Musharraf attempts to resuscitate the Kashmir plan

Musharraf attempts to resuscitate the Kashmir plan

By Abid Mustafa

On 5/12/06 speaking before Indian TV channel, Musharraf said that Pakistan
was prepared to give up its claim to Kashmir, if India and Pakistan agree on
the four-point solution (a solution in which boundaries are not changed and
India does not have to give up any territory).When pressed on Kashmiri
Independence, Musharraf reasserted his objection. He said,” Yes, we are
against independence.”

This is not the first time Musharraf has floated the idea of abandoning
Pakistan’s longstanding claim to Kashmir. On 18/112003 Musharraf said, “We
are for the United Nations Security Council resolution, whatever that stands
for. However, now we have left that aside… We keep saying that if we want to
resolve this issue both sides need to talk with each other with
flexibility… coming beyond stated positions… coming and meeting half way
somewhere.” Since then Musharraf has been working tirelessly to implement
the Kashmir plan drafted by the US sponsored Kashmir study group.

America’s road map for Kashmir echoes the four stages spelt out by NDTV
during the interview with Musharraf—namely: i) Kashmir will have the same
borders but people will be allowed to move freely back and forth in the
region; ii) the region will have self-governance or autonomy, but not
independence; iii) troops will be withdrawn from the region in a staggered
manner; and iv) a joint supervision mechanism will be set up, with India,
Pakistan and Kashmir represented on it.

What is particularly noteworthy about the interview is its timing. Pakistan
has been pressing India to kick-start negotiations over Kashmir, which was
brought to a sudden halt after the train bombings.  Now with the impending
visit of Indian Foreign Minister followed by the Indian Prime Minister to
Islamabad next year, Musharraf wants to resurrect the peace process between
the two countries. Musharraf’s urgency to solve the dispute stems from
America’s wish to see a fully fledged civilian government in Pakistani
during 2007. Before then, America wants Musharraf to cast in stone the
Kashmir plan into a political framework that cannot be altered by
anti-American politicians after the Pakistani general elections.

It also provides Manmohan Singh with the ability to convince sceptics both
within his party and Congress’s coalition partners—no matter who is in power
in Islamabad the peace process will not falter. America believes that this
is the all important first step necessary to facilitate the normalisation of
relations between Pakistan and India—eventually leading to America’s
domination of South Asia.

Musharraf is under no allusion that resolution of the Kashmir dispute is
going to happen during his tenure office or sometime in the near future.
Speaking during the interview he said, “My view is that it is easier said
than done. I mean it’s not as simple as put in across four stages or four
aspects of it. This could be left for trial for five years, 10 years, 15
years and then we can get together again to see its efficacy, if it is
functional, well. If there are some modifications required, again.”

On the Indian side, Prime Minister Manmohan faces several obstacles before
he can push ahead with the Kashmir plan. First, many of his cabinet members,
as well as the coalition parties subscribe to Nehru’s Kashmir doctrine— all
of Kashmir belongs to India. He will have to convince then that that the
doctrine is absolute now and India must be prepared to make concessions.
Second, there is great concern that if the central government acquiesces to
some sort of autonomy for Kashmiris then other secessionist movement would
also demand independence thereby leading to India’s implosion. A lot will
depend upon how Article 370 of the Indian constitution is modified to
accommodate such concerns and at the same time not encourage others to
demand independence. Third, and more importantly, the Kashmiri separatists
do not speak with one unified voice. India will have to work with Pakistan
to create an indigenous leadership that can be used as a vehicle to
accomplish the implementation of the road map. The elevation of Mirwaiz Umar
Farooq as party chairman of the AHPC marks the beginning of an arduous
process to include militants and politicians that are committed to the
Kashmir plan.

In conclusion, American efforts to normalise relations between India and
Pakistan cannot succeed unless the Kashmir dispute is resolved. This also
delays the accomplishment of America’s overall plan for South Asia, which is
to use Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as a counterweight to China.  Given
the Bush administration’s pre-occupation with Iraq, Bush may not be able to
provide enough support for Musharraf and Manmohan to push ahead with the
Kashmir plan, thus stalling Pakistan’s normalisation with India. If this
were to happen then China will be encouraged to quickly cement its ties with
India and reduce the prospect of American hegemony in South Asia.

December 7, 2006

Abid Mustafa is a political commentator who specialises on Muslim affairs.