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J&K: Troops withdrawal

It is not feasible that Indian troops move out and militants remain there with all the weapons at their disposal, writes Dr Shabir Choudhry.

india Updated: Oct 03, 2005 18:01 IST
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Pakistani High Commissioner in London Dr Maleeha Lodhi in a public meeting held in Nottingham (England), reiterated Pakistan's demand that India should pull out her troops to support the peace process and to achieve regional peace. Dr Lodhi said that the peace process between India and Pakistan has entered a critical phase and withdrawal of troops from urban areas should be the next step. In her view after two years of CBMs and two rounds of composite dialogue it is time for conflict resolution.

Dr Maleeah Lodhi is a popular name in diplomatic circles and since she has taken over the top job in Pakistani High Commission in London, she has made some changes; and has enhanced the reputation of the High Commission in London. She is considered as one of the best Pakistani diplomat, and good thing is that she doesn't have a military background; and unlike some other diplomats who still have military drills fresh in their minds she is articulate and knows how to interact with others and persuade them.

Despite her charm and articulation one wonders if there is any merit in her demand. Pakistan heavily rests its case on the UNCIP resolutions and they ask Pakistan to withdraw her troops. As Pakistani officials and some media people distort facts and propagate that India has refused to withdraw her forces, and do not mention demand the resolution made from Pakistan, it is only appropriate that the relevant sections of UNCIP resolution of August 13, 1948 is quoted (Part 2 section A)

1. As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.

2. The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.

3. Pending a final solution, the territory evacuated by the Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the Commission.

Section B

1. When the Commission shall have notified the Government of India that the tribesmen and Pakistani nationals referred to in Part II, A, 2 hereof have withdrawn, thereby terminating the situation which was represented by the Government of India to the Security Council as having occasioned the presence of Indian forces in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and further, that the Pakistani forces are being withdrawn from the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Government of India agrees to begin to withdraw the bulk of its forces from that State in stages to be agreed upon with the Commission.

2. Pending the acceptance of the conditions for a final settlement of the situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Government will maintain within the lines existing at the moment of the cease-fire the minimum strength of its forces which in agreement with the Commission are considered necessary to assist local authorities in the observance of law and order. The Commission will have observers stationed where it deems necessary.

3. The Government of India will undertake to ensure that the Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will take all measures within its power to make it publicly known that peace, law and order will be safeguarded and that all human and political rights will be guaranteed. The above quotation which is taken from the UNCIP resolution explains the situation very clearly that it was Pakistan who was asked to vacate areas of the State under her control; and that once Pakistan had acted according to the demands of the resolution, then India would pull out 'bulk' of her forces from the State in stages. And as we all know that, propaganda aside, Pakistan government never vacated those areas, but wasted no opportunity to demand plebiscite which was supposed to take place in stage three- after the withdrawal of Pakistani troops and 'bulk' of the Indian troops.

India could be accused of betraying Sheikh Abdullah, letting down the Kashmiri people and promoting proxy politics in Kashmir. Since 1947 till 1989, India had plenty of time to win hearts and minds of the people but that did not happen; and once the frustrated people had some support from outside they demonstrated their displeasure and anger, which resulted in killing of thousands of innocent people and human rights abuse.

Despite a lot of wrong doings by India in Kashmir the reality, however, is that before1989, Indian troops had no bunkers in towns and Mahalas, no blockades and were not roaming around the streets of Srinagar and other towns of Jammu and Kashmir. In other words it was militancy which led Indian troops to our cities, towns and our houses; and our sisters, mothers and daughters had to pay heavy price for this as troops as well as some militants did not hesitate to molest and even rape them.

I agree that Indian troops should leave urban areas that people could get some relief, but before we make this in to a serious demand, is it not appropriate that some kind of arrangements are made with regard to militants, after all it was militancy which led the army to take positions in populated areas. I understand it is a sensitive matter, but it is a chicken and egg situation - which came first; and who should leave first.

In my opinion, if we are serious about the withdrawal of Indian troops from the populated areas, then we have to arrange an internal cease- fire between the militants and India. Once an internal cease - fire is in place, and it holds, then the Government of India could be persuaded to withdraw troops to barracks that people of Jammu and Kashmir could get relief.

Abbas Butt President of JKLF, while talking to a Pakistani journalist and other Pakistanis and Kashmiris in the IKA London office said: 'Under the UNCIP obligation India is responsible for protecting lives and properties of people of Jammu and Kashmir. No civilised society wants troops scattered in populated areas as it creates many social, political and moral issues.

It is not feasible that Indian troops move out of the populated areas and militants remain there with all the weapons at their disposal. No government on earth will accept this retreat. Apart from that, danger of this policy is that there will be no one to protect some sections of the society from the wrath of rogue elements within the militant ranks who want to target non - Muslims, and even those Muslims who have not helped them in their 'jihad'. I am a Mathematician, and simple formula in my view is that first in first out; militants first moved in to populated areas and the troops followed, and now militants should go out first then we can hope that the troops will also move out.'

On the Pakistani side of the LOC Pakistani troops are stationed, and they have no legal right to be there, and I wonder if Dr Maleeha Lodhi and her Government has any plans for withdrawal of Pakistani troops from there and restoring Azad Kashmir Army. Although there is no apparent military movement against the position of Pakistani troops, but there is widespread resentment against stationing of troops in populated areas, which lead to social and moral problems.

Maleeha Lodhi is very knowledgeable and intelligent person and when she was Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, she on 14 March 2000, while speaking to Pakistan Express indicated dramatic changes in Pakistan's Kashmir policy. She said: 'We understand that Kashmiris should have right to decide their fate and we have always sought the solution to Kashmir issue which is acceptable to the people of Kashmir. We don't want to impose any decision on them. We want Kashmir settlement in accordance with the wishes of the people...If India agrees Pakistan is ready to recognise an independent Jammu and Kashmir state.'

It is more than five years since she made this statement, and I hope that she will stand by with her statement and support Kashmiri peoples right to independence; and I just want to remind her that independence does not mean joining Pakistan. I also hope that she will ask government of Pakistan to stop creating hurdles in the way of an independent Jammu and Kashmir.

(Writer is a Chairman of JKLF Diplomatic Committee, and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir. He is also Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

First Published: Oct 03, 2005 18:01 IST