BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi while criticizing Home Minister Mr. SK Shinde for inadequate action to capture Dawood Ibrahim hinted that the don could even be forcibly apprehended from Pakistan. He said this in the midst of a heated general election campaign. Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif misconstrued this as a threat to invade Pakistan! He gave a strong reaction. This in turn provoked reactions from India’s politicians. The only good aspect about the Indian reaction was that both the national parties spoke with one voice. Alas, what they said was silly and irrelevant.
The two points made by both the Congress and BJP were that the Pakistan Army Chief had no right to interfere in India’s internal politics, and that the whole of Kashmir State belonged to India because Maharaja Hari Singh had acceded the state to India. The objection about Pakistani interference in the internal affairs of India was meaningless. When something is said in relation to a country by politicians do not people in that country have a right to react? Do not even Indians react all the time when India is mentioned in any context by leaders of a foreign power? In the midst of American elections when a Presidential candidate proposed policy change related to outsourcing of jobs to India did not Indians react vociferously?
Indeed this fetish about interference in the internal affairs of India has reached ridiculous lengths. When the London Economist recently commented on Mr. Narendra Modi’s candidature as India’s Prime Minister some BJP leaders strongly reacted against such “interference in the internal affairs of India”! One leader even threatened to approach the British High Commission with an official complaint. Are these leaders abysmally ignorant? Can any media outlet be prevented from commenting on the affairs of any nation? If so this writer must plead guilty for frequently interfering in the internal affairs of America, China, Pakistan and many other nations.
This irrelevance about internal interference apart, what the Indian politicians said in response to the Pakistan Army Chief was equally hollow. Reiterating that the whole of Kashmir belongs to India when in fact half of it is under foreign occupation was truly pathetic.
Either the Indian politicians should have kept quiet and ignored the Pakistan Army Chief’s outburst. Or, if they had to react they ought to have given a proper response which would have puhed the General into a corner. There was much that could have been said in response to the Army Chief’s statement.
In his statement Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif described Kashmir as the “jugular vein of Pakistan”. He demanded that the Kashmir dispute be solved according to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. He invoked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution for holding a Plebiscite in Kashmir. What Indian leaders should ask the General is whether Pakistan would be prepared to fulfill the UNSC preconditions for holding a Plebiscite in Kashmir.
There are 14 UN Resolutions on the Kashmir dispute. The operative part to hold a Plebiscite is the same in all of them. The operative part states that to hold the Plebiscite it would be necessary to restore the status quo ante before hostilities began in 1947. This means that all the Pakistani troops and non-Kashmiri citizens presently in Kashmir would have to vacate. China would have to withdraw from the Northern Areas illegally ceded to it by Pakistan. As per the UNSC Resolutions only an Indian force would be allowed presence in the entire undivided state until complete peace and normalcy are restored. In other words terrorism would have to end before Indian troops would be made to vacate. Only then could a Plebiscite under UN aegis be held.
Furthermore, the people of Kashmir would have the option to either merge the entire state with India or with Pakistan. No third option would be available. This of course would be totally unacceptable to people in the Valley who in majority seek independence. In the rest of the state people have differing choices in each segment. Given these preconditions it should be clear that the UNSC Plebiscite Resolution is irrelevant in present conditions. If despite this Pakistan were to insist on implementing the UN Resolution does General Sharif seriously believe that after the Indian army remains in total control of Kashmir till terrorism ends, at the end of it the entire state would not opt for India?
General Sharif therefore would be well advised to once and for all stop this empty bluster about the UN Plebiscite Resolution and address ground realities. The Simla Agreement irrevocably committed both nations to resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally. The Pakistan government and its army should pick up the threads from where President Musharraf, Prime Minister Vajpayee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had left these after they conferred. Regrettably the Indian government also did not act adequately to further the peace process. Now is the time for both governments to resume the peace process and take the Musharraf formula to its logical end.