The LoC Issue
By Dr Shireen M Mazari


The Pakistan government has shown a welcome sensitivity to the changed national dynamics in the wake of the earthquake tragedy by postponing the purchase of F-16s from the US. But some developments in terms of India can become a cause of concern for us in the long term -- including Indian attacks against Pakistan in the IAEA and the developments along the LoC.
The agreement by Pakistan and India to "open" the LoC at five points for what was cited as humanitarian purposes was welcomed as a substantive Kashmir CBM which would alleviate some of the trauma of the earthquake victims on both sides of this ceasefire line. But the manner in which the Indian side is implementing the agreement raises a whole series of questions about Indian intent. So far it seems the Indians basically want to use the LoC issue as a public relations exercise by sending across relief goods but not moving fast enough on allowing the movement of people. Of course the net result has been that protests have begun by divided families who wish to seek their relatives on the other side. As some have claimed, it is not aid they are seeking across the LoC but their family members. On this count the Indians have so far shown a dubious intent.
Beyond the immediate humanitarian purpose of allowing divided families to link up in the aftermath of the earthquake tragedy, it has been interesting to see how people in both Pakistan and India have welcomed this development relating to Kashmir -- and primarily for very different reasons. The Indians feel this will eventually, de facto, make the status quo permanent and therefore they will have the Kashmir "solution" they are seeking. Many Pakistanis, on the other hand -- beyond a few Indophiles -– feel that this development is an alteration of the status quo and as such it undermines the Indian position that "borders cannot be altered" and will eventually alter the status quo in Kashmir.
How tenable is this argument? To begin with, how rational is the assumption that opening of the LoC is a change in the status quo -- that is in the occupation of the major part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by India? The simple answer is: none at all. Opening up of the LoC is being done with the agreement and active cooperation of India and in fact it strengthens the position of India as an occupying force. After all, we are accepting Indian material assistance across the LoC as well as allowing the movement of people under Indian supervision. All this lends de facto acceptance of the Indian Occupation of Kashmir and, therefore, strengthens rather than weakens the status quo. For the Indians, the opening up of the LoC has no similar issues attached because they would like to see the status quo transform itself into the "solution".
Ironically, and one assumes unwittingly, some of our officials are also lending credence to this perspective that the opening up of the LoC strengthens the status quo. As a senior Pakistani official suggested the border posts could become a long-term fixture. "After a year maybe you will find a big terminal coming up here. It's quite possible", the official was cited as saying. "We are doing things with an element of permanence in them." The fact that we are referring to the temporary check posts as "border posts" is revealing, since border posts only exist on international borders and, our traditional position has been a principled one that the LoC is not an international border but merely a ceasefire line which has never been recognized as a permanent division by the Kashmiris themselves. So when did we move away from this and effectively towards accepting the LoC as a permanent "border"? And the more we regulate the movement of Kashmiris through formalized documents, the more we will strengthen the status quo.
However, even if we were to presume that by some bizarre logic the status quo on Kashmir would be altered by these new openings along the LoC, will this change necessarily be to the benefit of Pakistan and the Kashmiris in the long run? After all, while goods going across the LoC in terms of humanitarian assistance are a welcome step, if this becomes a permanent feature in terms of trade and investment, it will certainly be the last nail in the coffin of the quest to attain Kashmiri self-determination and a just solution of the conflict. After all, with trade and movement of people across the LoC -- and this latter development will eventually result in passports being used by Indians and Pakistanis across the LoC, as is clearly in the Indian design --what pressure will there be on India to "resolve" the issue? As far as the Indians are concerned, the issue will have resolved itself in terms of the division of Kashmir effectively having become permanent in real terms. After all, trade and movement of people through "border checkpoints" will bring a semblance of normality to the LoC as a "border" -- which has been the Indian position all along. However, Indian occupation of Kashmir will not alter just as Indian proposals for the granting of greater autonomy to Indian Occupied Kashmir will not alter the political status of that territory in terms of its Occupation by the state of India.
It is in this connection that there are voices of concern being raised about the growing US military presence in AJK as well. While we will always be grateful for the tremendous US military assistance provided in the wake of the October 8 earthquake, why should continuing US humanitarian assistance come in the form of an increase in the presence of US military personnel? Are there no civilian US agencies that provide humanitarian assistance abroad in terms of reconstruction and rehabilitation? After all, there is the laudatory civilian Habitat program that does tremendous work across the world, to name just one civilian US assistance program. So why should all US assistance to Pakistan and Kashmir be given a military framework? Could there be some mapping and other strategic side objectives in the sensitive strategic region? Would these help the Indian objective of transforming the existing status quo into the final "solution" with a few readjustments along the LoC? Here the China factor is also an important consideration.
So, at the end of the day one has a terrible sense that the Indian assumptions relating to the openings along the LoC may have more rationality and sustenance in them than the hopes being voiced in Pakistan that this development is a change in the status quo and any alteration of the status quo is good for the Kashmiris and Pakistanis. Worse still, we should expect India to play the humanitarian issue to the full in propaganda terms -- as it is already doing. For us, the human tragedy is too intimate and vast to exploit in such terms. However, given the ferocity of the diplomatic attack against us in the IAEA even while we were reeling under the immediate impact of October 8, we should surely be better placed now to see Indian designs for what they really are. (Courtesy The News)


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