Pakistan has thrust itself into the equation, not by dint of moral virtue or legal principle, but by illicit force as epitomised by its shameless support of blatant terrorism. As long as Pakistan remains in the equation, a solution is impossible, says Vivek Gumaste.
It is always a dicey proposition when the establishment recruits apolitical personnel to resolve a political crisis.
The United Progressive Alliance government's latest decision to send a trio consisting of an academic, a journalist and an information commissioner as interlocutors to tackle the complex Kashmir issue is nothing short of committing national hara-kiri and must list as another one of those hare brained schemes of this floundering government that excels in lurching from one disastrous mishap to another.
Well equipped on paper but challenged in terms of practical experience, these individuals lack the political savvy and discretionary acumen necessary to deal with seasoned manipulators. This was evident on their first day in Kashmir, when the chief interlocutor, Dileep Padgaonkar shot his mouth off without any thought for the ramifications of his speech. He averred: "We are here to look for a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue but a permanent solution is not possible without the involvement of Pakistan."
There is one simple reason why Pakistan cannot be a catalyst for the solution because Pakistan is the problem, period. Pakistan is the single hurdle standing in the path of a successful resolution to the Kashmir conundrum.
Moreover, Padgaonkar's myopic contention is historically flawed, politically and diplomatically inept and morally unsustainable.
In 1947 when India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, the princely states were given the option to choose either Pakistan or India or even remain independent. Initially, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, chose to remain independent, but when Pakistan sent hordes of Pathan tribesmen (razakars) to forcibly take over Kashmir, Hari Singh hastily changed his mind. He signed the Instrument of Accession and asked for India's help.
Sheikh Abdullah, the undoubted leader of the Kashmiri masses then, also ratified this agreement. A great deal of confusion surrounds the Instrument of Accession and the conditions detailed in it. Some indicate that it was unconditional; others suggest that the right of self-determination was built into it. However, one thing is clear: there is no mention whatsoever of merger with Pakistan. If that is the case, then where did Pakistan get the idea that it had a claim to Kashmir?
Further, in 1947 the UN had pronounced Pakistan as the violator of international law when it invaded J&K. Subsequently, the will and wishes of the people of J&K were lawfully enshrined in the state's Constitution of 1957 that irrevocably bound the state to India from that year forever. There is no historical obligation to make Pakistan privy to the negotiations.
Does Padgaonkar's suggestion reflect the aspirations of the Kashmiri people vis-à-vis Pakistan? The answer is in the negative. A survey conducted by Robert W. Bradnock, a senior research fellow at King's College, London which was published recently is an eye-opener. Only a negligible 2 per cent of the residents of J&K would like to see Kashmir become a part of Pakistan. Even when the Valley was analysed separately the number did not exceed 7 percent of the population. So it appears illogical to designate a role for Pakistan in light of this information.
Additionally, co-opting Pakistan in the discussions would mean caving in to the irrational demands of a vocal minority of hardline Pakistani backed separatists and according them a status far beyond their actual strength. A statement like this only adds fuel to the fire emboldening the hardliners to pursue their agenda with increased vigour. It is essential that interlocutors exhibit restraint and common sense in their utterances.
Pakistan's role in Kashmir so far has been destructive rather than constructive. By its unashamed support for continued brutal terrorism in Kashmir that has resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives Pakistan has forsaken any moral right to be included in the dialogue process. Bad behaviour cannot be rewarded.
India's disastrous Kashmir policy so far has been a jumbled mixture of self defeating propositions that include misplaced generosity that allows Hurriyat leaders to freely travel to Islamabad to openly confabulate with Pakistani conspirators about the dynamics of sustaining the insurgency. Such nonsensical naiveté must end. Separatists have exploited these conciliatory gestures to magnify the problem instead of responding favorably, testifying to the futility of such an approach.
The present impasse calls for serious introspection and a shift in trajectory from a placatory modus operandi to a more direct and decisive approach. First, let us do away with the notion that this is a tripartite dispute involving Pakistan, the Kashmiris and India; only PoK is and not the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sixty years of trying to engage Pakistan in a civilized conversation on Kashmir has not yielded tangible results and has only aggravated the problem. It would be futile to persist with such ineffectual measures. India must delete Kashmir permanently and categorically from the bilateral agenda and rusticate Pakistan's status as a legitimate party to this negotiation.
Pakistan has thrust itself into the equation, not by dint of moral virtue or legal principle, but by illicit force as epitomised by its shameless support of blatant terrorism. As long as Pakistan remains in the equation, a solution is impossible. The sooner we realise this, the easier will it be for us to find a panacea to the Kashmir imbroglio.
Interlocutors like Padgaonkar are only making a bad situation worse. Call them back before they do irreparable damage to India's locus standi in Kashmir.