By K.N. Pandita
On May 13, S.K. Lambah, former diplomat and PM’s special envoy on Track II talks with Pakistan delivered a lecture on on-going bilateral talks with Pakistan on resolving Kashmir tangle. He claims to be at the wheel since 2005.
Never before has any officially accredited top level interlocutor gone public on the sensitive theme of Kashmir. Why this uninhibited and dramatic exposition now, is the question?
The timing, venue and the theme of lecture, all are intriguing.
The venue, Kashmir University, is the power house for generating and disseminating separatist and secessionist ideology among the educated youth of Kashmir. Was the venue chosen to placate the champions of that ideology? What a crude and unrealistic strategy more likely to be counter-productive.
About timing, the lecture was scheduled for just three days before the announcement of the result of parliamentary election. Remember that both Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and PDP Chief Mufti Saeed both have been consistently exuding rhetoric of Indo-Pak talks to resole Kashmir tangle.
Moving away from this prefatory, we find Lambah’s speech a concoction of lies, myths and spurious perceptions. According to him, K-situation has been worked out “quietly” since 2001. He hides elucidating why 2001.
The reality is that when after 9/11 General Musharraf of Pakistan decided to be on the side of the US in her fight against Al-Qaeda terror, he emphatically sought US intervention in Kashmir as the price for siding with the US. He blackmailed the US and mounted pressure on Pentagon to link Kashmir to Pakistan’s anti-Al Qaeda and pro-US posture.
It will be recalled the then US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, and later on Powell— a buddy with Musharraf— both handed out subtle warnings to India that she would be in trouble if Kashmir issue was not resolved.
American think-tanks and policy planners in Bush administration, espousing determinative pontifical role, vexed eloquent on what they considered positive aspects of climb down on Kashmir for India. Lambah’s following passage is verbatim reproduction of Pentagon’s brief to US Senate Foreign Relations Committee note: “A solution of the Kashmir issue will substantially enhance India’s security, strengthen the prospects for durable peace and stability in the region, and enable India to focus more on rapidly emerging long-term geo-political challenges…”
Read between the lines, the note contains veiled threat that India’s security will be endangered if Kashmir question was not solved. It also harkens India to extended threat not only from the rising jihadists on her west but also the rapidly emerging regional threat of China without mentioning any name.
It will be noted that Lambah changes the goal post by declaring that Mumbai attack was not conducted by LeT but by Al Qaeda. This is brazen distortion purporting to reinforce US’ veiled threat to India and coerce her into climb down on Kashmir. Lambah is eloquent in speaking the language of the US. What was Ilyas Kashmiri’s role before he joined Al Qaeda and what were his links? Lambah did not touch on that.
Lambah claims Kashmir talks have “survived a string of deadly and high visibility attacks.” What a paradox and naiveté. Who made attacks to disrupt talks and whose creation are they? Why does the Indian envoy want to exonerate his counterpart who is integral to the attacking outfit?
Lambah links our destiny to a “stable, peaceful, cooperative and connected neighbour.” Presuming the State of Pakistan has not these attributes, does it mean that our destiny is doomed? What a typical servile and slavish mentality. Lambah knows more than anybody else that Pakistan owes her survival to instability, disorder and non-cooperation with India. She receives enormous cash doles from her western and Gulf patrons for perpetuating instability and disorder. This is the essential pre-requisite of a military dominated polity.
Contributing to American agenda in the region (Kashmir included); Lambah joins their chorus of “militant spill over” into Kashmir. What he proposes is that India should succumb but not resist. What an irony that a diplomat of a nuclear country should speak the language of slavery and imbecility and label it as diplomacy. That is what his mentors want him to profess.
He talks of national interests without elucidating what precisely are our national interests. Pakistan’s national interest is capturing Kashmir by whatever means possible — war, proxy war, low intensity war, instigating armed uprising, destabilising elected government in Kashmir and last but not the least Track II diplomacy, which she is carrying forward simultaneously with it. For achieving this national interest, Pakistan has publicly announced that she will render all sort of support to the so-called Kashmiri freedom fighters. Is India’s national interest to concede on table what Pakistan could not achieve on the ground? Did Pakistan ever show even the faintest symptom of deviating from her stated interest?
Against this, India’s climb down is explicit: she has watered down the Parliament Resolution of February 1994 on Kashmir; she has succumbed to legalizing the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri militants responsible for killing Kashmiri Pandits, and ethnically cleansing Kashmir of 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Hindu minority community. Is it India’s national interests to silently allow Wahhabizing of Kashmirian society and let secessionist leaders like Ali Geelani to rubbish Indian Constitution by demanding secession from India and accession to Pakistan and giving a call for boycott of elections.
Lambah wants these parallel interests to be preserved and pursued and formalised through secret talks between the two states.
Lambah’s claim that talks between the two countries are carried on “silently without the knowledge, prompting and intervention of any third Party”, is blatant lie and horrendous attempt of misleading ordinary people. Not only had the sources of US administration but even President Obama as well repeatedly said that the two countries were carrying forward their talks on Kashmir and that the US would facilitate it if asked for. Former Pakistani President General Musharraf said that his country was talking to Indians. What for has been ARS the NC leader shuttling between Islamabad and Srinagar almost every month, and at whose expenses?
Coming to the much touted 7-point proposal of Lambah, he has lionised himself by defending each point as vigorously as he could. But nowhere in his speech did he drop even the slightest hint about the reaction of his counterpart to his proposal. He avoids giving us a peep into the mind of Pakistani mind. Anyway, we react to his proposal as follows:
By suggesting “no redrawing of borders” does he not water down the Parliament’s Resolution of February 1994? When he concedes correctness of India’s legal, historical and political standpoint in Kashmir, why then oppose redrawing the original border of the State of Jammu and Kashmir? It is a contradiction in terms, a fallacy incompatible with ground situation.
As regards free movement and removal of tariff, let us be realists. Trade between two sides is not and shall not grow as may be cherished by Lambah and his votaries. On several occasions, Indian security and excise personnel checking the cargo and people at the transit point in Poonch sector have seized drugs, fake currency, hawala money and sub-standard material brought to our side. They have also seized goods made in Pakistan which are not allowed. PoK side has been abusing the facility. It is absolute naivety to believe that movement of people will be a successful confidence building measure. It has proved another source of hurting India and, therefore, should be shut down forthwith.
The expectation of Pakistan putting an end to hostility, violence and terrorism is far-fetched and wishful. Pakistan has three power centres not one: the government in Islamabad, army in Rawalpindi GHQ and TTP in Waziristan. Each power centre has its perception, programme and target. Lambah also says peace effort has survived a string of deadly and high visibility attacks. Unwittingly he contradicts his own statements.
As far as the reduction of troops on both sides is concerned, Lambah should know that two decades back Pakistan has raised fully trained, equipped and motivated jihadi crusaders all along the LoC as well as IB with India. Pakistan army has publicly announced that the jihadis form the frontline of defence along her eastern border. We have met with their adventures in Kashmir and even at the IB near Kathua. Pakistan has repeatedly stated that she has no control on “non-State actors” meaning jihadis. She has created this force and put the safety valve in place. What sense is there in proposing reduction of army on both sides?
As far as self-governance proposal is concerned, Lambah knows that in terms of political and democratic arrangement, the two sides are not comparable. Gilgit Baltistan has been integrated into Pakistan despite the decision of “AJK” High Court that it is part of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir. What about the self-rule of that region? Will Pakistan allow them autonomous status and promise to maintain it?
Lastly, Lambah touches on volatile human rights issue clubbing it with reintegration of militants into society. We need to identify the groups whose human rights have been violated before we proceed further on the subject. These are (a) Nearly 10 lakh Hindus and Sikhs who were attacked by Pakistan sponsored and abetted tribesmen on 22 October 1947 in Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Kotli, Bagh etc. and forced them out of their homes to migrate to Indian part of the state (b) Hindus and Sikhs who were attacked by tribesmen in 1947 and looted by locals in the then district of Baramulla extending from Uri to Shalteng in the peripheries of Srinagar. (c) About a thousand Kashmiri Hindus killed by Pakistan armed militants during the rise of Theo-fascism in early 1990 in Kashmir valley followed by extirpation of entire 3.5 lakh-strong community, and loot and vandalizing of their moveable and immoveable property. They are sill living in refugee camps in exile, and last but not the least the Shia community of Gilgit-Baltistan that has been denied religious, political, economic and social rights and have been subjected to forcible demographic change by Pakistani rulers. To add to these, now thousands of Chinese troops have been allowed to occupy the region and exploit its mineral wealth and water resources to the benefit of Pakistanis and not the locals.
Respecting human rights of these victimized groups means doing something in practice to mitigate their suffering and compensating them for material and psychological losses they have gone through.
As regards re-integration of militants into society, the question is where they ever disintegrated from society and who disintegrated them? Lambah needs to put the record straight. These young Kashmiris enthusiastically responded to Pakistan’s prompting to clandestinely cross the LoC, join terrorist camps in PoK, go through brain washing, receive training in arms and subversion, re-enter Kashmir and cause killing, mayhem, insurgency, rape, loot of banks, kidnapping and other criminal activities. Their home people gave them outright support in these activities and even felt proud that if they were killed they would attain martyrdom. Which of their human right was violated and by whom, Lambah must specify.
This exposition will make it clear to the audience that the US exerted great pressure on India to climb down on Kashmir so that her interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan were served. All that one can say is that India should refuse to be blackmailed and intimidated. We have to build the capacity of facing any challenge from any quarter. We should expose interlocutors who are going around with somebody else’s agenda in their brief cases.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).