The post-September 11 war on terrorism has hopefully won a new convert—Pakistan. On January 12, Pervez Musharraf made a courageous paradigm shift in the Islamisation of Pakistan post Zia-ul-Haq. Yet, the general affirmed continuing "moral, political and diplomatic support" as before to the cause of Kashmir, "which runs in the blood of every Pakistani". The cautiously welcoming Indian reaction is "trust but verify". Actions matching the pledge to end cross-border terrorism could open a real new window of opportunity. India has an onus to seize the opportunity.
India's diplomatic offensive and mobilisation paid off. Pakistan can no more appropriate the margin between low-intensity cross-border war and a full-fledged military showdown through nuclear blackmail. Also, Islamabad had long been in cahoots with the Taliban and become a nursery of international terrorism. A virtual US ultimatum compelled this born-again ally to join the "global coalition" in but not beyond Afghanistan. India's firm stance did however play a part in ending self-serving dissimilitude such as in the West's differentiating between "good" and "bad" terrorism.
Musharraf must be given full credit for coming to terms with reality even while awaiting ground-truthing. But since he has accepted Vajpayee's appeal to "alter mindsets" and "jettison historical baggage", it might be useful to itemise some of these elements as an aid to meaningful dialogue. The charge of Indian "state terrorism" and human rights violations in J&K reflects the sad consequence and not the cause of terrorism and proxy war. The same was said of Indian Punjab not so long ago. No more, after Pakistan-assisted Khalistani terror was ended.
Independence? J&K was independent between August 15 and October 22, 1947. Pakistan invaded, illegally occupied a third of the territory. Azadi must now be found within the state.
The UN resolutions are beyond resurrection. Part III, plebiscite, was to follow certified completion of Part II requiring Pakistan to vacate territories illegally occupied in "Azad Kashmir" and the Northern Areas. Self-determination, when feasible, was thwarted. There can today be no second partition of India, a hugely plural, secular society, for that is what "self-determination" has come to mean after several wars, proxy wars, jehad, massive killings and ethnic cleansing through Pak-sponsored terror. India represents a sixth of mankind and is home to 130 million Muslims. Another religious divide to complete the "unfinished business of Partition" conjures up a hideous "solution" far worse than the "problem" and would stoke rival fundamentalism.
Mediation? There was mediation by UN representatives and others galore over two decades and more. India's complaint of aggression by Pakistan was evaded and obfuscated. During the Cold War and war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, merits mattered less than on whose side you were on.
Following the lead of the US Defence Mapping Agency, many Western atlases have from the mid-'60s gratuitously abetted false Pakistani claims in J&K, through cartographic mischief. They depict a misleading northeastern extension of the LoC beyond grid reference NJ 9842 up to Karakoram Pass, enveloping Siachen which is on the Indian side under the UN-sponsored Karachi Agreement of July 27, 1949.
Nevertheless, Musharraf's new stand, if truly a strategic turnabout in endeavouring to reinvent a modern, progressive, liberal, tolerant Islamic state that Jinnah dreamed of, should enable Pakistan to reclaim an identity and much of its rich shared history and culture. It will then see India as another neighbour rather than "the other".
India then has two historic tasks. It must aim, first and in any event, to apply a healing touch.This it can do by holding fair and free elections with the widest possible participation. This can in turn be ensured by a calibrated general amnesty followed by internal dialogue and action for reconciliation, greater autonomy/devolution for and within J&K down to the panchayat level and a meaningful reconstruction, development, employment and good governance programme. A phased return to the barracks of all security forces can be progressively initiated with a genuine ending of cross-border terror and a renewed suspension of operations against indigenous armed groups.
Musharraf cannot just walk away from Kashmir. India must in its own interest enable him to stay his charted course. It should give him space and enter into that long-awaited composite dialogue with Pakistan with the earnest intent on both sides of negotiating a final settlement of the J&K question and other issues in contention. Premised on wide internal autonomy, any settlement would need to convert the LoC into a permanent boundary with mutual adjustments. Thereafter, ways could be devised for giving Pakistan and India access both ways across the LoC and developing mechanisms for joint supra-J&K management of trade, travel, tourism, river waters, etc.
India did make a seminal pre-Agra offer to open up the LoC and international boundary in J&K to cross-border movement. If conditions are created for an early introduction of such a dispensation, "the people of J&K" could begin to meet, dialogue and trade. Each step could open another door. In due course, it might be possible to work towards joint Indo-Pakistan defence of all or part of J&K and to evolve mechanisms to manage larger shared responsibilities suggestive of a condominium of twin but cooperative sovereignties within a SAARC-South Asian union.
India's Achilles' heel in J&K has been internal discord and alienation. It must find a solution that will win the peace, or face mounting global pressure. It must give thought to and build a national consensus on the direction and contours of a settlement and the process and stages this might entail. Like Pakistan, it has many wasted years to redeem.
Published in OutlookIndia