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March 3, 1999


E-Mail this column to a friend Arvind Lavakare

Lahore Declaration: India's sellout on Kashmir

Judging by an official APP news agency report floating in Islamabad, the Lahore Declaration of February 21, 1999 essentially signals India's sell-out on Kashmir. The intrusion of a perverse American thought process just about that time adds credence to this wild speculation.

On the surface, the facts are disturbing indeed.

According to a PTI story filed by one Shahid Ahmed Khan (and published in The Asian Age of February 24,1999) the following is what Shamshad Ahmed, Pakistan's Foreign Secretary, told APP:

̃ The Lahore Declaration confirmed that Kashmir was a "disputed territory" and not "an integral part of India" as repeatedly claimed by India all these years.

̃ "Kashmir' struggle is indigenous and Pakistan has nothing to do with it."

̃ "We support it (Kashmiri struggle) only at the diplomatic level for allowing the pledged right of self-determination

For good measure, Pakistan's foreign office spokesman, Tariq Altaf, is reported to have said that the "The Lahore Declaration bears the signature of the prime minister of India testifying to the universally recognised fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an issue between the two countries which needs to be resolved and that it is obvious that Jammu and Kashmir is not an integral part of India as is propagated by the other side."

In actual fact, the signed printed text of the Lahore Declaration tells an altogether different story. It makes absolutely no mention of Kashmir being a "disputed territory" or "the right of self-determination of Kashmiris." All that the Declaration does is to recall the previous agreement of 23rd September 1998 which stated that "the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, is essential…for an environment of peace and security" that is " in the supreme national interest" of both countries." Towards that end, the two prime ministers have, by the Declaration, agreed, among other things, that "their respective governments shall intensify their efforts to resolve all issues including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir." Similar is the spirit and language of the "Memorandum of Understanding" signed by the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan on the same day of February 21,1999.

The non-committal language of the Declaration and the MOU is conspicuous considering that Nawaz Sharief, Pakistan's prime minister, had in his speech at the banquet hosted for the Indian prime minister said that the Kashmir issue "has to be resolved consistent with international obligations, justice and equity," clearly implying resort to the plebiscite mentioned in one of the United Nations Security Council resolutions of the fifties.

Where then is the question of India now agreeing that Kashmir is a "disputed territory"? It is all in Pakistan's hyped diplomacy and usual double speak, where else? Or is there really something else that we have not been told?

Mysteriously enough, and almost on cue, just three days after the Lahore Declaration came the news of a US think-tank issuing a paper recommending a new, independent Kashmir. Splashed as the front-page lead on the 25th February edition of The Asian Age, the report by Seema Mustafa told us that the Kashmir Study Group, which reportedly advises the US government, has proposed that "a portion of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir be reconstituted as a sovereign entity enjoying free access to and from both India and Pakistan."

The idea is at once a violent rape of recorded history, a despicable display of American arrogance, a colossal contempt of India's sovereign status, and a dastardly abuse of the rights of thousands of Kashmiris living peacefully enough in Jammu and Kashmir as citizens of the Republic of India.

The content of the proposal itself is utterly quixotic. As appearing in The Asian Age, here below are the ingredients of the think-tank proposal:

1. The portion of the state (of Jammu and Kashmir) to be reconstituted should be determined through an internationally-supervised ascertainment of the wishes of the Kashmiri people on either side of the Line of Control.

2. The sovereignty of the new entity would be guaranteed by India, Pakistan and appropriate international bodies.

3. The new entity would have its own secular, democratic constitution as well as its own citizenship, flag and legislature that would legislate on all matters other than defence and foreign affairs.

4. Control over the new entity in certain crucial matters would be left to India and Pakistan jointly.

The only thing more absurd and more overbearing than the above plan of a bunch of American "intellectuals" would be to assign the sovereignty of entire Jammu and Kashmir to the United Nations under the supervision of the supercop called the US of A. And to think that the think-tank has titled its paper as Kashmir-- A Way Forward. And to think, also, that the study group which authored the paper is dubbed a "think-tank"

Even more mysterious is that the Indian government has, till the moment of writing this, not reacted to the views of Nawaz Sharief, Shamshad Khan and Tariq Altaf, and to the report on the work of the US "think-tank". Is this a case of silence being half consent? Improbable, almost impossible, because no Indian government after Jawaharlal Nehru has ever dared to even conceive anything that might be construed as a sell-out on Kashmir.

Maybe Mr Vajpayee's silence is some deep, deep diplomacy. Indeed, it cannot be otherwise if you recall the views he expressed publicly in Hiranagar town at the end of his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir in December last. As reported in The Hindu of December 8,1998, below is what our prime minister then told a public gathering:

1. "Jammu and Kashmir is not Pakistan's jagir that it can give to anyone it likes" (with reference to Pakistan having given away a part of occupied Kashmir to China).

2. On the one hand, Pakistan was parting with the State's territory without ascertaining the wishes of the people and on the other crying hoarse on a plebiscite.

3. Regarding Kashmir, the issue to be discussed is that of Pakistan-occupied territory which belongs to India. If the above were the views of Mr Vajpayee in December last, one just cannot see him somersaulting them in Lahore just two-and-a-half months later.

The crux of the problem as to why some Pakistanis are exulting after Lahore happened and why some "think-tank" of Uncle Sam has talked rubbish is because Mr Vajpayee has totally failed to fulfil the need he himself had expressed on September 28,1998. Addressing the Indian community in New York that day, Mr Vajpayee had said, "There is need to make people the world over understand the real Kashmir story."

This writer will make a humble attempt to do just that through a series of articles beginning soon.

Arvind Lavakare

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