Jan 12, 2010

Peace and Kashmir

Tayyab Siddiqui

"Fighting your war is our duty. From day one, it has been our own movement," said President Zardari, while addressing a special sitting of the Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) legislative assembly on January 5, in his first ever presidential visit to Muzaffarabad. January 5 is celebrated as self-determination day as it was on January 5, 1949 that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution recognising the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Since the Musharraf days, our policy towards Kashmir has been desultory, even contradictory. Scores of proposals have emanated from Pakistan but none has caused a positive response. Being half baked and ill-advised, they have led to serious attrition of our historical stand on the issue. They have also encouraged others to further muddy the waters. There is discussion on a variety of models -- the Ireland formula, Swiss model and the European Union proposals. Instead of bringing these ideas to the negotiating table, they have become an issue of public discourse and have harmed the cause of Kashmir.

Pakistan's policy towards Kashmir has suffered from a lack of direction. It has neither focused on nor involved the Kashmiris in negotiations. Statements reiterating support to a solution "based on the aspirations of the Kashmiris" have not become part of the policy. All these years, we have repeated the mantra without associating Kashmiris with the peace process. There has been no mechanism their aspirations.

The sad fact is that Kashmir as a 'core' issue has lost its urgency and primacy as a determinant of peace and security in the region. India has succeeded in preserving all its positions and has shifted focus from its unlawful occupation of Kashmir to the overall objective of advancing the peace process. What is worse is that capitalising on western phobia about Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, the Indian propaganda machinery has subtly but effectively exploited this feat and equated the Kashmiri struggle for self determination to terrorism supported by Pakistan. This well-orchestrated campaign has narrowed the parameters of the Kashmir issue to cross-border terrorism and Pakistan has been put in the dock, and blamed for the violation of its solemn commitment in the January 6, 2004 joint communiqué that its "soil would not be allowed to be used for any terrorist activity."

The haste and impatience to seek any solution has led to compromising our principled stand. Similarly, the tendency to offer out-of-the-box solutions needs to be curbed. Over the last 10 years, there has been no authoritative effort to seek consensus on the Kashmir issue in the context of changing international situation and geo-strategic interests.

The indomitable courage of Kashmiris, despite having lost 70,000 of its youth over the last two decades, holds the promise that ultimately their struggle will prevail. However, as a party to the UN resolution giving them the right to self-determination, Pakistan is duty-bound to seek ways to redress the ordeal of the Kashmiris and facilitate the implementation of the UNSC resolution. We need to take a hard look at the prevailing global situation and formulate a strategy of inviting and focusing international attention on the massive human rights violations by the Indian army. This alone would be a real gesture of solidarity.

In Washington, there is a feeble resonance to Zardari's assessment that just as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute cannot be resolved without accommodating the Palestinians, there cannot be regional peace in South Asia without addressing Kashmir. We need to build Kashmir's case on this principle. The US interest in the resolution of the Kashmir issue is becoming stronger not per se for the latter but in the realisation that Pakistan cannot and will not be able to play its pivotal role in the war against terror. Thus, the festering problem would counter the US agenda in the region.

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