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Add the solvent and stir

The mutual distrust between India and Pakistan is the biggest obstacle to any mechanism that could lead to a Kashmir solution. To clear the roadblock, Kashmiri leaders like Mirwaiz Farooq should be facilitators, writes Pran Chopra.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2007 00:17 IST

Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Farooq recently stated that while ‘one side’ in Kashmir may lose more lives than the other, both sides are only creating more graves. This is the closest that he has come to admitting that violence is not taking anyone closer to their goals. Former J&K Chief Minister Mir Qasim, who had given up his chair to facilitate an agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and Indira Gandhi, had reportedly told a former High Commissioner of Pakistan to New Delhi, “After three wars between them, Pakistan knows it cannot take the Valley from India by force, and India knows it cannot drive Pakistan out of ‘Azad Kashmir’ by force. Then why are we wasting so many young lives in futile wars?”

Mirwaiz Mohammed, father of Mirwaiz Farooq,  was killed by militants soon after it was revealed that he had talked in 1989 in confidence to IK Gujral, Kuldip Nayar and myself at his home in Srinagar. He had then said that the bloodletting in Kashmir could be stopped if New Delhi accepted his credentials for leading the peace process. A brilliant independent member of the Kashmir assembly, Mir Mushtaq, was shot by militants soon after he made the mistake of talking to New Delhi on a trunk line that was ‘in the clear’ at the time.

But despite these tragedies, more Kashmiri leaders, parties and people are in agreement today than ever before about the disposition of J&K in the Indian Union. Therefore, the time has never been more propitious for all to sit together and evolve a broadly agreed upon approach to the issue of relations between New Delhi and Srinagar and between Srinagar and the regional capitals on the Indian side of the Line of Control. Mirwaiz Farooq may well be the right man to initiate the search for such an agreement.

A working paper that can be a starting point has also been ready since 1975. This is the agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah. Under it, the state assembly was to review all subjects to which the state’s accession to the Indian Union had been extended by the assembly during the long years that Sheikh Abdullah was in prison, and the Union Parliament was to review all such extensions as the assembly may nominate.

For more than 20 years, this agreement remained in cold storage because it was evaded by successive governments of India. When the BJP at last indicated, sometime in the mid-1990s, that it would live up to that agreement, the state assembly produced a detailed review. But instead of considering it as promised, the BJP abruptly threw it out of Parliament, capping the worst instance of affronts to Kashmir by both parties.

We are still living with the consequences of that rash and ill-considered action by the Union government. But it remains a fact that success in devolving more powers to the state on the Indian side of the LoC can have a ripple effect on Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) as well. Many people in POK are agitated by the contrast between the level of democracy they see on the Indian side and the utter lack of it on their own side. As the contrast increases, so will the demand by Muzaffarabad for some democracy on its side of the LoC also.

That can give some substance to the suggestion by Pervez Musharraf that India and Pakistan should try to set up ‘joint management’ of Kashmir. There can be no joint management of the two sides of Kashmir by India and Pakistan if Muzaffarabad shivers on hearing the crack of a whip in Islamabad, and Srinagar remains more or less autonomous of New Delhi. That would make Pakistan itself a key player in Kashmir via Muzaffarabad. Nor can there be much ‘joint’ of anything else if, while New Delhi and Srinagar fight them on the Indian side of the LoC, the Taliban continue to enjoy official hospitality, control strategic parts of the NWFP and determine Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan on the Pakistani side.

Pakistan and India have to become much more compatible in their domestic and foreign policies before they can coordinate their actions and policies on sensitive parts of their territories such as the respective parts of Kashmir. Therefore, people of the stature and intentions of Mirwaiz Farooq need to concentrate more on bringing about greater compatibilities within J&K, and between India and Pakistan, than on searching the globe for examples of ‘joint management’, whether in far off Ireland or in accordance to the bygone Trieste model.

We should look more closely in our own time and place paradigms to see how the people of India and Pakistan, and particularly of the two sides of J&K, can work more closely together to create the kind of mutual relations which may make ‘joint management’ achievable one day. That too, not only of Kashmir but also in many other areas upon which the welfare of the people of the whole subcontinent depends.

Pran Chopra is a political analyst and former Chief Editor of The Statesman