December 15, 2000


Rediff Shopping
Shop & gift from thousands of products!
  Books     Music    
  Apparel   Jewellery
  Flowers   More..     

Safe Shopping

 Search the Internet

E-Mail this column to a friend
Kuldip Nayar

'Kashmir is Pakistan's cat's paw'

A soldier welcomes a cease-fire because he knows what conflict brings in its train. General Pervez Musharraf should have responded to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's initiative readily, particularly when the Pakistan chief executive had at one time agreed to a six-month cease-fire. Instead the military junta in Islamabad is encouraging terrorism in Kashmir. And Pakistan TV and radio are ridiculing the peace efforts all the time.

Apparently, Musharraf feels diffident to take on the fundamentalists who are dead against the cease-fire. With political parties joining hands, Musharraf has only the fanatics as his instrument to fight the combination. He has also to reckon with his mullah-type colleagues and the men who want to intensify jehad, not peace. But probably the main reason for Musharraf's opposition to the cease-fire is that he is not clear about the next step. He has been keen to know what New Delhi has up its sleeve. Probably, both are grouping for a solution. Vajpayee is at least trying to create a proper climate for it.

Lately, there has been a spate of seminars on Kashmir. No cut-and-dried formula has emerged because the participants at seminars have made more efforts to touch as many points as possible than arrive at a consensus. Indians and the Pakistanis, however liberal, more or less toe their government line. The Kashmiris generally confine themselves to listing the excesses committed in the state and seldom give their mind on any specific proposal.

For the past few months, another suggestion which is gaining attention is that of a tripartite conference. A laudable proposal, but it is bound to fail if the ground is not prepared for it. No doubt, Islamabad is keen on having the tripartite conference. But it will serve no purpose if some private understanding is not reached on major differences. In its absence, talks pursued will break down on the very first day.

Probably, Islamabad has a feeling that it may be left out. The unilateral cease-fire seems to have created the impression. But this not true. India has always tried to engage Pakistan. As far back as 1964, when Jawaharlal Nehru sent Sheikh Abdullah to Pakistan, India's intention was clear. It did not want to bypass Islamabad.

In his book Ayub Khan, former Pakistan Information Secretary Altaf Guhar, who died a few days ago, has recorded the conversation between the Sheikh and Ayub. Guhar says: 'Ayub said that he was getting a little fed up with a variety of solutions that were on offer and told Sheikh Abdullah to forget about Pakistan and come to any settlement he wanted with India. A little taken aback, Shiekh Abdullah exclaimed that there could be no settlement without Pakistan.'

This holds as good today as it was then. India has said so in the Shimla Agreement by recording that a 'final settlement' on Kashmir was yet to take place. Vajpayee initiated a process at Lahore to pursue the matter. Even behind-the-scenes parleys through non-officials have sought to arrive at some basic understanding. In fact, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief has gone on record as saying that the efforts were fructifying. The military leadership has to realise that there will be confusion if all the three points, New Delhi, Islamabad and Srinagar, are touched at the same time. Any two can begin the process and the third can join later. Pakistan has itself suggested more than once that it does not mind New Delhi and Kashmiri leaders starting a dialogue.

The real problem is Musharraf or, for that matter, the military. They do not want a settlement with India because their raison d'etre depends on stoking the fires of differences. Kashmir is their cat's paw, which they use to keep India on tenterhooks. The cross-border militancy is one method. Kargil was a bigger operation with the same purpose in view. But Musharraf and his military junta also know that India can absorb all this, not only because it has more resources but also because it has a firmer belief in settling the Kashmir issue peacefully. Still, Islamabad has used violence again and again to solve the problem.

At Tashkent, following the 1965 war, Pakistan promised not to resort to arms to settle disputes with New Delhi. At Shimla again, Islamabad gave an undertaking not to alter the Line of Control -- 'Ultimately, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations.' Still it is a fact that Pakistan has trained, armed and sheltered those who came from the Valley. Islamabad also encouraged foreign mercenaries from Afghanistan and beyond to fight in Kashmir. Before Musharraf, it was a proxy war; now it is jehad. How can Kashmir or any problem between India and Pakistan be settled when the present rulers at Islamabad are imbued with such motives?

The entire blame cannot, however, lie at the door of Islamabad. Where India has gone wrong is that it has tended to act as an adversary. It has thrived in Pakistan's troubles. The hawks sitting in our foreign office -- they become accommodative after retirement -- have seldom tried to learn how to adjust and live with an intransigent neighbour. It has tended to behave like a big power which expects small countries to look up to it. Even in ordinary matters like newspapers and books, New Delhi has only copied Islamabad. Why does not India unilaterally lift the ban? Sometimes I wonder if we too have some responsibility for a military rule in Pakistan, which has been off and on, for more than 40 years.

I recall what Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then Pakistan prime minister, told me after the Shimla Agreement. He was demanding the release of 90,000 war prisoners whom India had captured during the 1972 Bangladesh war. India's argument was that it could not do so without the approval of Dhaka which was opposed to their release till Pakistan recognised Bangladesh. 'Do you want another Ayub or Yahya in Pakistan?' Bhutto asked. 'If not, why don't you help me?' Later at a press conference in Rawalpindi he said India had never utilised opportunities for friendship in the past. This (the Shimla Agreement) was the last one. 'I may not stay long but I do not think that Pakistan and India would ever be friends if India did not wake up to the chance now.'

Coming to the present, New Delhi can take credit for building international pressure against Musharraf on Kargil. It can also take credit for winning over world opinion. Indeed, Islamabad stands isolated. But if such situations remain for long, they will give diminishing returns. New Delhi has to talk to Islamabad, sooner or later. Keeping in view the stand New Delhi has taken, the direct contact may not be possible straightaway.

Let SAARC be activated. The SAARC summit has been pending for a long time. India should take the initiative in fixing the date. Once again Vajpayee will go high in the estimate of people, as he has after the Lahore initiative and the cease-fire during the Ramzan. By responding to the cease-fire, Musharraf can make his words -- I am willing to talk to India at any level at any time and at any place -- good.


Lahore & After: The Real Story

'Pakistan simply has too much blood invested in Kashmir to ever walk away'

'We have a role in the peace process and would like to play it'

'The ceasefire is no solution to the problem of J&K'

'If the BJP cannot solve the J&K problem, no other party can'

'Kashmir is an issue that concerns the entire world'

Abeer Malik, Arvind Lavakare, Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Varsha Bhosle on the cease-fire.

Kuldip Nayar

Tell us what you think of this column