon many facts to justify these beliefs. Equally, one may summon facts to rubbish them. The moot point is that these beliefs exist. That is the ground reality. Unless these beliefs are addressed there will be neither any peace settlement with Pakistan nor a sincere whole hearted effort by the Pakistan army to eliminate terrorism. Therefore if India really seeks a settlement with Pakistan it must recognize this reality and be prepared to reappraise its entire approach to the Kashmir problem.
If India believes that Pakistan’s mindset is flawed and it merits no change in India’s approach to the Kashmir problem, the government should not waste time in pursuing a futile peace process. The problem with Pakistan is not dictated by reason. It is dictated by psychology. India must therefore dispassionately assess what it wants, how far it is prepared to go to resolve Kashmir, and calculate the gains and losses that would result through a lasting peace with Pakistan.
One would not like to recapitulate the several alternative peace formulae for resolving the Kashmir dispute. This scribe suggested self determination for different segments of undivided Kashmir within the framework of a South Asian Union that could resolve the Kashmir dispute much in the same manner that the European Union defused the Northern Ireland dispute. Former President Musharraf advocated joint management of Kashmir without altering borders. Others have proposed converting the Line of Control into an international border.
Whatever the solution, the first requirement for both governments is to recognize that without softening existing stands no solution will emerge. This scribe naturally believes in the efficacy of his own solution because it rests on the wishes of the Kashmiri people. But whatever solution is acceptable to the parties concerned would be welcome. The starting point is for New Delhi to acknowledge that this core issue must be addressed for laying the foundation for genuine participation by the Pakistan army and Pakistan’s public in a meaningful peace process. It would imply that New Delhi has a clear idea of what it eventually wants in Kashmir, and how far is it prepared to go in order to achieve it.
Does New Delhi know what it wants in Kashmir?