Kashmir Imbroglio: Whose Solution?

During his last tour to the United States and West Europe, Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf said on a couple of occasions that he had as many as 15 formulae for the solution of the vexed Kashmir issue. Though he did not elaborate what these formulae were, it is now well known that the Pakistani strongman, unlike, most of his predecessors, has been trying to project himself as a pragmatist and a moderate on the Kashmir issue. But, in reality, he is the cleverest Pakistani head of government and most dangerous from India’s point of view. If his ideas on Kashmir are taken to the logical conclusion, then India will forgo the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, whereas Musharaff’s predecessors would have been more than satisfied with only the Kashmir Valley seceding from India. This short essay is aimed at proving this theme of Musharraf.   

We may begin with the  “successful” meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf last September  on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at New York. The meeting calmed the otherwise tense India-Pakistan relations so much that Musharraf claimed to have seen “a ray of light at the end of the tunnel” as far as a “negotiated settlement” of the vexed issue of Jammu and Kashmir is concerned.

In fact, in a meeting with Indian visitors, including veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar and India’s former Foreign Secretary, Salman Haider, President Musharraf told an Indian daily (The Asian Age) on October 12 that in just “a full day’s sitting” the Kashmir issue could be resolved. "How many times can we keep discussing options, once, twice, four times, six times, how much more can one discuss," he said, adding that as far as he was concerned both India and Pakistan could resolve the issue within (at the most) two to three days easily.

By any standards, it was an astounding statement.  But Musharraf told his Indian guests that the resolution was ”simple, identify the region, demilitarise it and change its status". He said it was important for both India and Pakistan to leave behind their stated positions on Kashmir, adding: "We are both, at present, on a maximalist course: if there has to be an agreement, both sides have to step down."

According to him, it is also necessary now to merge “Steps 3 and 4” of the framework that he had spelt out earlier. Step 3, as elaborated by him at several press interactions in the past, was to eliminate all those options for a solution of Jammu and Kashmir that were not acceptable to either side and focus on those that were left behind on the table. Step 4 was to begin discussing the different options. He said it was necessary to merge the two for "if Step 3 is taken in isolation all hell will break loose."

There was a perceptible change in Musharraf’s much talked about blueprint of the solution of Kashmir issue through four steps. It may be noted here that so far, Musharraf’s four-pronged thesis on Kashmir, which he enunciated soon after his military coup in 1999, ran like this: First, both India and Pakistan should admit that J&K is a core issue; second, let the two sides place on the table their respective proposals on the future of J&K; third, let each side reject the proposals not acceptable to it; and fourth, both should start looking for a solution, which would be acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of J&K.

In its original form, the Musharraf thesis was a non-starter. Because, had New Delhi said that the whole of the undivided J&K was an integral part of India, Pakistan would have rejected it. On the other hand, had Pakistan placed on the table a proposal that the people of J&K should be given the so-called right of self-determination, India would have rejected it. Then nothing would have remained on the table to be discussed further since Pakistan is also opposed to the conversion of the Line of Control (LoC) into an international border.

Viewed thus, Musharraf’s October 12 statement was an amendment of his thesis, something that seems to have escaped the attention of many observers of the India-Pakistan scene. Now by saying that Step 3 “cannot be seen in isolation” and that it has to be seen together with Step 4, Musharraf virtually left no option for India and Pakistan other than agreeing on a solution that is acceptable also to the people of J&K. And that solution, according to him, would mean that both the countries identified a region out of the undivided J&K (pre-1948), demilitarised it and then changed its status. By implication, the rest of the undivided state could be incorporated in India and Pakistan, depending on the circumstances.

Is this formula acceptable to India and its present political leadership? Musharraf is optimistic since he found Manmohan Singh’s “body language” to be “very good”. He also “found the Indian Prime Minister to be extremely positive and sincere.” Musharraf, it may also be noted, was equally fond of the former Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. So much so that during the Vajpayee regime, the Pakistanis and a section of the Bush administration in the United States were so hopeful of reaching a solution of the Kashmir problem that both Vajpayee and Musharraf were among those nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for this year.

Does this mean that there is a similarity of views on Kashmir between the top leaderships of the Congress and the BJP? As it is, before he had left for the United States where he met Musharraf, Manmohan Singh had had a quiet meeting with Vajpayee and on his return LK Advani had an audience with him. It is not out of place to notice that neither Vajpayee nor Advani has differed with Singh on the UPA government’s Pakistan policy. The present government is just continuing Vajpayee’s Pakistan policy. 

In fact, just before the Singh-Musharraf meet took place, the influential Time magazine of the US had carried a report, saying, “A senior (Indian) official conveyed to it that India will offer to ‘adjust’ the Line of Control – the de facto border dividing Kashmir “by a matter of miles’ eastward.” That would mean India conceding some of the territories under its present control. To further substantiate its position, the magazine stated, “Indian analysts confirm that the offer has been under discussion, in India and with Pakistan’s leadership for months – even under the government that preceded Singh’s.”             
It is well known in diplomatic circles that Musharraf has been keen on what Pakistani diplomats describe as the Chenab Plan – a partition of Jammu and Kashmir along its communal faultlines.  Islamabad is pushing for an arrangement where the six Muslim-dominated districts of the Kashmir Valley – Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Anantnag and Pulwama – will be granted suzerainty, a near-sovereign status. This near-sovereign status would leave the new entity with power over all areas of governance other than foreign policy.

India, under the Chenab Plan, will then have to forgo all its claims to Pakistan-held Kashmir, and the Northern Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan. In turn, Pakistan would be called on to accept Indian sovereignty over the Hindu-majority Jammu region of the State. The Jammu region is made up of the six districts of Jammu, Doda, Kathua, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch. But the Chenab Plan calls for a further division of Poonch, Doda, and Rajouri, all Muslim-majority areas. They will all go to Pakistan if the LoC is extended eastward and then becomes the border between India and Pakistan. In return, Pakistan would also forgo any claim over Ladakh, leaving a decision on the future of the region to be made between India and China at their mutual convenience.

Schemes for a partitioning of Jammu and Kashmir have been in the air for some years now. During the Kargil War, back-channel negotiators Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani foreign secretary and RK Mishra, a leading Indian journalist, had been reported to have exchanged papers on the Chenab Plan, documented in a Pakistani proposal, an Indian counter-proposal, and a Pakistani response. Later, Pakistani negotiators demanded of their US interlocutors that a withdrawal from Kargil by Pakistan be premised on Indian reciprocity, in the form of the acceptance of the Chenab Plan. Then, in February 2000, the then Kashmir Chief Minister, Abdullah and his key Cabinet Ministers held discussions with US-based businessman Farooq Kathwari, the author of detailed plans to divide Jammu and Kashmir. Kathwari's Kashmir Studies Group (KSG) had, in a series of reports collectively called "Kashmir: A Way Forward", called for the creation of a new sovereign state but without an international personality. The demands made by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah for a restoration of the 1953 status of Jammu and Kashmir are not distant from the KSG conception of a quasi-independent state.

Many observers find the Chenab Plan a variation of the "Dixon Plan."  Sir Owen Dixon, a Judge of the Australian High Court had come to the subcontinent as the United Nations' Representative for India and Pakistan pursuant to the Security Council's Resolution of March 14, 1950. “The report he submitted to the UN Security Council on September 15, 1950, was very close to success”, argues noted constitutional expert AG Noorani.

The "Dixon Plan" assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) to Pakistan, split Jammu between the two, and envisaged a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley. Pakistan demurred at first, but agreed later. It fell through because Pandit Nehru did not accept the conditions under which the plebiscite could be held. He wanted that the plebiscite to determine the future of the Kashmir Valley should be held under the then Prime Minister of the State, Sheikh Abdullah, something Dixon did not agree to. Otherwise, If Noorani is to be believed, almost all the top Indian leaders of the time – Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam – had agreed with the Australian jurist that major portions of the pre-1948 J&K could be divided between India and Pakistan, with the Kashmir Valley given the option to decide for itself whether to join India or Pakistan through a plebiscite. 

However, 2004 is not 1950. Circumstances have changed dramatically. Therefore, neither the Chenab Plan nor the KSG formula nor the thesis of Musharraf is talking of the possibility of the Valley going to Pakistan. Instead, each of them would settle for a semi-independent status for the Valley. It is against this background that many think tanks and intellectuals of both India and Pakistan – the professional Track II-wallahs – have now floated what is called the Andorra model for J&K.

Andorra is a co-principality of the Bishop of Urgel (Spain) and the French President. Under a 1993 agreement, Andorra has near autonomy with its own constitution and currency. France and Spain both share responsibility for its defence.  Applied to the Kashmir Valley, the Andorra model would suggest that its defence and foreign affairs would be the joint responsibility of India and Pakistan and its borders would be soft enough to allow the movements of both Indians and Pakistanis in and out of it.

It was against this background that General Musharraf further confounded the matter on October 25 by suggesting a three-point formula for resolving the Kashmir imbroglio permanently.  Addressing Pakistani editors and columnists that day, he mooted his “proposal, a food for thought”. He said that Pakistanis must discuss a “change of status” for Kashmir. “Change in status could be independent status... joint control (with India), it can be a UN mandate also,” he reportedly said, adding  “We’ll have to sit down with legal experts who can give their opinion on what other status are possible”. 

General Musharraf  divided the pre-1948 Jammu and Kashmir into seven regions.  Two regions –“Azad Kashmir” and the Northern Areas – are under the control of Pakistan (which we Indians call Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK) whereas five regions are under Indian control. According to him, of these five, the first part comprises Jammu, Sambha and Katwa and in them Hindus are in majority. The second part also comprises Jammu but the areas include Dodha, Phirkuch and Rajawri where the Muslim population is in a majority, which includes Gujjars, Sidhans and Rajas, “who are associated with Azad Kashmir”. The third part is the area of Kashmir Valley, which includes Srinagar and also has a Muslim majority. The fourth part is Indian held area, which includes Kargil and has Shia and Balti population in a majority and the fifth area is Ladakh and adjoining areas where Buddhists live.

The second leg of Musharraf’s formula is that after their identification, these regions need to be demilitarised, following which, and this is the third leg, their status should be changed. According to him, the possibility of jointly controlling the area (by this he was referring to the Kashmir Valley) as an Indo-Pak condominium or giving it under the control of the United Nations could also be discussed.  Musharraf said India, ”…because of its secular façade”, was opposed to a division of the territory on religious basis. But, he pointed out, “The beauty of this option for a Kashmir solution was that the same regions emerge even if you consider geography or ethnicity as the basis of division.”

From India’s point of view, nothing could be more devious than Musharraf’s Kashmir formula. Musharraf wants to take from India through peace what Pakistan failed to gain through its four wars.  If his formula of regions is realised, then POK and the Northern Areas will legally merge with Pakistan. In addition, Pakistan will also gain ceded areas from Jammu and Ladakh. And as for the Kashmir Valley, it would either go for independence or remain under joint India-Pakistan control. That means, India will either lose the Valley or retain partial control over it along with Pakistan. Pakistan gains here as well. 

Historically speaking, undivided Kashmir has consisted of five regions – Punjabi-speaking POK, Northern Areas, Ladakh, the Kashmir Valley and Jammu. Now the first two areas are under Pakistan’s control and the last three have been with India. Musharraf now wants to carve out two separate areas dominated by Muslims, one each from Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist dominated Ladakh. But he does not want to cite religion as the criterion behind this categorisation since that will, according to him, offend India’s “façade” of secularism. Instead, he uses the terms “geography” and “ethnicity”.

I have a few problems with this approach. If geography and ethnicity could be the basis of dividing and uniting nations, then Pakistan has no right to exist as a sovereign country since Indians and Pakistanis are ethnically the same and geographically both belong to the same landmass having common flora and fauna. If geography and ethnicity are to be interpreted negatively, then too Pakistan’s legitimacy could be challenged, given the perpetual clash between Shias and Sunnis, not to talk of the ever disenchanted Muhajirs whose leaders are on record to have said that the partition of India was “A historic blunder”.           

Musharraf, indeed, is a quintessential Pakistani in the sense that for him the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims cannot coexist in Jammu and Kashmir and, therefore, the Muslims must either join Pakistan or form an independent country. That is the basis of his Kashmir-formula. In other words, he is only revalidating the nefarious “two-nation theory”. But in that case, he should also accept the blueprint devised by Prof. Deepak Basu, who teaches at Japan’s Nagasaki University.

Basu argues that the problem between India and Pakistan remains because what was natural after a partition of a country, exchange of population, never took place. Pakistan and Bangladesh drove out most of their non-Muslim population, but Muslims are still in India, even after their homeland was created. This is the most unnatural event in the world. In other cases of partition elsewhere in the world, there were always exchanges of population. The cases of Greece-Turkey, Germany-Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria-Turkey, Poland-Germany, Bosnia-Serbia and Croatia-Serbia are recent examples where a full-scale exchange of population was organised, sometimes by the UN itself. 

Basu, therefore, suggests that the proposed solution of Kashmir should be packaged with the following items: 

(1) Pakistan and Bangladesh will take all Muslims living in India (including Kashmir) while India will accept all non-Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh; 

(2) India will give up the Kashmir Valley but Pakistan-occupied Skardhu Hunza, Baltistan, and Gilgit, where very few Muslims used to live in 1947, should come to India; 

(3) the Chittagong Hill District, which was 97 per cent Buddhist in 1947, will have a referendum, to join either Burma or India or to stay independent. The Muslim population there will go back to Bangladesh; 

(4) Migrants will be allowed to take away their assets and destitutes should be compensated by the government of the country displacing them; 

(5) In order to avoid the holocaust that took place in 1947-48, the whole of the subcontinent should be placed under the jurisdiction of the UN, for about one year, during which this exchange of population would take place.

Will the Basu theory be accepted as food for thought in Pakistan? It is quite obvious that whether it is the Dixon Plan or the Chenab Plan or the Musharraf thesis or the Andorra model, the suggested solution entails concessions on territories under Indian control. Pakistan does not forgo anything; rather it gains territory in the Jammu sector and earns a say in the affairs of the Valley. Is that what the Vajpayee government in the past and Manmohan Singh government at present have been negotiating with Musharraf? Even the much talked about option of the Indian government of having a soft border to facilitate movement between the people in the two divided parts of Kashmir is not devoid of danger, if in the name of free movement, people from PoK come and reside  in  Jammu and Ladakh and change their demographic composition, a process which has already started. The Hindus in Jammu and the Buddhists in Ladakh are about to lose their numerically majority over the next 10 years, if the present trend continues. 

As Lt Gen. Vinay Shankar (Retd.), who had fought Pakistan during the Kargil War, rightly wonders,  “To the Indian interlocutors, coming to an agreement in negotiations with Pakistan has become more important than finding a solution. Or receiving US approval has transcended national interests. Both these possibilities are truly worrisome.” 

Many observers find it perplexing that in the last 57 years, India has not offered any plan officially for the solution of the Kashmir imbroglio. Other than the decades-old parliamentary resolution of taking back POK, New Delhi has never bothered to give any counterproposal to Pakistan, although it is said privately that Indira Gandhi had reached an understanding with ZA Bhutto in 1972 at Shimla that India would like the exiting LoC converted into an international border. On the other hand, Pakistan has consistently defined the Kashmir imbroglio. Pakistanis have defined the problem, they have defined the issues, they have taken a lead in actions and now they are defining the solution.

If any of the suggested plans gets implemented, the implications could be dangerous for India. As Gen Shankar says, “Gifting territory would be a sell-out, that too, on the ground that those gifted are Muslim-majority areas. By the same logic tomorrow, if Bangladesh were to claim Muslim majority villages on its borders, that too would be reasonable.”

What then is the way out for India?  Says Bharat Verma, editor of this distinguished journal, “No enduring solution is possible in Kashmir as Pakistan's intentions and activities remain hostile to India and spread from Kashmir to Indo-Bangladesh borders notwithstanding the deceptive peace overtures. Therefore, to achieve peace in Kashmir, India will ultimately need to wage war by covert as well as overt means in the near future."

Verma belongs to a school of thought that believes that time is India’s biggest strategic weapon, something that Pakistan does not have. India, the 10th largest economy of the world, can compete in the global economy and win; Pakistan cannot.  So instead of agreeing to Musharraf’s timeline for the solution of the Kashmir imbroglio, India must prolong it till Pakistan virtually agrees to the existing reality.

It is in this context that Arindam Bannerji, a US based Indian engineer, has propagated the much commented upon ‘Neelam Plan’, which has dismayed many a Pakistani. The Neelam Plan suggests that India should stick to its present position of complete and equal integration of J&K into India and from that position could envisage shifting the LoC to the west and north along the Neelam River, so that the Northern Areas become independent. The rest of the POK could then join Pakistan.

The Neelam Valley is a 144 km long bow-shaped deeply forested region that makes up much of  what Pakistanis call Azad Kashmir. The Neelam River enters Pakistan from India in the Gurais sector of the Line of Control, and then runs west till it meets the Jhelum north of Muzzafarabad. The Neelam valley, says Banerji, is the valley of death and the valley of hatred. This valley and the region around it are infested with every kind of terrorist vermin that the Pakistanis have been able to rustle up, with the buying power of their extortion, drug-running and charity money. 

While the Chenab plan is based on the bigoted principles of division along ethnic lines, the Neelam Plan is focused on clamping down on terrorism and prevention of religious clashes in India. Clearly, these principles only apply to India, since terrorism is revered as freedom-fighting in Pakistan and other religions have mysteriously disappeared (from 20 per cent to about 3 per cent in 5 decades) from the land of the pure. Unlike the Chenab Plan, which does nobody any good apart from a few hallucinating generals at GHQ at Rawalpindi, the Neelam Plan actually, as Bannerji says, has a sound basis, namely:

·         Artificial countries based on religion alone are a hassle – Britain has already tried that with the creation of Pakistan -- been there, done that; doesn't quite work. 

·         Any plan that does not explicitly take into account US strategic interests in the area will become road-kill – so ensure easy US access to the Chinese border. 

·         Water is the biggest strategic issue in the subcontinent – talk about it, don't hide it, avoid the next war.

·         Terrorism and not the over-hyped repression of the people of Kashmir will cause the next nuclear war – so address it.

There are 5 basic principles and 5 associated actions that constitute Bannerji’s Neelam plan:

First, the absorption of integrated areas. India has demonstrated through its fair elections of last year, the enormous dollars spent in economic development ($5 billion) in Kashmir and the special attempts at integration such as reservation in out-of-state colleges, that J&K is well on its way to full-fledged integration with India. For better results, arcane constitutional artefacts, such as Article 370 need to be done away with. Improved industrial investment will follow. Pakistan has never managed to integrate any part of its country, let alone PoK. A vague case may be made that what they call 'Azad' Kashmir has been integrated as an armed camp, but this should be subject to LoC alterations, as described below.

Second, freedom for the oppressed, the brutally oppressed people of Gilgit and Baltistan have faced complete abrogation of their constitutional and human rights, with hardly any economic development for the last 55 years.  Their lands have seen murderous occupation and their standard of living makes the sub-Saharan Africans feel mighty privileged.

According to the Neelam Plan, the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) will become a free country and Pakistani garrisons currently encamped there, will have to depart. Naturally, the Pakistani Punjabis currently usurping people's rights in this land will immediately become illegal aliens and over a period of time, will have to obtain appropriate work visas to remain there. 

Both India and Pakistan would need to officially obtain transit rights through this land. This would bring about a demilitarisation of the Deosai Plain and thus effect a natural stabilisation in places like Siachen, Kargil and Drass.

From the perspective of the main interlocutor, the US, direct access to the Deosai Plain could be a strategic coup in its oncoming superpower battles with China. There possibly is no better strategic location for US forces in the northern regions of South Asia -- certainly, far better than being located in the Kashmir Valley. All this comes with the added benefit of not having to upset relations with a potential strategic partner – India.

Third, clamping down on terrorism. The only terrorism of consequence in South and Central Asia seems to originate from Pakistan. There are two problems here – first, the Neelam valley has become the launching pad and training ground for terrorism; second, Pakistan views terrorism as a legitimate instrument of State policy.
For the first problem, the solution is quite clear -- reduce drastically, the scope of the Neelam valley to act as the biggest terrorist training camp in the world. This is achieved by moving the LoC into the Neelam valley and better international mediation. The specific steps are:

1. Move the LoC north of Gurais till it covers all the infiltration routes emerging from the Burzil Pass.

2. Move the LoC in the Kupwara area to enclose the Neelam valley segment north of Muzaffarabad.

3. Move the Haji Pir Pass within India, since it is the entrance point for most terrorists in J&K.

4. Move the LoC south of Poonch closer to New Mirpur, perhaps along the Poonch River, this will drastically reduce terrorist breeding grounds.

5. Have UN troops guard the rest of 'Azad Kashmir.'

6. The independence of Gilgit and Baltistan to the north will bring about a closure of terrorist training and coordination camps in Gilgit, Astore, Skardu and the Deosai Plains area.

The second issue of Pakistan using terrorism as state policy is a little more difficult. Here, international lenders, in return for monetary aid, must ask for intrusive UN monitoring within Pakistan to ensure that the ISI and other groups do not engage in terrorism. Connecting monetary aid directly to stopping Pakistani terrorism is the only way to ensure that there isn't a terrorism-induced nuclear war on the sub-continent. The IMF has always used this policy to open up markets for the West; so why not use a similar approach to contain the scourge of jihadi terrorism in the country that has been referred to as the 'epicentre of terrorism?’ asks Bannerji. 

Fourth, equitable distribution of water, the Indus Water Treaty is inherently inequitable – it does not take into consideration that India's population is about 8 times that of Pakistan and Pakistan has eliminated or pushed into India almost all of its ethnic minorities since independence. This treaty must be declared invalid and must be renegotiated on the basis of the population balance on either side of the border.

An equitable distribution would imply that India gets around 40 per cent of the waters currently earmarked for Pakistan. Pakistan has so far depended upon India's inability to use its water resources aggressively and as a consequence not developed its water resource infrastructures adequately. Without such re-negotiation, Pakistan may not realise the criticality of doing so on its own – leading to disaster for Pakistan within this decade.

If this issue is not resolved, the Indus Water Treaty, and not Kashmir, will lead to the next nuclear war – water has already become the most precious resource in India, says Bannerji rightly.

Fifth, no one-sided guns to anybody's head; the only hope for the Pakistani economy is transit fees from oil pipelines. These pipelines will remain pipe dreams unless India agrees to be the key destination market for this oil. One of the main reasons for US interest in peace in Kashmir is related to the big dollars that would roll into the pockets of US oil giants if these pipelines do not flow through Iran.

Unfortunately, if these pipelines become a reality, Pakistan just obtains a large economic gun to put to India's head. To be fair, any gas pipeline should only be considered if at the same time, India is allowed to build up the infrastructure required to completely stop water to Pakistan. In other words, if Pakistan has the ability to shut off energy supply to India, then India must have the ability to shut off water supply to Pakistan, argues Bannerji. 

“ Erecting bigger walls between India and Kashmir through increased autonomy, even as the slow Pakistanisation of Kashmir through Pakistan-inspired religious teachers continues, is diminishing Indian strategic hold in Kashmir. Therefore, I’m strongly suggesting that we Indians watch out for strategic mistakes that our politicians tend to make – lest our children and grandchildren have to pay for them 50 or 100 years from now.  Our history is replete with well-meaning leaders giving up strategic advantages – remember Coco Island, Kashmir, Indus Water Treaty, seat on the UNSC, …you get my point.” reminds Bannerji.

More and more thinking Indians should listen to Bannerji.

The writer is Political Editor, Sahara Time. Courtesy:  Indian Defence Review, vol 19-4