The Prime Minister’s interaction with the media on 3rd January, 2014 gave rise to several controversies. His announcement that he was unavailable for leadership after the General Elections, his endorsement of Rahul Gandhi, his criticism of Narendra Modi, his admission of failure in tackling corruption and inflation were amongst the issues which caught popular attention. We on behalf of the BJP reacted on some of the issues.
The Kashmir comment in the Press Conference got missed out amidst these controversies. A media person asked the Prime Minister a question on his Pakistan initiatives. The Prime Minister revealed for the first time that secret envoys from India and Pakistan had almost arrived at a meeting to resolve the conflict on Kashmir. When a break through appeared ‘in sight ‘, General Pervez Musharraf had to make way for other leaders and the agreement got blocked. A few years ago when President Musharraf was living in exile in London he had given a similar indication .
What was this possible resolution on Kashmir ? The people of India are entitled to know an answer to this question.
The stated position of India has been very clear. Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. In 1994 the Indian Parliament had passed a unanimous resolution asserting that POK was an integral part of India’s territory. India firmly believes that no third party intervention in Kashmir is permissible. Pakistan has an unfinished agenda on Kashmir. It has not reconciled to Kashmir being integral to India’s sovereignty. It has used warfare and terrorism to achieve this end. India firmly believes that the age and era of re-drawing boundaries is over. India’s negotiating space on territory in the context of Kashmir resolution is negligible.
I have always believed that the Nehruvian vision of giving a separate status to Jammu & Kashmir was a flawed one. The journey of the past 67 years has been from separate status towards separatism. The Congress stands for separate status, the National Conference advocates pre-1953 status, the PDP talks of self-rule, the separatists talk of ‘Azadi’. Each one of these is intended to dilute India’s sovereignty. Their intention is to weaken the constitutional and political link between Jammu & Kashmir and the rest of the country. It is in this context that one needs to know the details of what this ‘almost arrived at’ agreed resolution between Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government and Pakistan was. Pakistan had been advocating an interim resolution on Kashmir which comprised of several unacceptable measures. These included maintenance of territorial status quo, demilitarization in Kashmir, dilution of the Line of Control for allowing free movement of people and goods, a tripartite joint mechanism to take decisions about Jammu & Kashmir for a specified period pending which a final solution would be found. Some Pakistani observers and Kashmiri groups also spoke about the currency of the two countries to be a valid tender in Jammu & Kashmir. I do not know if any or all of these were a subject matter of the ‘almost arrived at’ resolution to the Kashmir problem. I hope the truth is otherwise. I further hope that I do not have to wait for the memoirs of the Prime Minister to know the truth.
Track Two diplomacy is not an unknown phenomenon. It is an accepted instrument world over. But Track Two diplomacy cannot be at complete variance with the stated national position. At best it can be marginally ahead of the national thinking. If the above stated points that the Pakistanis have been frequently mentioning i.e a dilution of the LOC and a tripartite arrangement were part of this ‘breakthrough’ , it would be a defacto acceptance of Jammu & Kashmir being a disputed territory. It is with great difficulty that Indian diplomacy has achieved a non-internationalization of the Kashmir issue and an internationalization of cross-border terrorism. By even suggesting such a resolution, we could squander all gains. De-militarisation of the valley without dismantling the terror infrastructure by Pakistan would be disastrous. I hope the Government was not working in this direction.
Since the Prime Minister for the first time informed the nation that a resolution on Kashmir was almost agreed to, it is eminently desirable that he takes the nation into confidence of what the specifics he had in mind about the failed solution. Even for history to make assessment of Prime Minister’s tenure, these details would be of immense help.