Common Sense and Political Will

Published in Kashmir Herald, Vol 4/No. 4 2004, by Prof. K.N. Pandita.

Philip Talbot, the former senior officer in the State Department during Clinton administration has been quoted on Indo-Pak relations and Kashmir issue by the Indian print media in recent days. He may no more be in the corridor of power, nevertheless, the US foreign policy framing system does not let precious experience and practical knowledge of former seniors in regard to complicated international issues go unutilised. In particular, Talbot is said to have developed intimate knowledge and perhaps also the appreciation of the basics of Indian foreign policy.

Talbot’s assertion that there is uniqueness in US-Pakistan relations has not to be taken in a negative sense. Actually he has said nothing new. The US has had unique relations with Pakistan from the day independent India decided to be a close partner of the former Soviet Union and the socialist bloc.

Pakistan had two essential reasons to fall in the western basket. One, she owed her existence to the imperialist policy, which, for more than a century prior to India’s independence, had been staunchly supporting the division of Indian society along Hindu-Muslim religious lines. Second, since India had chosen to associate herself with the socialist camp, it was strategic compulsion for Pakistan to be on the other side.

Creation of Pakistan with East Punjab as its mainland threw up the Punjabi feudal-cum-military segment of her civil society as the prospective monopolist of political and economic power. The segment provided handle to the imperialists and capitalists to manipulate their policy in the subcontinent. This explains the uniqueness to which Talbot referred albeit somewhat innocently.

The argument that Pakistan is an Islamic state and that Islam would not compromise with communists who are atheists stands repudiated when we examine Pakistan’s relations with China. Pakistan has played a role in building understanding between Beijing and Washington.

But whenever the feudal-military combine felt that playing Islamic card served their narrow interests, they played it with extraordinary deftness as in the case of Soviet-Afghan war of 1979. Pakistan did not become only the conduit of enormous weaponry from American arsenals for the Afghan mujahideen but she herself became its major beneficiary, notwithstanding the anti-climax she is witnessing today. Washington had no hesitation whatsoever in compensating her by turning Nelson’s eye to the sponsoring of fundamentalist Taliban in Afghanistan.

The uniqueness of relations is now reflected in General Musharraf taking on the remnants of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in South Waziristan to the satisfaction of his American friends… Thus we find that promotion as well as suppression of fundamentalist-terrorist combine in Pakistan, apparently a contradiction in terms, is a glaring feature of the uniqueness of Pak-US relationship.

In all probability, the suggestion of Washington as a “facilitator” for Kashmir talks is a classical example of under-statement. This is not the first time that the word “facilitator” has been paraded. It has been making rounds eve since Indo-Pak talks began last year.

The US has the compulsion of asking both India and Pakistan to talk about all outstanding disputes and more importantly on Kashmir. This is necessitated by the situation created by the fundamentalist-terrorist operatives world over. It is a compulsion for India to disengage her troops in Kashmir conflict and escape the allegations of human rights violations. It is a compulsion for Pakistan to rescue her fragile economy and the growing threat to her stability and integrity as a viable state in South Asia.

In this political landscape the statement of Talbot that given the “common sense and a political will”, Kashmir question should be resolved now, carries good weight. Common sense says that the clock of history cannot be turned back. No suggestion or decision leading to major transfer of territory or population will be endorsed by the international community. Neither of the two countries can risk the danger of slipping down from their respective standpoint on Kashmir. International community will have no hesitation in accepting a solution mutually agreed upon by the two countries.

This being the basics of the whole issue, smaller questions arising thereafter can be addressed without much hassle. For example, the much talked about minor changes in the LoC, more travel facilities, relaxation of passport condition, exchange of professionals and artists and liberalised personal visits etc. would be taken care of.

The condition of political will applies to both sides. In the case of India, Congress regime supported by the leftists shall have to bear the onus of Kashmir imbroglio. It is very much doubtful whether the present Congress regime has much space to go ahead with the framework. It has to be remembered that the 1995 parliamentary unanimous resolution on Kashmir was initiated and piloted by the then Congress government. It is amusing that this resolution was passed notwithstanding the commitments made in the Shimla Agreement.

Likewise in the case of Pakistan, the jihadis would ask for the head of Musharraf if the latter agreed to a bilateral settlement of the issue. It is not that they are not aware that Kashmir cannot be the jugular vein. The fact is that with a solution of Kashmir problem with India, the source that sustains military-feudal power and the jihadi bugbear in Pakistan will witness the end of their day.

The fact of the matter is that Washington is fully aware that the jehadi structure in Pakistan cannot be fully dismantled by General Musharraf. They are also aware that as long as the jihadi structure exists in that country, there can be no respite for the secular democracies, especially the US against whom the jihadis are arrayed. There are mounting pressures on the US administration to revise its policy towards Pakistan. The revisionists see Pakistan the real threat and not an ally of sorts the administration is disposed to characterise it.

In this situation the best way to get rid of the jihadis within Pakistan is to force a solution of Kashmir on both India and Pakistan so that the latter is fully engaged in a domestic conflict – a foregone sequel to a decision that divides Kashmir along LoC. It is only a civil war that can anticipate secularization and democratization of Pakistan.

And the US would not embark on a dangerous course in the sub-continent unless she is assured that the secular democratic constituency in Pakistan is prepared to act and succeed. Add to the unfolding scenario the deepening ethnic divide that will be further activated in a situation of quasi civil war.

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

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