Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal
Prime Minster Manmohan Singh‟s address to the UNGA came as a disappointment for all those wishing to re-rail the peace process between Pakistan and India. It was an anticlimax of the peace overtures extended by Pakistan‟s Prime Minister since his assumption of office in June. Contents of Manmohan‟s hubris clad utterances indeed left a bad taste in the mouth. Despite the fact that Manmohan is destined to time out in May 2014, Nawaz Sharif did not wait till then and he set out in all sincerity to lay the foundation of a durable peace with India. Nawaz Sharif‟s timing for the peace offensive was not appropriate; his indecent haste has brought him an embarrassment. Manmohan Singh has no political following and due to this limitation, as prime minister, he has all along been a weakling, moreover due to electoral compulsions, he had no choice but to appear more hawkish than BJP‟s Narendra Modi. Manmohan‟s folly of succumbing to exigencies has certainly reduced him to a pygmy; and for sure, Nawaz Sharif stands much taller.
No meaningful peace initiative can stand for itself if the Kashmir issue is circumvented. Initiative to resolve the Kashmir issue is with India. India is in no mood to cede space; that too during this timeframe when Pakistan is preoccupied with combating terrorism of various kinds, including that sponsored by India itself. A dossier of Indian involvement in creating, fanning and sustaining unrest in Baluchistan was duly handed over to Manmohan Singh by his Pakistani counter part during the Sham-al-Sheikh NAM summit.
While addressing the ongoing UNGA session on Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue… Our two countries have wasted massive resources in an arms race… resources which could have been used for the well-being of our people. We still have that opportunity.” At the same time, however, Nawaz aptly called for resolving „festering disputes‟ and urged the UN to play its role in this regard. “The United Nations must continue to remain attentive to the issue of
Jammu and Kashmir and the full realisation of the right to self-determination of its people. The issue was presented before the Security Council (by India), in 1948; and yet it remains unresolved after nearly seven decades.” It is a stark reality that left to them, Pakistan and India will not be able to settle the Kashmir issue which attracts a huge political baggage in the domestic politics of both the countries. Hence, it would be in the fitness of the things that the UN plays an effective role by appointing „Secretary General‟s Special Representative on Kashmir‟ to take up the task in line with the UN resolutions.
In a hard-hitting rejoinder from the same podium a day after, Dr Singh retorted that India considers the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir “outdated”. He rejected Nawaz Sharif's call for resolution of the Kashmir issue on the basis of UNSC resolutions, saying India favoured settlement of all issues on the basis of the Simla Agreement. He said, "India is committed sincerely in resolving all issues with Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, through bilateral dialogue on the basis of Simla Agreement. There must be a clear understanding of the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is integral part of India and that there can never, ever, be a compromise with the unity and territorial integrity of India." These contradictory positions on Kashmir indicate the confusion that prevails at the highest policy level of India; may be it is a deliberate ambiguity induced strategy to keep the escape clause embedded.
Singh deflected the pressure of being a defaulter of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir by saying " the epicentre of terrorism in our region is located in our neighbourhood in Pakistan… for progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilised for aiding and abetting terrorism directed against India…It is equally important that the terrorist machinery that draws its sustenance from Pakistan be shut down”. This was the hardest ever statement by India regarding terrorism; it bluntly held Pakistan responsible for conducting terrorism as a state as well as through non-state proxies. Delivered at the UNGA, it severely tarnished the image of Pakistan. Pakistan has rightly responded by withholding the process of granting MFN status to India and not to take any further initiative till the new government is in place.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir. This year has witnessed a series of tit for tat of skirmishes between the troops of the two countries deployed along the Line of Control (LOC). The India-Pakistan dialogue process was put on hold in January because of these skirmishes. IHK has the dubious distinction of being the most militarised spot on the globe today. Over 600,000 troops are stationed in IHK since the current wave of struggle for independence began in 1989. These armed forces are present everywhere in Kashmir including schools, colleges, hospitals, recreational venues etc. There is constant threat to life, and it radiates a sense of insecurity, uncertainty and fearfulness amongst the masses. Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) provides sweeping powers to occupation forces. Apart from AFSPA, Kashmiris are also subjected to other draconian laws like Public Safety Act, Disturbed Areas Act, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act etc.
Chief Minister of IHK, Omar Abdullah, has said on more than one occasion that presence of Indian armed forces in the territory is directly related to the graph of
violence. Last week, Omar underlined the need of sustained dialogue between India, Hurriyet and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue once for all.
Last week former Indian Army Chief General V K Singh stated that Indian army has been regularly doling pay-outs to IHK ministers for „stabilising‟. He claimed that the army has paid all ministers in IHK since independence, and that everyone in the system, including the defence ministry, have been in the know. Army has been giving money to ministers to “ensure that the people are kept together”. “The army transfers money to all the ministers... there are various things to be done. As part of the stabilising factor in held Kashmir, as part of the activities to be organised,” V K Singh told a TV channel.
Responding to VK Singh‟s confession, the veteran Hurriyet leader, Syed Ali Gilani said: “We are not surprised and we know that for the legitimization of forced control of Kashmir, they are regularly being paid for their covert services,” he said. He further said, “VK Singh‟s statement supports our claim that election drama in the past was manipulated and stage-managed through the secret fund supplied by agencies.”
Despite Manmohan‟s folly at the UN, Pakistan and India have a solid basis for normalising their relationship. We can build on the Lahore Accord signed in 1999, which contained a road map for the resolution of our differences through peaceful negotiations. After the Indian elections, Pakistan should engage the new government constructively. Starting point could be building sustainable CBMs regarding Kashmir, and then slowly moving on to final settlement of Kashmir dispute in line with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, through a UN mediated supervised plebiscite.