Sudheendra Kulkarni, the chairman of the Observer Research Foundation Mumbai, said on Friday the joint administration of Jammu and Kashmir by India and Pakistan is the only workable solution to the Kashmir issue.
The two countries could initiate efforts to normalise their strained relations by going ahead with the proposed limited cricket series at a neutral venue next month, and this could pave the way for resuming talks and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan for next year’s SAARC summit, he said.
Kulkarni, who was in headlines recently after Shiv Sena members blackened his face with ink for organising a function in Mumbai for the release of a book by former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri, made the remarks while delivering a lecture at the Pakistan high commission here.
India and Pakistan should treat Kashmir as the “core issue” and resolve it consensually, he said. An early and amicable solution of the issue is a “precondition for genuine reconciliation and abiding peace”.
“Only viable and workable solution to the Kashmir dispute is for India and Pakistan to bring the two sides of Kashmir together and co-administer its affairs with a large degree of autonomy for the people of the two sides of Kashmir,” Kulkarni said.
The two countries must also accept the reality that they cannot recapture the part of Kashmir administered by the other side and that there can be no military solution to the issue, he said. “There is also no possibility whatsoever of Kashmir becoming independent,” he added.
Kulkarni, who once served as a special aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said India and Pakistan would both be winners by normalising their relations as quickly as possible
Referring to his recent visit to Karachi, Kulkarni said the overwhelming majority of people on both sides desire peace.
“It is necessary for all those who wish to see better relations that we understand the real nature of the problem between our two countries. The dispute is political and not religious, it is not a dispute between Hindus and Muslims and much less a dispute between Hinduism and Islam,” he said.
Many of the problems affecting India-Pakistan relations today could have been averted if stakeholders such as the Congress and Muslim League had agreed on constitutional guarantees for protecting the rights of minorities and a framework for cooperation on issues of mutual concern such as security, trade, communication and movement of people before Partition, he said.
Kulkarni further said Pakistan “must stop with a heavy hand cross-border terrorism”. He added that there is “insufficient recognition” in Pakistan of the pain and anguish that cross-border terrorism has caused in India.
At the same time, India must acknowledge that Pakistan too is a victim of terrorism and religious extremism and that the military and government in Islamabad have mounted “unprecedented operations” against the menace.
Noting that Modi has visited all neighbouring countries except Pakistan, Kulkarni said he would strongly urge the Prime Minister to also go to Islamabad. “The soil is really ready for a breakthrough. Prime Minister Modi with a huge mandate can make a difference,” he said.
Kulkarni, a former member of the BJP, was a key player in Vajpayee’s team and helped write his speeches. In recent years, he has been critical of right-wing groups allied to the BJP.