Kasuri Rejuvenates Kashmir Issue

Kasuri rejuvenates Kashmir

Former Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri deserves praise for rejuvenating the Kashmir issue. Nobody else could do it; not even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his last two consecutive speeches in the UN General Assembly since he assumed office for his third term. After the nuclear tests in South Asia, first by India and then by Pakistan in May 1998, Kashmir became a ‘nuclear flashpoint’. Now, Khurshid Kasuri’s book ‘Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove’ makes Kashmir a veritable ‘media flashpoint’. Despite the prevailing tensions between the two countries and war-like situation along the Line of Control in Kashmir, Kasuri took the risk of travelling to India for his book launch.

In Mumbai, he narrowly escaped an ugly situation after a group of Shiv Sena activists attacked his local host Sudheendra Kulkarni calling him a Pakistani ‘agent’ and splashing his face with black oiled paint. Shaken by the incident, Khurshid Kasuri wanted to cancel the book-launch but Kulkarni even with his charcoaled face was determined to go ahead with the event. The book-launch was held as scheduled under heavy security. Speaking on the occasion, Former Foreign Minister Kasuri said the reason he wrote his book was to correct perceptions on both sides as history was being murdered in both countries.

He is right and deserves credit for bringing together his skills in compiling a “memoir” that provides an authoritative and personal account of Pakistan’s foreign policy during a fateful period in Pakistan’s history. According to him, this was the period of change. Indeed, the 9/11 represented a critical threshold in Pakistan’s foreign policy. It was a moment of reckoning for Pakistan. General Musharraf’s options were limited and bleak. He was among the very first foreign leaders to have received a clarion call from Washington. US Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned him late in the evening on Sept 12, 2001.

Kasuri rejuvenates KashmirIn a somber message from one general to another, Colin Powell made it clear that mere condolences and boilerplate offers of help from Pakistan will not do. It will have to play a key role in the war on terror that was about to begin. Facing domestic problems and global challenges, Gen Musharraf took no time in pledging full support to the US in its plans to invade Afghanistan. In the blinking of an eye, Pakistan became a battleground of the US war on terror and has been paying a heavy price in terms of human and material losses.

As we fulfilled our obligations as a partner and an ally in this war, the US de-hyphenated Pakistan from India and bracketed us with stone-aged Afghanistan. It also entered into a long-term multi-billion dollar military pact and a discriminatory country-specific nuclear deal with India, introducing a new and ominous dimension into the already volatile and unstable environment of the region. From being a major power in South Asia always equated with India, Pakistan is now bracketed with Afghanistan in terms of its outlook, role and relevance. Fourteen years down the line, the Afghan war itself has yet to come to a formal closure.

On our part, we are the only country in the world today waging a full-scale war on our own soil. We have also been the main target in an al-Qaeda-led war with more than 50,000 civilians and security personnel having lost their lives in terrorist attacks. And yet, one is bewildered at Pakistan’s demonization by its friends and allies. We are seen both as the problem and the key to its solution. We continue to be accused of not doing enough. Indeed, Pakistan’s post-9/11 alliance with the US was the beginning of another painful chapter in Pakistan’s turbulent political history.

But one thing must be clear. India-Pakistan peace will come not through shady ‘back-channel deals’ but only through meaningful dialogue and constructive engagement for conflict-resolution and peaceful co-existence.

Kasuri rejuvenates Kashmir 2Kasuri knows that he was not the foreign minister when Musharraf decided to be part of the US war on terror. I am sure Kasuri is not owning the sins that he never committed. He only brings out how Pakistan became the focus of world attention and anxiety and was forced to make difficult choices in its perennial struggle for security and survival as an independent state. We really needed this historic account of the post-9/11 geo-political dynamics with special focus on our role and relevance in the war on terror. Besides giving a useful bird’s-eye view of various developments in our external relations during that period, he covers Pakistan’s security dilemma and its quest for religious balance.

In the words of an eminent Indian historian and author A.G. Noorani, Kasuri’s “book is a cross between a textbook and a memoir, and will long rank as a dependable work of reference on the wide canvas.” His observations on the roles of the Army, Foreign Office and the media are interesting. What makes his book unique is the exclusive prism with which Kasuri looks at President Musharraf’s back-channel ‘hurrah’ on Kashmir. As an outspoken advocate of Musharraf’s out-of-the-box 4-point Kashmir solution, he makes a strong defence of the Musharraf formula. “90 per cent of the work had been completed and the final document was just a signature away once the two sides decided to pull the file from the rack,” he asserts.

Interestingly, nobody knows where the file is, if at all there is one. Kasuri admits the details of the draft agreement contained in a non-paper on Kashmir were never “shared with many in our Foreign Office or in the government partly because it was still a work in progress.” Surely, it must be in Indian emissary Satindra Lambha’s notes. His Pakistani counterpart Tariq Aziz, it seems, never kept or made any notes. Kasuri however clarifies that “general awareness about the contours of a possible agreement on Kashmir was common knowledge after several statements by President Musharraf on his Kashmir initiative.”

That doesn’t mean we can extract from the memories of public the contours of the alleged accord. Anything discussed on TV channels or in hotel lobbies has no status. Those familiar with the post-9/11 history of India-Pakistan relations know why Musharraf gave up on our principled position. After his October 1999 coup, in order to remain relevant to Washington’s post-9/11 agenda, Musharraf made a U-turn in his India policy and abandoned Pakistan’s traditional stand on Kashmir based on UN Security Council resolutions. Any expectations now that Pakistan will again abandon its principled position on Kashmir would be just wishful thinking.

Musharraf’s out-of-the-box Kashmir solution was nothing but legitimization of the ‘status quo’ that in itself is the problem, not a solution. Status quo in any form is a non-starter.

Kasuri rejuvenates KashmirHowever, no matter how much one disapproves of Musharraf’s formula or his unilateral gestures of unprecedented flexibility, we cannot but admire Kasuri’s passion for peace with India and his anxiety to alleviate the Kashmiris’ sufferings. But what he wants will never come by giving up on the inalienable right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people or by compromising on our own national causes.

Memories cannot be that short. In violation of June 3, 1947 Partition Plan and UN Security Council resolutions, India’s military occupation of Kashmir is an illegality that must end if Kashmir’s malaise is to end. There is but one fair, just, legal and moral solution to Kashmir as was provided by the United Nations, and which both India and Pakistan had mutually accepted. Kashmiris, no doubt, are the final arbiters of their destiny.

The possibility of partition of the State of Kashmir with adjustments across the LoC has been discussed as a serious option on many occasions in the past with both India and Pakistan showing conditional amenability. It could still be a way forward if both India and Pakistan in consultation with the people of Kashmir on both sides of the LoC were to opt for it in good earnest.  

But one thing must be clear. India-Pakistan peace will come not through shady ‘back-channel deals’ but only through meaningful dialogue and constructive engagement for conflict-resolution and peaceful co-existence. As the largest country in the region, the onus lies with India to inspire confidence among its neighbours. Perpetuation of hegemony will not serve the cause of peace.

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