Kashmir: India's Continuing Obduracy
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

It was hardly a surprise to find the Indian National Security Adviser, M K Narayanan rejecting yet another proposal put forward by President Musharraf as a means towards resolving the Kashmir issue. Narayan rejected the proposal of joint management, or joint control over the Kashmir Valley. Of course, his diatribe about Pakistan seeking to fan communal hatred in India was absurd, to say the least, given that Indian political parties like the BJP have been doing that quite effectively on their own. That is why the massacre of Muslims took place in the state of Gujarat and that is why there was a spate of killings targeting Christians across India, during the BJP rule at the center. So Mr. Narayan would serve his country better if he looked closer at home to the causes of communalism that have been a part of the Indian polity since the creation of the sovereign state of India in 1947.
As for Kashmir, clearly while Pakistan is moving beyond its traditional position on the issue, the Indian mindset continues to be rooted in its traditional posturing. For India the problem of negotiating substantively on Kashmir is also psychological. It must acquire a more flexible and rational mindset. Every time one meets people from Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, apart from those struggling against the Indian occupation, one finds the same obduracy.
The recent Pugwash-sponsored conference on Kashmir was no different. Of course, it was an interesting event because it brought together disparate groups and opinions from across Jammu and Kashmir (both Indian-occupied and AJK) as well as Pakistan and India. Not surprisingly, there was no agreement on anything except the need for greater and diverse interaction, but it was clear that everyone was viewing the issue from a vastly different vantage point.
Interestingly, the Pugwash representatives also brought their own agenda with them and their frustration was apparent when this failed to get through. There were also strange concepts being put forward such as "greater Kashmir" and the Pugwash organizers' fruitless insistence that we all refer to the "Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir" rather than just the "State of Jammu and Kashmir"!
Hidden agendas never remain hidden for long though, and it was no different this time. In any event, we Pakistanis have made it abundantly clear that we have an infinite capacity to be lectured to and abused by the West, especially the US -- hence the Bush visit was followed by the lecturing US Energy Secretary and one can expect many more such visits from the Americans and their apologists. So Pugwash seemed to be following the same tradition but they misread the environment.
As for the Indians and the Jammuites, they only wanted to talk of the Northern Areas. There were repeated references to the Northern Areas from these groups – more so than to the issue of demilitarization or human rights abuses. Even more outlandish was the argument being advanced for rejecting a reduction of Indian forces in Occupied Kashmir – that the people of Occupied Kashmir wanted the bunkers and the state of siege to stay!
The fact that the contingent from Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir comprised more Jammuites than Kashmiris was jarring from the start. Also mystifying to the Kashmiris and Pakistanis was the apparent courting of Omar Abdullah to the exclusion of others by Pakistani officialdom. Many of those who had suffered abuse at the hands of the Abdullahs' alliance with the Indian state expressed a contained anger and disappointment.
At the end of the day, it was clear that while Pakistan can continue to offer all manner of tactical proactive suggestions to break the deadlock on Kashmir, India is not prepared to move beyond autonomy for occupied Kashmir and greater movement across the LoC in terms of trade and so on --thereby creating eventually a de facto border status for what is merely a ceasefire line. But even here the Indians want to have their cake and eat it too!
After all, if the LoC is to become "irrelevant" and if there is to be greater movement across this line, then how can it continue to be fenced illegally as has been done by the Indian government? However, India wants to retain its illegal fence even as it seeks extensive movement across the LoC! As for self-governance or self-rule, it implies greater levels of autonomy with no shifts in sovereignty. So even within occupation one can have self-rule -- as the British did so in so many of their colonial territories, especially in the Dominions. Thus, in the context of the Kashmir issue, at best self-rule can be an interim measure, not a final solution.
While most Indians still seem unwilling to have their government talk to the Kashmiri freedom fighters or militant groups, they have accepted such talks between their government and militants in territories where secessionist movements have been going on. The case of the Nagas in India's northeast is particularly relevant since the Indian government opened talks directly with the militant group conducting a military struggle in their aim to create a separate State.
The talks became an option when the Indian military suffered heavy losses and the Indian government realized that the military could not resolve the problem. That is when, in 1995, it invited the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN-IM) to begin political negotiations informally, at the prime ministerial level without conditions at a mutually agreed location in a third country.
An informal process of dialogue began with the meeting between the Naga representatives Isak Chishi Swu and Th. Muivah and the Indian Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao in Paris in June 1995. The Prime Minister offered to hold unconditional talks. This offer was repeated in February 1996. The NSCN-IM set three preconditions for talks: (1) negotiations should focus on sovereignty; (2) talks should be held in a third country; and (3) a third party mediator should be included. The Indian government accepted all these conditions and is continuing the dialogue while sustaining the ceasefire.
Now why should the Indian government hesitate in talking to the Kashmiri freedom fighters' groups? Because they happen to be Muslim? Kashmiri leaders like Yasin Malik consistently point to this discriminatory posture of the Indian government when the issue of talks is raised.
Under the continuing obduracy of the Indians, perhaps Pakistan should stop putting forward any more intermediate steps that could lead to an eventual solution of the Kashmir issue. There has to be some level of mutuality and responsiveness from the other side or else an incorrect perception will take hold that we are either in undue haste or under duress. And while we need to show flexibility at the tactical level, we also need to remember very clearly that our legal and political standpoint on Kashmir is rooted in the continuing validity of the UNSC resolutions.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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