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The UN resolution of 1948 called for the immediate withdrawal of tribal raiders and Pakistani military personnel from J&K and the disbandment of all “Azad” Kashmir forces as the first order of business prior to a plebiscite. Pakistan’s deliberate default, subsequent invasions and cross-border terror through mercenaries and jihadis is what constitutes the current problem.

No “Dispute” in Agenda for J&K

India went to the UN on a question of aggression by Pakistan. Cutting through all the cant, this was upheld by the UN Representative and endorsed by the UN Security Council. What next?

By B G Verghese

Daily Herald, 6 September, 2010

The chorus is the same. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has outlined a pre-dialogue “agenda” for Kashmir: India must acknowledge an “international dispute”, commence demilitarization under UN supervision, rein in the security forces, unconditionally release all youth and political prisoners, including Afzal Guru, and initiate proceedings against all those responsible for “war crimes” in the State. Umar Farooq challenges accession, asserts Kashmiris are not Indians and seeks   demilitarization, the repeal of “black laws” and a referendum. Masrat Alam, the next-generation youth leader, adverts to Kashmir being the “unfinished business of Partition” and demands “complete azadi”. Delusive agenda items must be firmly put aside.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, crisply insists on a “result oriented dialogue”. He rewinds from Musharraf’s promising “out of the box” solution, fine-tuned by Manmohan Singh, to hark back to the UN Resolutions. None talks of the pathetic colonial situation in PAK and the Gilgit-Baltistan Area where Pakistan firmly determines who is the “self” in question.

Some basic clarifications are in order if there is to be any progress. The problem is not about the fact but the nature of the dispute. India went to the UN on a question of aggression by Pakistan. Cutting through all the cant, this was upheld by the UN Representative, Owen Dixon, and endorsed by the UN Security Council in its defining Resolution of August 13, 1948. This called for the immediate withdrawal of tribal raiders and Pakistani military personnel from J&K and the disbandment of all “Azad” Kashmir forces as the first order of business prior to a plebiscite. Pakistan’s deliberate default, subsequent invasions and cross-border terror through mercenaries and jihadis is what constitutes the current problem. The UN Resolutions died long back.

Why not a plebiscite today? It is too late, with major demographic changes, natural and engineered across the LOC and ethnic cleansing in the Valley. There is a totally different political context three generations down the road and a wholly new international geo-strategic environment. Further, Pakistan, sections of the separatists, and the jihadis would appeal to Islam thus reopening the still healing wounds of partition to revive the fatuity of the two-nation theory that Jinnah himself eloquently repudiated in his first address to the country’s constituent assembly on August 11, 1947 , only to find himself hopelessly isolated. To sustain its sadly negative ideological identity as India’s “other”, Pakistan has projected Kashmir as unfinished business and sought “strategic depth” to realize the warped dream of a Talibanised caliphate. This perverse goal feeds the self-aggrandising paranoia of the Military-Mullah cabal that holds the Pakistani people in thrall.  India is simply not prepared to revive the madness of 1947 and self-destruct.

What then is the road ahead in J&K? The external aspect is not the most critical. We must talk to Pakistan but forward movement depends on Islamabad’s willingness to end terror as an instrument of policy. Casting the blame on client “non-state actors” will not wash. This was brazenly pleaded in 1947, 1948, 1965, 1989, 1998, in between and thereafter. And churlishly refusing direct $25m Indian assistance for current flood relief except, belatedly, through UN agencies, reveals a warped mindset that explains its irrational behaviour based on a cultivated Indophobia that ordinary Pakistanis do not share.

We should be wary but not alarmist about Chinese PLA units reportedly aiding relief activity and safeguarding Chinese workers engaged in road, and other development projects along the damaged Karakoram Highway from jihadi attacks in Gilgit-Baltistan. A small Indo-Tibet Border Police detachment in Afghanistan plays a similar role. The changing Chinese stance on J&K should be no surprise in view of Pakistan’s strategic importance for gaining access to the Arabian Sea. We need to stay cool and continue to engage China on a host of common concerns.

An internal dialogue in and over J&K, could lead the way to a just resolution that addresses local, regional and Centre-State level grievances and aspirations, and thereby makes it increasingly difficult for external actors to fish in troubled waters. An empowered panchayati raj would give real meaning to azadi, self-determination and inclusive growth. The dialogue could cover (a) Geelani’s five-points, minus the rhetorical flourishes; (b) the variant azadi-autonomy-“sky is the limit”-self rule formulations of the NC, Congress, PDP, Sajjad Lone, Mir Waiz and others; (c) repatriation of the Pandits and those trapped in PAK – best done by creating a couple of new IT and food-processing hubs in the Valley where other internally displayed and unemployed youth can also be relocated with due training; (d) matching progammes for Jammu, Rajouri-Poonch, Doda, Ladakh and Kargil; (e) Investments by corporate India with suitable, time-bound guarantees and tax incentives, and (e) activating Srinagar as an international airport, expediting rail and road connectivity, augmenting power capacity and transmission networks, and repairing the social infrastructure over the next five years assisted by a youth peace corps.

The reports of the PM’s five Task Forces could provide the basis for progress along multiple tracks and help build confidence and trust. The Indian Constitution permits of extraordinary flexibility in accommodating diversity to match regional and sectoral needs through such instruments of entrustment provided under Articles 258 and 258A. Simultaneously, there must be a parallel dialogue with national parties and stakeholders in Delhi so that there is a matching consensus about directions and content.

None need fear that greater “autonomy” or “self-rule” within the terms of the 1952 Delhi Agreement and restoration of nomenclatures like Wazir-e-Azam and Sadr–i-Riyasat spell secession. The J&K and Indian constitutions are joined by an umbilical cord. What is removed from one can be incorporated in the other so that common values and principles remain.

Too much time has been wasted by little men on little things. Opportunity beckons.

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