By Dr Shireen M. Mazari
visit of the Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan and a
bilateral Pakistan-India conference on Kashmir within
the ongoing peace process provided interesting insights
into the Kashmir issue and the possible paths the
issue could travel upon. The entire Advani issue
happening around the same time was surely more than
a mere coincidence. Mr. Advani is a shrewd and calculating
politician and his remarks on the Quaid were well
calculated as was his resignation and its unsurprising
At the conference, organized by the Institute of
Strategic Studies (ISS), Islamabad, apart from Indian
analysts and academics from north and south, two
participants from Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir
provided fascinating insights. Pakistanis and Indians
have obviously interacted very differently since
the dialogue process began in 2004, leading to an
overwhelming interaction and the "feel good"
atmospherics instituted since. The whole tone and
tenor of this latest bilateral exchange between
Pakistanis and Indians was qualitatively different
from earlier bilateral and multilateral conferences.
Gone were the bitter accusations and acrimonious
exchanges and there really was an effort to go beyond
the usual conflictual bounds of the discourse that
has traditionally dominated these academic interactions.
However, beyond the new bonhomie, has anything altered
in concrete terms? Clearly, many Indians, as well
as the people from Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, now
recognize that the prevailing situation is untenable,
as the vast majority of Kashmiris are simply not
prepared to accept either Indian occupation or union
with India. But India's political elite and most
of Indian civil society have yet to move substantively
on accepting this reality.
Those who may have arrived at this recognition,
have yet to make the transition to conceding the
Kashmiris the right to choose - that is, a referendum
or plebiscite aimed at allowing them their right
of self-determination. Instead, the Indians' new
line is an echo of their new official policy aimed
at "soft borders" and maximum autonomy.
There is a lot of emphasis on words - the equivalent
of atmospherics - like "legal stake for Pakistan"
in the maximum autonomy of Indian Occupied Kashmir
with an equivalent stake for India vis-a-vis AJK.
But the bottom line is that the LoC division remains
permanent - under a different guise!
There is also a growing realization in India that
the Kashmiris cannot be left out of a dialogue on
resolving the Kashmir conflict. Pakistan has always
maintained that the issue should be resolved keeping
in view the wishes of the Kashmiris and there has
been a general acceptance of the Kashmiris joining
this dialogue at some stage. Many in India now apparently
accept the need to talk to the Kashmiris, but bilaterally
rather than through a trilateral dialogue between
Pakistan, India and the Kashmiri representatives.
Of course, who the latter would be is also an issue
on which there is increasing discussion, in Pakistan
and India. In this context, it was interesting to
see the hesitancy of some Indian scholars towards
One can clearly see a pattern emerging from the
Indian side, in terms of a so-called Kashmir settlement.
• First, build up the trust factor with Pakistan,
especially in relation to intent. Hence the permission
to allow the Hurriyat leaders to travel across the
LoC. The Indians also know of the differences amongst
these leaders and, in their calculations, this was
intended to undermine the credibility of some amongst
them. That has not happened. Even the Pakistani
leadership was prepared to accept the differences
and meet with Yasin Malik separately. Also, while
Mir Waiz denounced the UNSC Resolutions because
they lacked enforceability, he did not reject the
principle they advocated - that of self-determination
- even as he called for new initiatives to resolve
• Second, show the world the "concessions"
India is making. Here also the visit of the Hurriyat
leaders becomes a critical part of this strategy.
It is in this context that the Advani drama should
be understood. Mr. Advani facing up to his angry
support base amongst Hindu fundamentalists and even
Congressional and other secular segments of the
Indian political spectrum calling into question
his reference to the Quaid as secular - most conveniently
forgot that Advani's statement was in the context
of a direct reference to a particular speech of
All this was clearly intended to show the world
-- and Pakistan -- how difficult it is for the Indian
political elite to shift from its earlier, hostile
posturing on Pakistan and Jinnah. Of course it also
sent an accompanying message that the Indian leadership
has already gone too far out on a limb with Pakistan!
Hence Pakistan should not expect any more "concessions"!
Presumably, since the Pakistani leadership has shown
a flexibility that aroused little adverse reaction
in Pakistan, the Indians expect this concessional
mode from the Pakistani side to continue.
• Third, get Indian analysts and academics
to plug the cause of "soft borders", with
no reflection on the fact that the LoC is simply
a ceasefire line and not a border to begin with,
with increased travel and trade. Given Indian deployments
along its international border with Pakistan, how
"soft borders" would work here is interesting!
And what of the other unresolved border disputes
- Sir Creek, the working boundary and so on? It
will be interesting to see how Indian analysts deal
with these issues within the context of "soft
borders". At present their focus is on Kashmir
with the hope that enough movement of people and
goods along the LoC will make the Kashmiris forget
about self-determination - or at least will compel
them to freeze the dispute indefinitely.
• Fourth, and perhaps most ominous for Pakistan,
is the Indo-US game plan, on the cards, to eventually
use the detente between Pakistan and India to delink
India's nuclear program from Pakistan's. India has
always stated that its nuclear program is beyond
the bilateral mode, while Pakistan has maintained
that its nuclear deterrence is India-specific. So
if relations between Pakistan and India get to a
stage where all conflictual issues are resolved,
one should not be surprised to find renewed pressure
on Pakistan to roll-back its nuclear capability.
That is why, while we rightly state that our threat
is from India, we need to emphasize that our nuclear
capability is to deter any future threat from any
possible source - including an India which may again
become hostile. The nuclear capability is integral
to our security parameters and we need to rationalize
our nuclear deterrence in a more general fashion,
not solely within an Indo-centric framework.
All in all, Indian designs are flexible tactically
while retaining a strategic continuity. Pakistan
needs to have very clear policy formulations on
Kashmir and the nuclear issue. Even as it accepts
and responds positively to Indian CBMs on Kashmir,
it needs to understand what lies behind these and
also needs to show that it is in no hurry on the
Kashmir issue. It is India that is truly running
out of time, given its ambitions beyond South Asia.
(The writer is Director General of the Institute
of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)