Qayyum on Kashmir: Pragmatism not Rhetoric

Published in Kashmir Herald, Vol 4/No. 2, by PROF. K. N. PANDITA.

Recently the print media in India reproduced the substance of a statement of the former Prime Minister of Pok, Sardar Qayyum Khan, on the solution of Kashmir issue. Sardar Qayyum, a historic figure from the old guard, is the most respected leader of PoK whose views and comments on Kashmir issue have always carried weight with the observers and policy planners. He has himself been an active player on the stage.

If the Indian press has quoted the Sardar correctly then one can say there is more of pragmatism than rhetoric what he has said. Sardar Qayyum has always been very careful and considerate in regard to his statements on Kashmir issue.

In concrete terms the Sardar has stressed upon two points: (a) Kashmir cannot join Pakistan, and (b) independence is not advisable for Kashmir. What then is his formula? The impression that we gather from his statement is: (a) the two Kashmirs should be granted autonomy status (b) travel between the two parts of the State should become very easy and frequent.

This means that the position of India and Pakistan should be brought on an even keel in regard to the State. Both will enjoy sovereignty over their respective parts. Both will create conditions for popular rule in their respective parts accepting secular democracy as the political arrangement and a systematized bilateral relationship between the two parts with the respective sovereign states of India and Pakistan retaining control over defence, communication, foreign relations and currency. Even the last mentioned item could be restructured.

With this as the basis of relationship, the next step would be an international guarantee backed up by UN for security and sanctity of LoC, no cross border infiltration, dismantling of training camps inside the territories of either part of Kashmir and complete cessation of anti-India/Pak propaganda through print and electronic media. . Having achieved that, the next step would be demilitarizing of both parts of Kashmir through an agreed formula perhaps under the supervision of the UN Observer Team. The main idea is to restore normalcy in Kashmir. The formula has to be applicable to the Northern Areas as well. However, the disputed 5000 square kilometer territory of the State ceded by Pakistan to China has to be subjected to trilateral talks – China, Pakistan and India for a final resolution. A separate agreement has to be arrived at regarding Siachin Glacier dispute.

These could be imagined as the broad contours of Sardar Qayyum Khan’s formula. He has not elaborated it but this is what one can presume to be the broad outline.

Assuming that this is a sensible and pragmatic formula and even a workable one, both countries will have to make some sacrifices to break the jinx.

Islamabad and New Delhi both have to be realists. The fact is that there is discontent on a large scale in NA partly as the historical baggage and partly owing to narrow and somewhat selfish and intransigent policy of the rulers in Pakistan over the past half a century. In regard to NA, Pakistan has been guided primarily by its strategic interests and secondarily by China’s policy planners. Therefore she has to come out of that syndrome and take some realistic steps. After the Humudur Rahman inquiry in the Bangladesh crisis became public, it is time for Pakistan not to depend on religion as a political instrument in negotiating a settlement of Kashmir with India.

With the US military presence in Central Asia including Afghanistan, the contours of strategic importance of NA have considerably changed. Public demand for liberalized governance, non-sectarian and democratic dispensation, and aspirations for regional development cannot be suppressed any more. Autonomy for Indian part of Kashmir has to be met by a corresponding phenomenon in NA and PoK. This means practical involvement of the people of all the segments of the State in the construction of their destiny, which virtually means the enjoyment of the right of self-determination.

This formula entails no transfer of territory or of population, the guiding principle of the UN in a search for resolution of complex bilateral or multilateral issues world over. But of course it must leave the option for the resettlement of two categories of people in any case. The first category is that of the religious minority of Kashmiri Pandits whose ethnic cleansing in 1990 was engineered by the sponsors of armed insurgency. The second category is that of the state subjects who were obliged to migrate to one or the other side of the LoC in 1947. In regard to the former category, the issue is between the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi on the one hand and the exiled Pandits on the other. In the case of the latter category, the matter is to be sorted out by the governments in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and the displaced persons on either side of the LoC. The two issues though separate in nature yet need to be clubbed in order to formulate the criterion for return and rehabilitation. Their concentrated rehabilitation in their places of origin should be a strong option as recommended by the UN Human Rights Working Group on Internally Displaced Persons.

New Delhi also needs to make cool and objective analysis of the current situation. Whatever the reasons, the ground reality is that the majority group in the valley stands alienated from India beyond reconciliation. It was that way ever since the accession in 1947. It is a different matter that in secular democratic dispensation, the valley of Kashmir has prospered maximally in terms of education, economy and living standards. But that is no reason for closing the eye to harsher realities. New Delhi must also realize that its much – touted secular dispensation has collapsed miserably in Kashmir, the Pandits have been subjected to total ethnic cleansing and Kashmir has been Islamized more under the so-called democratic dispensation in post-militancy period. As such India has only fractured moral right to be in Kashmir.

New Delhi also needs to understand that the subject of accession of the State to India in 1947 made by the ruler is debatable from the viewpoint of the religious minority of the valley. The basis of the accession, so frequently stated by its author Sheikh Abdullah and equally forcefully endorsed by Pandit Nehru was the concept of “secularism” (call it Kashmiriyat or Rishism or Sufiism or whatever you may). This concept was rejected as trash and thrown into dust in 1990 as a result of anti – India insurgency. The innocent Pandits were massacred and the entire community was hounded out of the valley. What is more, the Congress-NC combine never ever spoke of conducting an inquiry into the why and how of the rise of communal forces in Kashmir. As far as the Left’s Kashmir policy is concerned, the Adhikari thesis remains in place. Therefore it means that the accession of Kashmir to India on the basis of secularism has been belied. As such the religious minority reserves its right to a homeland in its place of origin and more so when autonomy status is conferred on both parts of the State as a bilateral deal.

At the same time there are some harsh realities facing Islamabad. It has not been able to bring about the secession of the State from Indian Union through sheer force of arms, which it tried thrice in the past. The armed movement in Kashmir has now been recognized by the entire world as an extended Islamic terrorism and the US State Department has declared militant organizations operative in Kashmir as terrorist groups. India has successfully manipulated the world opinion in her favour in this regard taking shelter behind 9/11. She has shown her extraordinary resilience in tackling the insurgency by successfully enforcing the stick and carrot policy. After all while handling a decade and a half – old armed insurgency, she has gained some insights into the Kashmirian psyche. Therefore what is the option left out for Islamabad? Virtually none except an outright war with India. Is she prepared to take the risk of starting a nuclear war? Certainly not. Will she continue to keep the pot boiling meaning keep insurgency going on in Kashmir? Certainly she cannot because it is eating into its fragile economy and fractured civil society.

The political class in PoK and particularly its strong London-based Diaspora should stop dreaming about the five autonomous regions of the State and the formation of a Confederation. That is not going to happen. Likewise, the majority group in the valley should understand that it is the Kashmiri on their side who is getting killed in the ongoing conflict. They have to put an end to it before any violent reaction surfaces. They must also understand that the Pakistani military regime has challenged the Wahhabi diehard anti-Americanism as resolutely as the Pentagon has. This harsh but pragmatic writing on the wall has to be read in conjunction with the Humudur Rahman report.

In view of these facts, one is tempted to say that the formula offered by Sardar Qayyum Khan seems to be the least offensive either to India or to Pakistan. It also takes into account the genuine aspirations of the people of all the regions in Kashmir. It has a fine element of face – saving attached to it. Above all it adequately meets the stipulations of the UN resolutions and the Shimla Agreement. While Indo-Pak dialogue is going on, it is highly desirable that both sides pay attention to what the Sardar has in his mind.

(The author is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, Jammu & Kashmir, India.)

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.