Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Noorani Proposal and Analysis

The author conducts an assessment of the recent proposal by Mr. A. G. Noorani, a prominent lawyer and author in India well known for his sympathies towards separatists and militants in Kashmir

Consensus on Kashmir

(A Response Mr. A. G. Noorani’s Recent Commentary Appended at the Bottom)

Vijay K. Sazawal, Ph.D.

A few weeks back Mr. Noorani, a well known Indian writer and lawyer, wrote a commentary outlining his thoughts on resolving the Kashmir issue. Mr. Noorani’s sympathies with Kashmiri separatists are well known, and he is known to routinely challenge Indian political and diplomatic position on the future of Jammu and Kashmir.

The question that is being asked is, how do Kashmiris feel about his latest commentary. I must publicly acknowledge that this is the first time I am actually reading any of his commentaries with a keen eye since I am preparing my review remarks.

Probably the least controversial statement in the whole paper is the lead sentence that, “the India-Pakistan peace process must have a Kashmir settlement as its clear goal.” There is no denying that people of Kashmir – those ordinary secular and peaceful Kashmiris without any vested interest – would like the issue to be resolved once for all so that politicians and demagogues have no choice but to focus their zeal and energy on things that are really important for peace and prosperity.

Almost everything that follows the lead sentence in Mr. Noorani’s article is a bundle of unorganized one-liners meant to obfuscate any clarity in his thinking. But if one actually follows Mr. Noorani’s thought process through a torturous path to its final destination, the following are his main points:

- Do not trash the message, even though you may want to shoot the messenger (General Musharraf). Mr. Noorani advocates Kashmiris should accept the “Musharraf Plan.”

Here are the reasons he gives:

- Because plebiscite/self-determination is a dead option ever since Pakistani Prime Minister stopped insisting on it in February 1958, and Mr. Noon was no traitor. The UN mediator on Kashmir himself had called the UN resolutions obsolete as early as April 1957.
- Because there is a “consensus” among Kashmiris, reflected in Mr. Noorani’s belief that both Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and the United Jihad Council (UJC) supremo have endorsed the “Musharraf Plan” way back in 1997.

Along the way, Mr. Noorani finds praise for Dr. Manmohan Singh of the centralist Indian National Congress (INC), lambasts the right wing Bharti Janata Party (BJP), though he also says somewhere that Mr. Vajpayee of the BJP started the peace dialogue with Pakistan and thinks that the BJP wants to conclude such a deal when it is in power.

Mr. Noorani’s commentary is interesting for two other reasons – first, he affirms that Pakistani general public opinion always dictates Pakistan’s foreign and domestic policies (interesting given how Pakistan’s military plays “cricket” with Pakistan’s Constitution every time there is a coup), and second, he completely ignores Mr. Ali Shah Geelani, the proverbial 600# gorilla in Kashmiri politics. It is possible that to Mr. Noorani, Mr. Geelani and the UJC are the one and the same. Certainly, he will not be alone in reaching that conclusion.

Do such contradictions put the Noorani proposal in the “DOA” (dead-on-arrival) category? Probably not. And here is why.

The “Manmohan Singh Formula” (which is how many Indian officials have described the “Musharraf Plan” to me, especially since the proposal includes the Indian Prime Minister’s demand that the present boundaries in J&K cannot be redrawn) does have some merits. I think the “building blocks” for the final solution probably exist within those contours. How that will happen and in what order is key to achieving a successful and sustainable closure.

But first the two countries must reach an overarching understanding on how to build mutual respect and trust to allow a win-win closure on the Kashmir issue. So the real question one has to ask is why would Pakistani military-mullah establishment ever accept a solution which comes nowhere near its stated goal of full integration of Jammu and Kashmir into Pakistan (much like the way the Northern Areas were incorporated), and also leaves India diplomatically and politically stronger by creating conditions for India to acquire a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)? For armed radical Islamists like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Salahuddin, etc., who are trying their best to tear Kashmir apart and cut into the belly of India by raising mayhem, anarchy and indulging in terroristic acts, what benefit would they gain from seeing the two countries come to a peaceful settlement? How will Pakistan give up its “strategic assets” knowing that such assets do more for the preservation and well being of the military-mullah establishment, rather than ordinary Pakistani citizens and its civil society?

Even in the Indian side of Kashmir, there is a vested lobby that has financially and politically done so well (literally feeding off the trough of the national Treasury and by deceitful exploitation of Kashmir’s pristine beauty and resources) during the insurgency and turmoil that it is practically impossible to believe that such a powerful lobby will have a change in heart and close its “shops”, especially when there are sections of the civil society under their control used primarily to glorify their spurious power and authority. For example, one word out of the mouth of the “Sultan of Hartals” in the valley easily converts into a headline in nearly all daily newspapers without question or reservation. Can such a society ever change for the good of “aam admi’?

But if we can get past those nearly insurmountable barriers, the next challenge will be in building a consensus. Everyone that I have spoken to on both sides of the Line of Control (LOC) believes that the process of creating consensus will require a total rejection of the gun culture. The trust deficit that exists today between the two countries will not go away until the state support for waging jihad in Kashmir is withdrawn by the military-mullah establishment in Pakistan. State and Indian security forces have to clean up their act as well, but so long as the violence is within the Indian side a of Kashmir, security forces should, and must, enforce law and order which is usually never without collateral grief. So we are simply wasting time, causing unjustifiable deaths, prolonging misery and denying hope to Kashmiris until the gun culture continues to exist in Kashmir.

Once the ground settles down to a peaceful and trusting relationship between Pakistan and India, I strongly feel that the “Manmohan Singh Formula” and the “Musharraf Plan” will converge into a reasonable “Kashmir Resolution Program” (KRP) of action. Demilitarization by national armies on both sides will be the last step in that process and an affirmation that all constituents have accepted the KRP and the program of peaceful co-habitation and mutual tolerance has taken roots. I have had enough personal interaction with the valley based civil society in the last few years to know that once India and Pakistan agree to a KRP, and that program is also endorsed by the UNSC, most Kashmiris will consider the issue settled. The UNSC part poses a challenge that should not be belittled in its importance, since in my conversations with major powers – and I have spoken to many senior western and Russian diplomats and officials – UNSC will demand that minorities and the disfranchised in Kashmir are guaranteed equal constituent treatment and receive benefits that will ensure Kashmir’s future as a multi-religious, multi-cultural and a pluralistic society. Even then there will be a small and vocal Kashmiri population that will never accept anything less than their own demands, but for all practical purposes it will be a done deal.

How soon this process can get kick started depends upon how soon both countries can get serious in resolving the Kashmir issue. Currently, it is mostly rhetoric and theatre.

(Dr. Vijay Sazawal, a Kashmir born policy analyst specializing in the U.S. nuclear policy and South Asian security, lives in Washington, DC and manages the website:, and a Blog.)

Consensus on Kashmir

By A.G. Noorani

The India-Pakistan peace process must have a Kashmir settlement as its clear goal; but no settlement will work unless it is supported by a domestic consensus within each of the three parties — India, Pakistan and Kashmir.

All Kashmiris, separatists and unionists, are now agreed that the future of Kashmir cannot be decided without the concurrence of Pakistan. In India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is sworn to oppose any initiative by the present government on any major issue, whether domestic or foreign. In 2004 L.K. Advani asserted that the Hindus would trust the BJP alone to forge an accord with Pakistan. In 2007 he and Atal Behari Vajpayee asked Pakistani visitors to wait till the BJP returned to power; it would give better terms. Both are false. The country will back Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who received a renewed mandate in 2009 which ends in 2014.

In Pakistan resentment against Gen Pervez Musharraf has in some minds rubbed off on his four-point proposal; understandably but not rationally. But, Nawaz Sharif has a formidable record of support for an entente with India and a settlement of Kashmir based on a fair compromise. While in office as prime minister, he told visiting Indian publicists: “We will all have to give up something. India will have to step back; Pakistan will have to step back; and so will the Kashmiris.” He clearly envisaged a compromise. In opposition he told an Indian correspondent on Dec 28, 1995 that he would “support to the hilt” any sincere effort by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to improve relations with India.

He repeated his commitment at least twice during the election campaign in February 1997. “This is now a part of my election platform,” he told his colleague Sartaj Aziz. As premier he met Prime Minister I.K. Gujral in Male in May 1997. The upshot was the joint statement of June 23, 1997 on a composite dialogue.

In 1998, a BJP regime came to power in India. Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Vajpayee met in New York in September and decided to launch a back-channel. At the Lahore summit in February 1999 they decided to accelerate it. They agreed also that neither side would reiterate its extreme position — UN resolutions and Kashmir as a non-negotiable issue. Kargil flooded the channel.

What is the status of the Kashmir dispute today? Since 1990 even the US ceased to talk of the UN resolutions. In February 1958 Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon met the US envoy to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge, in Karachi. Ambassador James M. Langley recorded: “Noon made no mention of a plebiscite and it seemed to me that he was clearly thinking of a compromise which would provide for a territorial division between India and Pakistan.”

Noon was no traitor. A few months earlier on April 29, 1957, the UN mediator on Kashmir Gunnar Myrdal had, in his report, pronounced those resolutions as virtually obsolete: “The situation with which they were to cope has tended to change.” That was 50 years ago. On March 23, 1962 Ayub Khan was prepared to drop plebiscite if India offered an alternative. The Z.A. Bhutto–Swaran Singh talks (1962-3) centred on a partition line in Kashmir; not on plebiscite.

This is the reality which Nawaz Sharif faced in 1998 and Gen Pervez Musharraf at Agra in 2001. Any settlement of Kashmir must meet one clear test and conform to four limitations. It must be acceptable to all the three parties. The limits? First, no Indian government can accept de-accession of Kashmir and survive even for an hour. Secondly, no government in Pakistan can accept the Line of Control as an international boundary and survive, either. Thirdly, nor will the Kashmiris submit to the partition; and lastly they insist on self-rule.

All old notions of a ‘final settlement’ of the dispute come up against those four hurdles, a burden history has imposed. Four points bypass them. They are, as Manmohan Singh said, on May 2, 2008, “a non-territorial solution”; an agreed arrangement reviewable after 10 or 15 years. We no longer squabble over sovereignty; but proceed to improve the situation on the ground by concrete steps so that in actual practice the concerns of each side are met and the four limits are not violated either.

How? The first of the four points envisages that since “borders cannot be redrawn”, we can, as Manmohan Singh said on March 24, 2006, “work towards making them irrelevant — towards making them just lines on a map”. In effect the state is reunited, de facto though not de jure. Men, goods, and literature will move freely across the LoC. The Hizb leader Syed Salahuddin will return to his home in Srinagar. The entire scenario will change radically, to the benefit of Kashmiri.

Especially since this will be coupled with the three other points — demilitarisation, self-governance and a joint mechanism. Manmohan Singh described them as “institutional arrangements” . Pakistan will have a say on matters like water management. This arrangement will grow with time, and is open to improvement. For instance an All J&K Assembly, comprising legislators, can be set up as a purely consultative body on matters other than defence and politics. Precise arrangements can be stipulated to ensure free movement.

The former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri has authoritatively established that such an accord was reached. Is it to be discarded because it bears the Musharraf tag? No responsible parent rejects a proposal for their daughter’s marriage because he or she disapproves of the boy’s father; especially if he is separated from the father, the daughter is none too young and other proposals are not in sight.

Syed Salahuddin endorsed it as a ‘first step’ on Feb 27, 2007, so did Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on March 20, 2007. Time is fast running out. Such an opportunity to clinch matters may not occur for long. As Mao advised Nixon on Feb 21, 1972, “You must seize the hour and seize the day.”

No comments: