In quick succession the Pakistan army, after five years, violated the Kashmir cease-fire, and terrorists unleashed serial bomb blasts in Jaipur that killed over 60 people. The nexus that consistently derailed the Indo-Pakistan peace process has resumed its activities. Is it pure coincidence that out of the blue China simultaneously lays claim to a part of Sikkim? Forget the shadowy international forces in the background that might have manipulated the terror network in the past. On the ground the collusion between the Pakistan army and terrorist outfits was indisputable. The two recent events indicate that the nexus is intact and active.
The nexus broke after Musharraf's crackdown against the Lal Mosque. At the height of hostilities between the Pakistan army and the terrorists this scribe wrote on October 23 last year: "If the war on terror by the Pakistan army is indeed reaching a decisive stage it undoubtedly would impinge heavily on India's own security. Bomb blasts in Indian cities will likely escalate in scale and frequency. Al Qaeda sympathizers have already announced their intention of targeting Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi in the near future. Al Qaeda has a global view. It does not differentiate between the regimes in India and Pakistan for targeting."
Benazir's assassination, Musharraf's loss of power and Pakistan's post-election scene reduced terrorist attacks to some extent. Meanwhile, the Pakistan army sought peace with terrorist outfits. Result: terrorism is deflected to India. And the cease-fire violation by the Pakistan army suggests that the old army-jihaadi nexus is back in business. It matters little if Pakistan's military chief General Kayani is in control or not, or whether it is the Pakistan army or only certain elements in it that collude with terrorism. The end result is the same. For India, it is a question of survival. Whether hapless or complicit, the Pakistan government's inability to deliver on terror is unacceptable. The Pakistan army's role is intolerable.
Currently, Pakistan's coalition government is in crisis. Nawaz Sharif has pulled out his ministers because of differences over reinstatement of Pakistan's judges. These differences between Sharif and Asif Zardari have little bearing on Pakistan's Kashmir policy: both leaders have supported continuation of the peace process with India. What needs attention are the differences in the Kashmir policy expressed respectively by Prime Minister Gilani and President Musharraf. More significantly, the line of action, differing from both, that the Pakistan army seems to be pursuing.
Recently Prime Minister Gilani rubbished President Musharraf's peace proposals on Kashmir. He said: "They were half-baked things that didn't have the mandate of Parliament." He said the process to resolve the Kashmir dispute must start from "the UN resolutions and the aspirations of the people of Kashmir".
President Musharraf had suggested soft borders within Kashmir, greater autonomy on both sides of the border, and joint management of both sides of Kashmir by India and Pakistan. This scribe considered the formula impractical unless India and Pakistan first reached an understanding on joint security and common trade at the level of Islamabad and New Delhi. Without an overall Indo-Pakistan joint arrangement, attempting joint management in Kashmir was putting the cart before the horse. Nevertheless, the thrust of Musharraf's plan seemed clear enough. Its successful implementation could imply the creation of some kind of confederation between the two nations. The goal seemed practical and desirable.
Has Gilani thought through the implications of rejecting this and harking back to the UN Resolutions on plebiscite? The UN Security Council passed a Resolution on April 21, 1948 suggesting plebiscite. Earlier, as result of a Resolution on January 20, 1948, the United Nations appointed a Commission for India and Pakistan. On August 13, 1948, and then again on January 5, 1949, the Commission passed resolutions. The sum and substance of all these Resolutions was that the people of Kashmir should freely exercise their vote to decide whether they wished to join India or Pakistan. No third option for an independent Kashmir was available to them.
Inexplicably, for several decades, the Indian government insisted that there was no Kashmir dispute since it had acceded to India and the UN Resolution for plebiscite was therefore defunct. Meanwhile, Pakistan and the Kashmiri separatists continued to chant their demand for plebiscite. India's case appeared weak and unconvincing to the whole world. Was our government subverted, or was it simply unbelievably stupid? Now Gilani has given India the opportunity to seize the option of the UN Resolution on plebiscite. India should welcome it with open arms.
If all the UN Resolutions of 1948 and 1949 are considered, the following steps would be required to implement them. First, all Pakistani troops and police personnel would have to vacate Kashmir. Secondly, all non-Kashmiri Pakistani residents in Kashmir would have to vacate Kashmir. Thirdly, Indian army personnel would be posted in the whole of undivided Kashmir to restore peace and order. Fourthly, the Indian army would remain there until this was accomplished ' in other words, all terrorist violence was ended. Then, and only then, would the Indian army reduce its deployment to a token presence required for ensuring peace. Fifthly, the State of Jammu and Kashmir would have to be restored to its original territorial status. Among other thing, the part of Kashmir illegally ceded to China by Pakistan would have to be restored to J-K before the holding of plebiscite.
Could any Pakistan government countenance all these steps and survive in office? Could China be made to comply? If, miraculously, all this is accomplished, under India's overall presence throughout Kashmir for the time during which it happens, would India win or lose the plebiscite? And during this period, would Pakistan, after its exit from Kashmir, and facing festering insurgency in NWFP and Baluchistan, survive as a nation? Prime Minister Gilani and the Pakistan government need to do some hard thinking.
On Tuesday May 20 the Indo-Pakistan peace dialogue will resume. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be interacting with his counterpart. The Indian government might ask the Pakistanis bluntly which endgame they are aspiring for: Gilani's, Musharraf's or the army's. Unless that is clear, peace talks will be a waste of time.