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June 19, 2003
Dear General Musharraf,
In the interview with Prannoy Roy on NDTV 24x7 you took the stand that nothing would move -- no trade, no cricket -- unless the so-called 'Kashmir issue' was resolved. You said that in plain and simple language.
An Indian answer to that plain and simple stand could be equally plain and simple. Thank you General, we wish you luck, we have survived for more than fifty years with the hostility shown by Pakistan, we can -- and will -- survive fifty more years or more.
But where will it lead the subcontinent? For how long could we allow you to hijack peace?
Fortunately, the Indian response to your utterances is mature (as expected from a secular, democratic and confident nation).
I think the most sensible advice to you would be from Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani. In his recent interview to rediff.com he said that a day before the Agra summit he told you: "The Kashmir issue could be resolved only in one way. You maintain your stand on Kashmir, I maintain my stand on Kashmir. But let us pledge that peace cannot be held hostage to the resolution of these differences."
As you are not ready to take that pledge, let us at least discuss what exactly is this 'Kashmir issue?' Could we speak in simple and plain language on this also?
Let me start with your interview. On almost all points you have contradicted yourself. Here are few examples:
You say: 'I am very clear on one thing. The people of Kashmir do not want to be part of India.' Then you also say: 'Let me tell you that before Kargil, Kashmir was a dead issue.'
If the people of Kashmir do not want to be part of India and if you think 'the Kashmir struggle' is indigenous then how did Kashmir become a dead issue, requiring the help of your mujahideen to make it come alive?
In any case, how do you know that the Kashmiris do not want to be part of India? You also refused to acknowledge that last year's election in Jammu and Kashmir were free and fair.
In the same interview you admitted that your own referendum was a mistake and you also regretted that 'Pakistan had failed to evolve a functional democracy.' How could a president -- who is not sure if the people of his country want him to be one or not -- possibly know the wishes of the Kashmiri people?
If democracy is not yet evolved in Pakistan, then how could Pakistan -- or its tin pot dictator -- judge the fairness of elections in the world's largest functional democracy?
In a separate interview with Saudi daily Okaz, you said: 'Cross border terrorism is nothing but a dishonest portrayal of facts' [The News, Pakistan, June 14]. Facts? In your famous January 12, 2002 speech you had admitted that jihadis have created a 'state within a state' and declared that you would not allow jihad to carry on, including the jihad in Kashmir, from the comfort of Pakistan. So what is dishonest about our concerns on cross border terrorism?
What exactly is Pakistan's argument on Kashmir? You said, in the same speech that 'Kashmir runs in Pakistani blood;' you didn't tell us why! You can't certainly be interested in the 'wishes of the people of Kashmir' when you don't bother about the wishes of your own people (sham referendum and all that).
But in case -- very unlikely though -- you are really interested in the 'wishes of Kashmiri people' or their political rights, then Pakistan, as it exists today, has no case on Kashmir.
Jinnah may have created Pakistan to safeguard Muslim interests, but his was a flawed argument. Even he wasn't sure if his judgement was correct. After getting his promised land, Jinnah said: 'Any idea of a United India could never have worked and in my judgement it would have led us to terrific disaster. May be that view is correct; may be it is not; that remains to be seen.'
After more than fifty years of the creation of Pakistan, is there anything which remains to be seen? Jinnah's concerns were the political rights of Muslims. Today the Muslims of Pakistan do not have any political rights, the Muslims of India do.
In the words of M J Akbar, one of our best political commentators, 'The only Muslims in the world to enjoy sustained democratic liberty are not in Pakistan, but those who remained in India. Indian Muslims have had more problems than any one deserves, but they remain the only Muslims with guaranteed democratic rights. After the alienation of 1947 they have lifted themselves up and are becoming effective partners in the evolution of a nation state. This is, interestingly, what Jinnah wanted for Pakistan; a time when, in political sense, Muslims would cease to be Muslims and Hindus cease to be Hindus. That is happening in India instead, not because Indians are superior to Pakistanis, but because they have a superior political system. Pakistan's Muslims have had only a fleeting feel of free will.' [The Shade of Swords, Roli Books, 2002]
Akbar further adds: 'Jinnah won the argument in India before 1947. Pakistan's tragedy is that he lost the argument after 1947.'
Kashmiris have more chance for expressing their wishes in India than they would have in Pakistan. So if the wishes of Kashmiris -- or their political rights -- is the issue, Pakistan has no case.
Let us not fool ourselves. You are not interested in the 'wishes of the Kashmiri people.' You are not even interested in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. What you are interested in is the Muslim part of Kashmir. Pakistan's argument on Kashmir is a religious one. Simply put it is this: Muslim Kashmir should be a part of Muslim Pakistan.
From the Pakistani 'mullah-military combination' point of view, this may be a fantastic argument. From the Indian point of view this is absurd. I, an Indian Muslim, can rip that argument apart in seconds.
Here is a fact: There are more than 150 million Muslims in India (the second largest Muslim population in the world), more than the Muslims in Pakistan. Less than 7 per cent of them are in Kashmir.
Pakistan may have been created in the name of Islam. India can't and won't be partitioned in the name of Islam any more. Indian Muslims will not allow that to happen.
To use Imam Bukhari's words: 'If the issue of Kashmir is decided on religious basis (in the name of Islam) then the wishes of all Indian Muslims should be taken into consideration and not those of Kashmiris alone.'
End of argument.
Does Pakistan have any counter argument? If yes, we have not heard it. In 1965, Dr Rafiq Zakaria made a stirring speech in the UN General Assembly arguing India's case on Kashmir on behalf of Indian Muslims. What was Pakistan's response? It came in just four-and-a-half words. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then foreign minister of Pakistan, simply accused Dr Zakaria of being 'a traitor to the Muslim cause' and walked out. [Rafiq Zakaria, The Widening Divide, Viking Penguin, 1995].
That is again laughably absurd. Dr Zakaria was speaking on behalf of Indian Muslims, so how could he be a traitor to the Muslim cause?
Pakistan thought so because it thinks it has exclusive rights on Allah. This argument is also the basis of Pakistan's claim on Kashmir. But the facts do not support the basic argument. Any argument not supported by facts is no argument.
India, on the other hand, has successfully adopted the ideology of her founding father. Gandhi may have lost the argument in 1947; India's fortune is that he won the argument after 1947 (it cost him his life though).
In Kashmir, in the words of M J Akbar, 'it is not geography that is the issue; Kashmir also guards the frontiers of ideology.'
In his book Kashmir: Behind the Vale, Akbar concludes that 'Kashmir and the mother country are inextricably linked. India cannot afford to be defeated in her Kashmir.'
I am sure Akbar must have weighed every word of that concluding statement. Yes, we can't afford to be defeated in our Kashmir.
This is not to say that we will not discuss anything on Kashmir with Pakistan. As the prime minister said, we are ready to discuss all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. But if Pakistan insists (as you did in the interview) on the resolution of the so-called Kashmir issue as a precondition for the progress of dialogue on other issues, then we are going nowhere.
As the spokesman of our external affairs ministry said, 'the first step should be expanding economic and cultural cooperation, and people-to-people contact so as to generate an atmosphere of understanding, trust and confidence.'
He also said: 'India would continue with its recent efforts, which have also found a tremendous resonance among the people and civil society in Pakistan.'
He is right. A respected senior Pakistani columnist said in a reply to my e-mail about the interview: 'Such remarks would be silly at all times but when you are clearing the ground for talking to your neighbour, positively insane.'
With that, I rest my case.
Sajid Bhombal can be contacted at email@example.com