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The third step first

December 27, 2003

In several recent interviews, President Pervez Musharraf has proposed a four-step solution to Kashmir. 

'First, the two countries should start a dialogue; second, accept the importance and centrality of resolution of the Kashmir dispute; third, they should eliminate whatever is unacceptable to Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir; and fourth, go for a solution to the dispute which is acceptable to all -- Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris.'

The general must obviously have tried to put forward this formula during the Agra summit. So why did this fair-looking formula fail?

He blamed 'Hindu rightist' forces within the Vajpayee government for the failure to reach an agreement. A view substantially supported by many Pakistani scholars, intellectuals and commentators.

Even in India, many liberal commentators believe that the presence of Hindu rightist forces in the Indian establishment has made it impossible for India to reach any agreement with Pakistan.

Is this a correct view?

It is, of course, true that Hindu rightist forces in India use Pakistan to create hatred amongst the Hindus and Muslims in India (like the 'Mian Musharraf' card played by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi) and thus peace with Pakistan is not in their interest.

But that is not the point. The question is: If the Hindutva forces in India were in the margins and not in the corridors of power, would any Indian leader have been able to give Musharraf what he wants?

When I argue this with my Pakistani friends, I tell them what I have always believed. Forget about Vajpayee, even if Kuldip Nayar (I am using him as a metaphor for those who genuinely want peace between both the countries) was the prime minister of India, it would not have been possible for him to accept a solution to the Kashmir problem which would be of Pakistan's liking, not because of politics alone, but also because of conviction.

A recent article by Kuldip Nayar has reinforced this view.

In his article titled 'Can't afford another Partition' (Afternoon, Mumbai, December 2) Nayar writing about the forthcoming talks between the All Party Hurriyat Conference and the Indian government, concludes:

'Before discussing anything concrete, it would be better if New Delhi and APHC were to agree on some principles which would govern the settlement. And one of them should be not to entertain any arrangement on the basis of religion. The subcontinent has gone through the traumatic experience of Partition. It killed 10 lakh people and uprooted 20 lakh families. India cannot afford to have another situation like that.'

Nayar also describes two other options -- '(Kashmir's) accession to Pakistan'  and 'demand for independence (by Kashmiris)' -- as extremes which should be avoided. In fact, what he said is that, by distancing itself from Syed Ali Shah Gilani, who supports Kashmir's accession to Pakistan and Yasin Malik, who supports the independence of Kashmir, the Hurriyat has indicated that it wants to avoid the two extremes.

So, if General Musharraf wants to negate the options, which are not acceptable to India, then the following three options are out:

1.    Jammu & Kashmir's accession to Pakistan
2.    Independence of Jammu and Kashmir
3.    Division of Jammu & Kashmir on religious grounds

This, of course, is not a hawkish or Hindu-nationalist view, as no one, not even in Pakistan, can accuse Nayar of being a hawk or a Hindu nationalist.

The extent to which even peace-loving Indians, which I am sure are in a majority, are going to go is look for a formula to give the valley an autonomous status, as suggested by Nayar in his column.

This would probably be acceptable to Indians outside Kashmir and may also be acceptable to the Kashmiri separatist leadership. Though Pakistan may say or believe otherwise, we have to remember that majority of Kashmiris are NOT separatist. More than 50 percent of them voted last year -- a huge turnout under the shadow of terrorist threats -- and elected their own state government in free and fair elections, held under the Indian Constitution.

This, of course,is not going to be acceptable to Pakistan. Could Musharraf tell his nation:

'Look, our 56 year struggle is bearing fruit now, the Indian state of Jammau and Kashmir has autonomy.'  

Pakistan did not fight three-and-a-half wars just to give autonomy to Kashmir.

The irony in Musharraf's own four steps solution to the Kashmir problem is that step three virtually eliminates all solutions, which may be acceptable to Pakistan.

A Pakistani may argue that this is not legally right or is not in the spirit of UN resolutions or not fair to Pakistan etc, but, if Pakistan is looking for a solution acceptable to Indians then, the ground reality in India – hawkish or dovish -- is that it is nearly impossible for any Indian leader -- a hawk or a dove -- to make Indians accept a formula which gives what Pakistan is longing for, in full or in part.

Could Musharraf have any plan by which he can force a solution of his liking, which is not acceptable to Indians, peacefully or otherwise?

Fuelling of a violent struggle in Kashmir (by the help of jihadis) doesn't really work. It didn't work in the past and it will not work in the future. Terrorist attacks in Kashmir, or in any other part of India, does not and will not, make Indians change their position on Kashmir.

Considering the geo-political status of India, Pakistan can hardly do anything to diplomatically put pressure on India through the international community. Even the Organization of Islamic Conference doesn't fully endorse Pakistan's stand on Kashmir.

At a time when peace and normalcy is slowly returning to the sub-continent, the smartest thing the general and his team can do is to agree to disagree on Kashmir and move forward. Let peace not be held hostage to the resolution of this disagreement.

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