Old Designs, New Wraps
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

The 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 withdrawal.
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 Yasin Malik!
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 the dispute.
• 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 the Quaid.
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)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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