Return to 1953 status not possible: TN Kaul
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Return to 1953 status not possible: TN Kaul

Merely to go back to the past is not going to solve the problem. Let us look ahead. Let us look forward and, says T.N. Kaul, the eminent diplomat.

india Updated: Sep 17, 2002 10:52 IST

Q: Can a dialogue with Pakistan and China help in solving the Kashmir problem?

TNK: In my opinion not at this stage. With regard to a dialogue with Pakistan, China or others, I think before we can expect either Pakistan or China or America or the United Nations to pay any heed to what we say, we must first settle our own internal problem.

Q: Could you elaborate on your point about internal problem in J&K?

TNK: The internal aspect of Kashmir problem is, I think, the most important. It is suggested that we should have a dialogue. Yes, I think dialogue under any circumstances is a good thing. I would also agree that instead of putting any condition for the dialogue, we should have a free dialogue, as we had with Nagas, with Mizos and with others.

But we must be quite clear in our mind whether we can allow or encourage any trends that would take away the Kashmir Valley whether as an independent state or with Pakistan. I think both the possibilities are dangerous for the rest of India, for the secular democracy of India and for the integrity of India. I think we on our side, the Government and the people like us, must be quite clear on this point.

So far as the federal character of various states in India is concerned, it is, I think, necessary in the light of what has happened in the former Soviet Union. But we must also be aware that if this federal structure is maintained by giving greater or maximum autonomy to Kashmir, then demands will also be raised by other states of India and we must be prepared to give greater autonomy to the other states within the limits possible.

Q: Is it necessary to maintain the muslim character of the valley?

TNK: To my mind, what is important is not to maintain the Muslim character of the Valley, but what is important is to maintain the secular character of Kashmir. Kashmir, was a symbol of secularism for the rest of India and what we have seen happening in the rest of India is partly, not entirely, a result of what has happened in Kashmir and what has happened in other parts of India. Exploitation of religion for political purpose is a dangerous doctrine which will cut at the very roots or foundation of the secular and democratic structure of India. Any step which encourages this, must be discouraged. Therefore, I would not agree that we should mention the Muslim character of the Valley.

The main value of Kashmir is as a unifying synthesis: of Sufism, of Islam, of Hinduism, of Buddhism and so many cultures and influences. And that is, to my mind, what is unique about Kashmir, compared to the other states of India. When we talk of secularism, it is not merely equal respect for all religions, it is much deeper.

Q: How far should we rely on United Nations and other parties to solve the Kashmir issue?

TNK: I think we should not expect too much from United Nations. In my opinion, we should have restrained from taking the Kashmir question to the United Nations, even as a complaint of aggression by Pakistan. We know what has happened and I do not have to go into that.

Q: Should article 370 be abrogated in Jammu and Kashmir?

TNK: Article 370, I think was necessary in the circumstances that prevailed at that time, but it was supposed to be a temporary measure and the Government of India, instead of seeing and ensuring that this article was used for the benefit of the people of Kashmir, neglected this question and this article was mainly abused by the local leaders, the bureaucrats, both of Jammu and Kashmir and India, for filling their own pockets.

It is not the poor people of Kashmir that benefited from this article. It does not mean that the article is bad but I think if the article is to be retained and the special status of Kashmir is to be continued, as in the constitution, then we will have to take steps to ensure that this article is used for the benefit of the people of Kashmir and not for the benefit of the political leaders or political parties and, bureaucrats, the engineers, planners and others.

Q: Has excesses by security forces alineated Kashmiri people?

TNK: There have been excesses, even admitted, to some extent, by the Government, but there have also been excesses and brutal excesses by the so-called terrorists in the Valley and I think we take note of this if we want to win over the opinion of the minorities in Kashmir towards secularism. I think both need to be condemned - the excesses committed by the Government forces as is the excesses committed by the so-called terrorists.

Q: What do you think are the grievances of Kashmiris?

TNK: I talked to many of the militant leaders of Kashmir in September, 1989 when there was a seminar there. Their grievances were mainly as follows. Their first grievance was that there is no democracy. Elections have been terminated. This is a fact and I think we must attention to this immediate and urgent problem. We must ensure free and fair elections, we must ensure that democratic rights and liberties are respected in Kashmir.

Their second complaint was that rules were imposed by Delhi and the local people were not trusted. I this is also a genuine complaint. In other states we do not impose advisers from outside the state. The local people are given opportunity and chance to improve themselves. This has also alienated large sections of the administration in Kashmir from the mainstream in the rest of the country.

Thirdly, I think their complaint was that there is hardly any economic prograramme that benefits the poorer masses of Jammu and Kashmir, especially backward people like the Bakharwals, the Gujjars and even the poor people, the masses. (In this regard, although much money was poured into the Valley through the Planning Commission, it went mostly into the pockets of the bureaucrats, the engineers, the administrators, the politicians and their supporters. I am sorry to mention this.

I mentioned it way back in 1953 to Sheikh Saheb, I mentioned it to Bakshi Saheb, I mentioned it to Farooq, I mentioned it to Panditji, Mrs Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and others. But the trouble has been that there is no clear thinking as to what is to be done in Kashmir. We must have an economic programme to give greater opportunity for employment to the youth of Kashmir, to open communications.

I suggest that this economic programme should be and must be announced by the present Government unilaterally, irrespective of the situation in Kashmir. This could perhaps create a psychological effect on the minds of the youth of Kashmir who have been driven to militancy partly because of this and mainly because of the exploitation of religion by the fanatical forces there.

Q: Do you think dialogue with Paksitan will help in solving the Kashmir issue?

TNK: I have not much faith that any dialogue with Pakistan will be successful in the present circumstances. I think Pakistan itself is faced with great and very grave problems of disintegration. I do not think they are taking due note of it. For instance, Shimla Agreement is mentioned, I asked Mr. Bhutto across the table.

I said: "Mr Bhutto, you were the Foreign Minister of Pakistan and you came to the Tashkent Conference in January, 1966, you said Kashmir is the basic of all Indo-Pak differences. Today you are the President of Pakistan. You have an opportunity to settle this question peacefully, bilaterally, finally and without outside intervention. Are you prepared to do that, Mr. President?"

He smiled and replied: "Yes, Mr. Kaul, You are right. I did say that in Tashkent, but in Tashkent I did not represent a defeated country. Today I may be the President of Pakistan but I represent a defeated country. If I accept any final solution today, it will give the impression to my people that I have given into pressure from the victor. So, give me, something to take back home so that I could convince my people that India's intentions are clear and good and then perhaps in a few weeks I can lay the foundation for a viable solution."

He did not spell out the details but that is what he said. Well, Mrs Gandhi, in her victory, did a wise thing returning the 5,000 sq. miles of Pakistani territory which we had occupied in 1971, so that Mr. Bhutto would have something to take back with him. She also agreed to the release of over 90,000 prisoners of war, after the consent of Bangladesh was procured because they were the prisoners of the joint command of India and Bangladesh and they affected a large section of the population of Pakistan.

These were two important measures. But as soon as Mr. Bhutto went back to Pakistan, he raised the same anti-India slogans and did not keep his promise. But that does not mean that we should not have continued our effort for a final settlement of the Kashmir question with Pakistan, as was envisaged in the Shimla Agreement. I think we sat on our hunches, rested on our laurels of the 1971 war victory and did very little really to persuade Pakistan, to even influence the people of Pakistan and the powers that were there. Well, all of that is, a matter history; I do not want to repeat it.

The successors of Mr. Bhutto took an even more anti-Indian attitude. We know Zia-ul-Haq's Operation Topac'. The whole strategy was to increase subversion, destroy security structures, to raise the religious slogans and all that. I do not have to repeat that. We have done very little to counter this.

Q: What can possibily be a solution to Kashmir issue in your opinion?

TNK: I think that the utmost priority must be given, first and foremost, to the internal aspect of the Kashmir question and we must make every effort possible to have a dialogue, particularly with the militant youths in Kashmir. I think they can be brought round if the Government is willing to have a dialogue without condition. Moreover the Muslim leaders of India have to raise their voice against the atrocities that are committed by the militant terrorists in Kashmir.

I am talking as an Indian mainly and also as a Kashrniri, but I am concerned at the relative silence of the Muslim leaders of the rest of India on the atrocities that are committed by the militant terrorists in Kashmir against the minorities or against the destruction of the temples in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

I think the Muslim leaders of India have to raise their voice as Indians, as leaders of secular, democratic India, against these atrocities. That will have a sobering influence on the militant Hindus or chauvinist Hindus or communal Hindu parties and leaders in this country.

If this is not done, I am afraid that the Hindu chauvinist forces in the rest of India will mobilise and gain strength and exploit the situation further, and this can have very serious repercussions for the unity and integrity of India.

Q: Do you approve about reverting to status-quo of 1947 and 1953 in the valley?

TNK: I would like to say that it is not possibleto go back to status quo ante of 1947 or 1953. I think we have to do some fresh thinking on the subject. Merely to go back to the past is not going to solve the problem. Let us look ahead. Let us look forward and try to see how we can strengthen the secular character of India as a whole and make Kashmir as a symbol of that secularism culturally, ethnically, economically, politically.

First Published: Sep 14, 2002 20:54 IST