Pak's course correction on Kashmir

Pak seems to have corrected its stance on J&K in more realistic geopolitical & strategic terms, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2006 18:16 IST
Arun Joshi

Pakistan appears to have done a course-correction on Jammu and Kashmir all at once after 59 years of the partition in more realistic geopolitical and strategic terms.

Pakistan's candid admission on Monday that it never had made any claim on Kashmir has also thrown a new light on the two nation-theory and also Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India.

Analysts and political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir felt that Islamabad has changed the whole prism of Pakistan's outlook on Jammu and Kashmir- that has been the bone of contention between the two countries since partition. They said that it was a realistic and logical statement.

A die-hard Pakistan lobby in Kashmir politics however is dismayed at the way that the current Pakistan establishment, what it calls, is washing its hands off Kashmir.

"Pakistan never claimed Kashmir to be integral part of Pakistan. What we said is Kashmiris should be able to decide their future," Pakistan Foreign office spokesperson Tasleem Aslam told media in Islamabad on Monday. This has instantly caught attention of the people and media in the state.

National Conference President Omar Abdullah, whose grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was a witness to the whole turmoil in 1947 and was the first "prime minister" of Jammu and Kashmir, said that the statement "showed Pakistan's ability to re-look at the whole thing." He believed that the Pakistanis were being "realistic".

This statement throws a fresh light on the two-nation theory of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. As Pakistan has already started "rewriting their text books, saying that Pakistan was an outcome of deprivation of Muslims rather than a purely religious affair, has already shown their shift on the issue," Abdullah said.

"They say Muslims cannot be dictated to make a choice for Pakistan though they may choose that," added Abdullah.

He regretted that India has not been the "warmest recipient of the flexibility shown from across the border."

"If we extend the line outlined by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Amritsar at the time of launch of bus service to Nankana Sahib, we can extract something, otherwise the kind of statements that have been made by Defense Minister and Minister of State for External Affairs, we may not achieve anything," Omar who was a junior minister for external affairs in the NDA government said.

Coming as it does, the statement's timings have knocked out all the claims that Pakistan had been making on Kashmir so far. Analysts want a deeper study before drawing the firm conclusions, but believe that there is some sort of course correction.

Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Vice Chancellor of Jammu University and a renowned expert on international relations, read it as a statement "consistent with the flexibility being shown by Pakistan in the recent times. It is a huge shift from its earlier stand- call for plebiscite under the UN resolutions."

"But it needed to be carefully studied further for its future implications," he added.

Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Ahmad Shah said that, "it is a statement based on realism".

"It is realistic and logical because it talks of aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and not reiterating that Kashmir is Pakistan jugular vein."

But the strongest pro-Pakistan voice and a relentless campaigner of Kashmir's merger with Pakistan, Syed Ali Shah Geelani said, " Pakistan's establishment was being most unrealistic and indulging in betrayal of its basics on which it was founded."

"It is a Himalayan fact that Pakistan had laid its claim on Kashmir" and today it is making statements under pressure. President Musharaff is under pressure and his stress level is making him to make all sorts of statements, for which he has no support among the people in Pakistan. I have received calls from Pakistan saying that 95 per cent of the people are against Musharraf's changed tune on Kashmir, but they cannot speak because of the military uniform that President Musharraf dons."

He asked Pakistan establishment to reflect as to why it had fought three wars with India- 1947-48,1965 and 1971- if it did not lay its claim on Kashmir. "This question needed to be asked," he said.

Geelani admitted for the first time that 5000 foreigners from Afghanistan, Baharain and Sudan and other countries crossed over to Kashmir and "laid down their lives" in Kashmir. " What for," he said and added that this question also needed to be asked of Pakistan's establishment.

According to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Pakistan President is making all these unorthodox statements because he "wants to go down in the history as a man who resolved Kashmir issue".

"But let me say that the issue cannot be resolved in this manner. Pakistani people will never accept this."

He said it was a betrayal of Jinnah's vision on Kashmir.

Prof Mattoo, however, said that this statement reflects that Pakistan has realised the essence of Jinnah's original and real vision in which he had stated that Pakistan is a nation state for Muslims, but in which all other communities have equal rights and protection. "I think this is manifestation of that vision," Mattoo said.

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First Published: Dec 12, 2006 17:30 IST