Almost had Kashmir deal with Pakistan: Ex-PM’s envoy Lambah
Pakistan agreed to ditch its long-held position seeking a Kashmir solution through the implementation of a UN resolution for a referendum and agreed not to redraw borders during secret negotiations with India in 2007, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy revealed.
Satinder Lambah, India’s backchannel man on the secret talks between India and Pakistan, told HT in an exclusive interview, the leadership on both sides had firmed up an agreement but it was not finally signed because of domestic turmoil that led to Pervez Musharraf’s removal.
“What we were working on, agreed there would be no reference to the United Nations resolution or a plebiscite in Kashmir. Both sides had agreed that borders cannot be redrawn,” said Lambah.
Without going into the detailed specifics of the framework agreement between the two countries, Lambah revealed the military establishment in Pakistan -– the army and the ISI -- was on board and the agreement required discussions within the ruling party and with opposition leaders in India. The former special envoy has not shared his views on the negotiations apart from a speech he gave at Srinagar’s Kashmir University in May 2014.
“We had an assurance from the military government of that time (under President Musharraf). The negotiators from Pakistan could not have been finalised it if the establishment had not been on board,” he said.
Several leaders in Pakistan, who may have been privy to the agreement, said that India had agreed to the demilitarisation of Kashmir. But Lambah said, “We had agreed to the reduction of military troops, not paramilitary and that was subject to Pakistan ensuring an end to hostilities, violence and terrorism. That was a major prerequisite. There was no timeline by which the agreement was to be signed. The only time limit was that terrorism must end.”
Barely a year after the broad contours of the agreement had been painstakingly worked on by both sides, Mumbai saw a major attack in November 2008, despite the categorical assurance from Pakistan that it would not allow non-state actors to use its soil to export terror.
“Mumbai was a very unfortunate incident and that did stop the dialogue. There was a break but we had already finished most of the work by then. After the Mumbai attacks, there were limited (back channel) contacts but what was agreed on by the Musharraf government was not disowned by the successive governments (headed first by the PPP under Yousaf Raza Gillani and currently by Nawaz Sharif).”
The core agreements centered around the cessation of all hostilities and terrorism, a joint mechanism for socio-economic subjects only and an understanding that like all states, Jammu and Kashmir too would have autonomy in respect to revenue, finance and law and order.
Lambah maintains the agreement is a “win-win for Pakistan, India and the people of Jammu and Kashmir” and can be the basis for all governments, including the present one led by Narendra Modi.
“It was not negotiated keeping an individual or party in mind. Everyone has their own style. Pursuit of peace with Pakistan and a discussion on Kashmir has been undertaken by different prime ministers and I have no doubt that future governments will follow the same path.”
On the issue of Kashmiri separatists meeting Pakistani leaders, which has become a stumbling block in talks between India and Pakistan, Lambah said, “In the past, Vajpayee, Advani and Manmohan Singh have met Hurriyat leaders and also given them visas to visit Pakistan. As regarding Pakistan, I fail to understand why they want to talk only to the Hurriyat and not also to the elected mainstream leaders from Jammu and Kashmir.”