Another Chance in Kashmir Possible?
President Obama is expected in India within six weeks. Media has reported that he has conveyed his administrtion's support for India's permanent membership of the UN Security Council if the Kashmir dispute is resolved. Subsequently Washington denied the report. But that's standard practice after a deliberate leak, isn't it? Can tangible steps within the next six weeks render a Kashmir solution likely? Events in Pakistan may create a propitious opportunity.
President Zardari is not merely at the depth of his public standing due to his callous handling of relief measures after Pakistan's worst ever floods. He could very well lose his protective legal shield for past corruption through a court ruling in mid-October. Pakistan is in turmoil and its army is restive. Last week Generl Kayani reportedly issued a warning to Pakistan's President and Prime Minister in a closed door meeting. Analysts are already voicing apprehension about Pakistan's democracy being derailed once again through an army coup. Kayani has appeared to support Pakistan's democratic process thus far. Will he continue to do so?
He well might. A new dimension might persuade him to do that. Pervez Musharraf from London formally launched his new political party and threw his hat in the ring. Addressing media Musharraf owned up past errors and promised not to repeat them. He reiterted the need for Indo-Pak friendship. And that brings us to Kashmir. It is not without significance that Musharraf took the initiative to carry the peace process forward with two Indian prime ministers, Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. He has claimed that India and Pakistan were a whisker away from a Kashmir settlement before talks got derailed.
Musharraf appointed Kayani to his top army post. In his London press conference Musharraf said that the army deserved an institutional role in running the government in Pakistan. Does not a new arrangement in Pakistan with Musharraf as democatically elected President and Kayani as the army chief under him with a role in decision making appear possible? If that happens may not Musharraf with US prompting pick up the thread of the peace process from where it was dropped?
That is why the UPA government's Kashmir team of interlocuters take serious note. Discussing and identifying the main irritants that inflame public opinion in the Valley are desirble but inadequate. The basic Kashmir issue must be addressed. No settlement with the Valley would be lasting unless its relationship with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) is satisfactorily established. That is why New Delhi should prepare a contingency response if Musharraf's peace proposal is revived.
Both Musharraf and Manmohan Singh had favoured a solution that made borders irrelevant and granted requisite autonomy to Kashmir on both sides. Implicit in this was Indo-Pak cooperation in governing Kashmir. This scribe pointed out at that time the flaw in this plan. He is repeating it in case that plan revives. No arrangement to make Indo-Pak borders irrelevant can succeed unless defence rivalry between India and Pakistan is eliminated. The peace process started from the wrong end. Trust deficit will be removed through agreement at the top, not through contacts at the ground. People on both sides are more than eager for peace. The governments pose the problem.
New Delhi must be prepared this time for an adequate response if events recreate the earlier Musharraf proposal. Nothing less than joint defence including nuclear power will succeed in removing the trust deficit, eradicating terrorism and resolving the Kashmir dispute. Will the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) dare to think that far?
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Dr. Rajinder Puri
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||JNK can be internally dealt with but just read this interview by Musharraf for the external issues: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,721110,00.html||