Do Not Give Up the Kashmir Cause
By Zia Siddiqui
Kashmir Solidarity Day is being observed on 5 February since 1990 in Pakistan as a day to renew our support for the just struggle of the people of Kashmir in seeking the rights of self determination for their future generations. It is a national holiday in Pakistan, and was first proposed by Qazi Hussain Ahmad of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who was great supporter of the Kashmir cause. The purpose of Kashmir Solidarity day is to provide sympathetic and political support to the Kashmiri people who are struggling for their rights of self determination from the Indian rule. Also, to allay the fear and concerns of the Kashmiris that people of Pakistan stood behind them like a rock filled mountain in their just cause.
As the saga unfolds, the British Raj on the Indian subcontinent ended with the creation of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, and a new state emerged on the world map in the form of the largest Muslim country. This extraordinary event coincided with the beginning of the Cold War and therefore this new country, Pakistan, immediately came into prominence due to its strategic location. While the people of the newly born state were still celebrating the much-awaited independence, tension was building up in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The British had failed to finish the job of the subcontinent’s partition and left the state of J&K to bleed, and the fate of 12 million Kashmiris remains to be decided even after sixty five years. As Justice Javid Iqbal put it, “the Redcliffe commission deliberately demarcated the boundaries in a manner which gave India access to the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Thus in this sense, the Kashmir problem is a legacy of British rule.”
It was within a month of her creation as a new nation state that Pakistan had to extend military and moral support to the Kashmiris in their struggle for independence. India declared the support that Pakistan extended to Kashmiris, as an armed attack on one of her states and sent her military forces to forestall the Kashmiris taking over the entire J&K. Without going into the complex circumstances of the accession of J&K to India, and also instead of continuing with the blame game on the role of British officials, Viceroy included, one just needs to make an effort to visualize the irrationality of the political maneuvering that was taking place at that time. The suspicions and distrust that existed among the leaders from the pre-partition times, exists even now. If one has to suggest a one-sentence cause of the Kashmir problem, it would be suspicion and distrust among the leadership of the two neighboring countries. Historically, the dilemma is that it has grown stronger over the past six decades.
According to the Indian Progressive Study Group, “the Kashmir problem is not a ‘military-diplomatic squabble’ between India and Pakistan; it is the denial of the rights of the Kashmiris as they have been forcibly barred from deciding for themselves the fate of Kashmir.” However, another view is that the Kashmir dispute is not only a clash of identities and history but also over territory and resources.
Internationally, Kashmir appeared on the UN agenda with Indian complaints against Pakistan for fuelling the crisis in the State. The first Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru took the Kashmir case to the UN on January 1, 1948 when Indian Ambassador at the UN filed a complaint about the J&K problem before the world body. “The intention was to ask the world community to acknowledge Pakistani aggression on the people of J&K and to force Pakistan to vacate its troops from that state so that a final solution to the question of the state’s accession to India could be found.” The first UN resolution on the Kashmir issue was adopted on January 17, 1948 calling upon both the Governments of India and Pakistan, “to take immediately all measures within their power……to improve the situation and refrain……from doing or causing…..any acts which might aggravate the situation.” However it was UNSC Resolution no 47 (1948) adopted on 21 April 1948, which directed the Governments of India and Pakistan to take necessary steps for the holding of a plebiscite in the State of Jammu and Kashmir to determine whether the State is to accede to India or Pakistan. This resolution was followed by numerous such resolutions outlining the processes and methodology for the holding of a free and impartial plebiscite in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but the situation on the ground remained unchanged.
India and Pakistan went to war again in September 1965. The 17-day war between the two was first all out general war in which the entire elements of national power were employed. The large-scale action culminated in UN directed cease fire, and eventually the Soviets facilitated talks between the two rivals. The Taskent Declaration signed on January 10, 1966 by Indian Prime Minister Shastri and Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan, contained in itself some of the golden guidelines to resolve their disputes and achieve peace and stability in the region. For instance, the Declaration called for the restoration of peaceful relations and promotion of understanding and friendly relations, restoration of economic and trade relations, communication as well as cultural exchanges. However, the agreement was never implemented and only six years later the two countries went to another all out war but for a different reason.
Without going into the genesis of 1971 Indo-Pak war, the ultimate outcome was the division of Pakistan through the active support of Indian military forces. In the following year the leadership of the two countries signed the ‘Simla Agreement’ on July 2, 1972. Once again the agreement contained flowery words like, “The Government of Pakistan and the Government of India are resolved that the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation…., so that (they can) …devote their resources and energies to the pressing task of advancing the welfare of their people”. Article 1 (ii) calls for, “Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation ….”. However, India violated the agreement by occupying the Siachin Glacier in 1984. The Simla Agreement also called for the establishment of durable peace and normalization of relations……, a final settlement of Jammu & Kashmir. The two countries did make a number of agreements, signed treaties, established hotlines and undertook a host of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) all through these years of conflict. However, the reality remains that people of Kashmir have not been given their right of self-determination, which they were promised through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions and for which Kashmiris have sacrificed enormously. However, the lack of development in the state and lack of employment opportunity increasingly frustrated the Kashmiri youth. According to the 1981 census report, almost 20 per cent of Kashmiris were unemployed. Eventually they decided to take up arms against the Indian administration in 1989 and since then thousands of people in Kashmir have died demanding the right of self determination. Within weeks of Pakistan’s nuclear tests, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee announced in Rajya Sabha that, ‘India is ready for talks with Pakistan. We had proposed some initiatives, and if Pakistan insists on discussing Kashmir, we are ready for it.’ Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif responded positively thus paving the way for the resumption of bilateral dialogue between the two countries. But, it was not until October 1998, that the secretary level talks got under way and despite no progress in the beginning, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee declared that, ‘the process of dialogue has begun. We have to (now) watch and see what will happen in the future.’
The most significant step forward towards the normalisation of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan was Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore in February 1999. The visit, which culminated in the Lahore Declaration, marks the beginning of a new era in the context of Indo-Pak relationship. The Lahore Declaration provided a huge opportunity for a long-term good neighbourly relationship between the two countries. The two leaders reiterated, ‘their efforts to resolve all the outstanding issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir; ……take immediate steps for reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons….’ However, very little progress was made to implement the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ signed in Lahore, before the Indian Army Patrols, on 7 May 1999 detected some intruders on the Kargil ridge in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. The Kargil episode as a whole quashed any hope of the beginning of this new era of relationship between India and Pakistan.
The military takeover of government in Islamabad on October 12, 1999 further strained the Indo-Pak relations and the fate of the Lahore Declaration was left to be determined. Although General Musharraf immediately ‘offered unconditional, equitable and result-orientated dialogue with India’ the Indian leadership could not trust the man who was in charge of the Pakistan Army when the Kargil incident occurred. Therefore, it was not until May 25, 2001 when General Musharraf received Vajpayee’s formal letter of invitation to visit India that dialogue was possible. General Musharraf’s visit to India in mid-July 2001 attracted huge media attention worldwide and at one stage, it appeared as if a breakthrough was in the offing. However, the visit ended without the signing of any joint declaration or even a joint press conference. Again an opportunity was lost and prospects of peace were dashed. However, the suicide attacks on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 1999 provided India an opportunity to earn sympathy and support worldwide and project Pakistan as a haven for the extremist elements. The event led to an enormous military build up by India along the LoC and the international border with Pakistan. Left with no choice, because all her calls to withdraw forces from the border were rejected by the Indian leadership, Pakistan also took defensive positions to blunt any Indian attack. From December 2001 to June 2002, about one million combat ready troops of the two countries were engaged in an undeclared and an extremely dangerous level of war preparedness, unprecedented during the periods of peace in the past. India recalled its High Commissioner from Islamabad and closed its airspace for commercial use by Pakistan. Pakistan also kept on doing the same actions in retaliation and the situation continued to worsen. Eventually, Prime Minister Vajpayee on April 18, 2003 announced in a public rally in Srinager that, ‘every issue should be settled by talks … not guns but brotherhood alone can restore issues. We are extending our hand of friendship but it should be reciprocated.’
Vajpayee unilaterally took the lead by announcing a number of CBMs including the return of High Commissioners and resumption of railroad links. In fact, Vajpayee had unilaterally disconnected these relations in the aftermath of December 13 attack on Indian Parliament, so he had to initiate the re-establishment of these basic elements of interstate relations before any kind of talks could be initiated at any level. While these basic CBMs were undertaken, the Indian leadership continued to blame Pakistan for cross-border terrorism inside Indian held Kashmir. However, the momentum to resume the bilateral relationship picked up after the new High Commissioners arrived in Islamabad and New Delhi by the middle of 2003.
President Musharraf has voluntarily dropped the demand of implementing the UN resolution calling upon India to organise the plebiscite in Kashmir. Another significant move was to propose to discuss the entire range of options and then to strike out those which are not at all acceptable to India and continue the discussion on options that are more acceptable. These are some very bold initiatives given the sensitivities of the Kashmir issue among some of President Musharraf’s allies-cum-opposition that would not swallow the idea of giving any concession to India on Kashmir issue.
Vajpayee’s announcement that he was ready for talks with Pakistan on all the outstanding issues including J&K was immediately accepted by Pakistan. In fact, Islamabad had long been calling for the resumption of diplomatic relations but the Indians wanted to see the results of Pakistan’s actions to control the cross-border infiltration of the militants before New Delhi could resume the ‘composite dialogue’. The resumption of diplomatic relations in June 2002 and the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) initiated thereafter have considerably improved the relationship between India and Pakistan. The initial breakthrough came when Vajpayee visited Islamabad to attend the South Asian Association of Regional Countries (SAARC) Summit in January 2004. President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee met on the sidelines of the summit and announced the Islamabad Declaration. Both the leaders committed to implement the CBMs and initiate talks at all levels to resolve all the outstanding issues including the J&K.
The relations between India and Pakistan started to improve at an amazingly fast pace after the Islamabad Declaration. From the military de-escalation to the cultural ties and cricket series to the trade relations, things were moving very quickly. Islamabad was willing to offer maximum concession to keep Indians engaged in talks and New Delhi was making an effort to make headway on all the other fields to normalise the relations. India however is very keen to improve the trade, cultural, sports and other friendly relations with Pakistan to reduce the burden caused by a sustained insurgency in Kashmir. However, New Delhi is not likely to make any territorial concessions in Kashmir except for pushing the idea of converting the LoC into the international border with some adjustments. Pakistan as well as the Kashmiris have already rejected this idea and therefore the potential for conflict exists. Unless India climbs down from the stated position, as has Pakistan, the issue of J&K would remain unresolved and the ongoing peace would remain very fragile. Same was manifested during the Mumbai attacks of 2008. India immediately blamed Pakistan for the plot, whereas Pakistan had condemned the attacks without any delay. The entire effort of peacemaking undertaken during the last so many years came to sudden halt, rather went into a reverse gear. This happens when the two states do not resolve the disputes but only do lip service and photo sessions during their visits and meetings. The process of so called CBMs has restarted again, but remains very uncertain; as were seen during cross LoC firing in January 2013.
Therefore, in order to achieve an enduring peace, which would bring stability, progress and prosperity in the region, the two nuclear neighbors should seriously consider adopting conflict resolution mechanism, instead of managing their disputes through CBMs only.