The time is propitious for achieving real peace in South Asia. There may of course be violence and bloodletting before it is achieved. But these can be surmounted if there is clear perception about the final goal. Contrary to popular view the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry in Pakistan need not weaken President Musharraf. It might actually strengthen him. Until recently Musharraf was balancing between hardcore jihadis and pro-democracy elements. The Lal Mosque assault knocked him off the fence. Reinstatement of Chief Justice Chaudhry could buy him peace with pro-democracy elements ' especially since the army alone can take on the militants during escalating insurgency.
For civil society in Pakistan, Musharraf is the known devil and best bet to control the army. The battle inside Pakistan between politicians and the army could convert into one between democracy and terrorism. Such polarization should be encouraged to spread across the subcontinent. South Asia's war against terror may be approaching its final denouement.
Recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that the current unrest in Pakistan would not derail India from the peace process. That statement was welcome. It signaled Indiaï¿½s support to President Musharraf in his fight against terrorism. But then the PM added there should be joint development of Kashmir by India and Pakistan. This was but a variation of President Musharrafï¿½s proposal for joint management of Kashmir. Both proposals put the cart before the horse. Joint management or development in Kashmir would remain unrealistic unless there was joint cooperation at the central level. What kind of joint efforts can succeed as long as both nations strengthen armies against each other? The Kashmir dispute was created, in fact, to ensure Indo-Pakistan hostility.
Lord Mountbattenï¿½s daughter, Lady Pamela Hicks, has now confirmed that Mountbatten used his wife Edwina to influence Nehru into taking the Kashmir issue to the UN. This vindicates the view long held by this scribe. The Partition of the subcontinent to create a predominantly Islamic Pakistan was effected to serve Britainï¿½s post-war global strategy.
In 1989 I wrote:
ï¿½Lord Mountbatten was aware of his wifeï¿½s romance with Nehru but apparently did not mind. . . . Even after Partition had been pushed through . . . how was it to be ensured that Hindu and Muslim populations would transfer themselves into each otherï¿½s territory? The British had the answer: massive communal riots. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the British authorities instigated the communal carnage during Partition. . . . The Kashmir war of 1948 was the most important British move to ensure that India and Pakistan would always remain divided. . . . On Mountbattenï¿½s advice the UN resolution for a ceasefire was used as Nehruï¿½s excuse to halt operations. Kashmir was to remain the permanent bone of contention to keep India and Pakistan divided.ï¿½
The problem therefore was never Kashmir. It was the Partition. The Kashmir crisis was created to perpetuate the Partition. Now the spirit but not the legality of the Partition must be undone. That will help resolve the Kashmir dispute. That, in turn, would greatly facilitate resolution of Pakistanï¿½s mounting crises in NWFP and Baluchistan.
Reportedly, the present insurgency in Pakistanï¿½s NWFP is through scattered Pushtuns, not by identified terrorist groups. If this continues it is likely to demoralize and alienate the substantial Pushtun elements within the Pakistan army. Clearly Musharraf needs a credible peace package to cement any military victory he might achieve. That makes Kashmir relevant. Only a realistic Kashmir solution would offer the obvious peace model for Pakistanï¿½s troubled provinces. And what might that be? After Kashmirï¿½s troubled post-Independence history a lasting solution would need peopleï¿½s endorsement. The UN plebiscite resolution is dead. Pakistan never fulfilled the preconditions for implementing it. Ground realities have meanwhile altered substantially. But the underlying reality remains: the final burial of separatism needs the publicï¿½s stamp of approval. Pandit Nehru, while accepting Kashmirï¿½s Instrument of Accession, said it must be subject to ï¿½the approval of the peopleï¿½. Hopefully, this might be achieved without disruption.
Recall an international conference of worldwide Kashmir leaders held mid-2004 in Dubai. A Kashmir activist, who was to attend that conference, approached me for suggestions. I gave him a note containing them. He claimed that my note was put up in the conference and was favorably received. I had no means of verifying this. But a UNI report about the Dubai conference dated June 17, 2004 did state: ï¿½The conference will consider a specific proposal formulated by senior Indian journalist Rajinder Puri for resolution of the Kashmir issue.ï¿½ What was my proposal?
I quote from my note: ï¿½There are three parties involved in the Kashmir dispute, India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. The solution must satisfy the legitimate demands of all three parties. There is only one solution that comes to mind that can meet this criterion. Kashmir has five segments. Two are in Pakistan, three are in India. Among the Indian segments the original inhabitants of Jammu and Ladakh want to stay in India. The inhabitants of the Valley are divided between those who seek autonomy, independence or prefer Pakistan . . . . The solution lies in acceptance of a credibly conducted referendum of self-determination simultaneously for all five segments of Kashmir, giving each segment the option of joining India, Pakistan or becoming independent. The acceptance of this referendum would be accompanied by the prior precondition that whatever the result of the referendum, India, Pakistan and Kashmir would form a community of nations having common defence (including nuclear defence), common market, no visas, and free movement of labor and capital.ï¿½
The day after this article appears the same group that met in Dubai will meet again in Washington, on July 26 and 27. Among those attending it will be Prime Minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Attique Ahmed Khan. From India Yaseen Malik, Shabir Shah and Mohammed Tarigami, the CPI (M) MLA from Kashmir, will be among the delegates. Mr Tarigami might recall that I expressed the same views contained in my note at a meeting both of us addressed in Srinagar some time ago.
The Washington Conference participants have the opportunity to state clearly that no solution to Kashmir will be achieved unless the creation of a South Asian Union on the lines of the EU is unambiguously accepted in principle. That would resolve the Kashmir dispute as effectively as the Northern Ireland dispute was resolved in the EU. Neither the Indian nor the Pakistani government would dare state this. Only the leaders of Kashmir can take the lead. They have the opportunity in Washington. Will they seize it?