'Pakistan a consequence, not a cause'
Journalist, political commentator & former Indian High Commissioner to UK
Q:You have studied Kashmir for long. Can you define the most significant happenings in Kashmir, the understanding of which is vital before going into the question of solution to Valley's problem?
KN: Looking back, I think two things have happened in Kashmir. One, its integration with India, and two, the alienation of the Kashmiri people. Let me explain this point-by-point.
Before Kashmir acceded to India, if I recall it correctly, Sheikh Saheb met Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jinnah was very keen that Kashmir should accede to Pakistan. Jinnah even offered it a Bhutan-like status. But the Kashmiri people preferred to come to India because India had a secular constitution, a secular face, its ethos was secular and the national movement was fought on secular grounds.
However by 1989, this wave for India had all but disappeared from the Kashmiri minds. When I talked to some of the militant leaders, they said: "Look here, how do you think that our future is secure in this country where Hinduism is sweeping? The Hindu fundamentalists are trying to take control."
The Kashmiris also found that the separate identity which they had won for themselves at the time of accession had all but eroded in 55 years.
Q:You have been to Pakistan many times. How do the mass of people view the problem of Kashmir?
KN: I have discussed Kashmir with many people in Pakistan. As far as hard-core politicians are concerned, (this class is represented by the Nawai Waqt lobby), they say, "Give us this Valley, which has Muslim majority. You divided the country on the Muslim majority basis".
The liberals, on the other hand, want some kind of a solution, which is neither black nor white. These people are realistic and believe they cannot take Kashmir by force from us. They also realize that whatever happens to Kashmir, the effects are going to tell upon the 110 million Muslims in India. They are really conscious about it. So, what they are looking for now is a face-saving formula for both countries.
Q:Is there an amicable solution to the Kashmir imbroglio?
KN: The solution to Kashmir lies with primarily with India and Pakistan. Pakistan needs to accept our sovereignty on this side of the cease fire line and we retain two subjects only, defence and foreign affairs and that we also make the borders within the Valley soft, not the whole, but the real hard border, which will start after where the Baniha' or wherever that Valley ends.
I did suggest this to the Pakistanis. They said, "Suppose we infiltrate and get all our people settled there, what happens then? I said, "You accept the sovereignty and our control on defence and foreign affairs, and then we shall see, we shall take care of that."
Having said that, we have to understand that the solution has also to be acceptable to the Pakistanis, the Kashmiris and all Indians. But we must not try to touch all the three points at the same time, that is Delhi, Srinagar and Islamabad. I think we must start from Delhi and Srinagar first. Let us try to find out from those people, who are now the leaders, what do they want? How far they are willing to go. It is still my feeling that we can possibly, with some difficulty, retrieve the situation but only with a bit of luck.
KN: luck because the people of Jammu and Kashmir do not look upon us in the same way as they did 55 years ago. Currently, our face is that of a brute, a dictator, and a tyrant. All those friends of mine in Srinagar and Jammu who used to talk about Bakshi or Sheikh Saheb, corruption or rigging of elections have forgotten these things now or at least these have receded to the background. People now are talking, "Is this the democracy?"
I personally think that as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned we have never been democratic in our attitude. We have never given them the classical type or whatever type of democracy we have in the rest of the country. Economically, we did not help them or we helped them only in a way that money went to a particular family or to a particular people.
Q:By saying that the first round of settlement must be between Delhi and Srinagar, are you pushing back Islamabad and reducing its role in the scheme of things?
KN: I think that Pakistan is a consequence, not the cause. After all, in 1965 it was Kashmiris who came and reported to the Army that "Look here the infiltration is taking place." Nobody else knew about it. So, something has happened, something that we have done wrong, that has pushed the people away from us. So, more than anything else, it is important to reassure these alienated people and bring them back to the fold.