With clues that are so apparent, one would have thought that the ‘Kashmir puzzle’ should have been solved by now. However, despite catching everyone’s fancy and becoming the ‘national pastime’ in Kashmir, it remains unsolved. Though the puzzle-solvers are repeatedly provided with the clues, which at times are near-direct hints, they just cannot get themselves to believe that the answers could be so simple, contending that the solution to the ‘Kashmir puzzle’ is complex and lies not in the present but is shrouded in the past. And so, disregarding the obvious, the puzzle solvers continue to look up history books and encyclopedias over and over again in the hope that they can solve the ‘puzzle’.
One frequently does hear euphoric claims that the ‘right answers’ have been found from historical records and the ‘puzzle’ solved- but the joy of this triumph is short-lived as these ‘answers’ found invariably fail to solve the ‘Kashmir puzzle’! So, let’s for a moment shut the past and reflect upon some of the recent ‘clues’ which have been provided to us and see the possible answers they suggest for solving this enigma:
• Clue # 1 (Husain Haqqani’s Revelations) – Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US, in his book ‘Magnificent Delusions’ claims that in 2009, the US President Barack Obama had made a secret offer to Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. As per him, President Obama had agreed to “nudge” India towards negotiations on Kashmir, provided Islamabad ended its support to terrorist groups. Pakistan unfortunately turned down this proposal.
• Clue # 2 (US Secretary of State’s Statement) – During a joint press conference with Pakistan’s erstwhile Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once again brought up the issue of Pakistan’s support to terrorists by saying, “you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours.”
• Clue # 3 (USA’s Kashmir Policy) – In 2013, America turned down Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s request for US intervention to help resolve the Kashmir issue, making it clear that there had not been an “iota of change” in its Kashmir policy of regarding it a ‘bilateral issue’ between India and Pakistan.
• Clue # 4 (Iran’s Kashmir Policy) – During his recent Kashmir visit, the Iranian Ambassador to India Dr Ghulam Raza Ansari, despite being emotionally cajoled by the Hurriyat (M) chairman Umer Farooq, did not make any mention of the Kashmir issue. Instead, he spoke of how the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline would help India and Pakistan “better mutual relationships and resolve their domestic disputes.”
• Clue # 5 (Pakistan’s Kashmir Policy) – During his visit to New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not give Hurriyat leaders the customary audience and in his statement after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he avoided any mention of Kashmir. Instead, he said that he had “stressed to Prime Minister Modi that we have a common agenda of development and economic revival.”
Now, let us see how these clues can provide us with some interpretations which could help in solving the Kashmir puzzle:
• Analysis of Clues# 1 and 2– The era when the use of violence against oppression was not only considered righteous and honourable but also had an air of romanticism about it, is long over. Therefore, irrespective of whether one calls it a ‘freedom-struggle’ or ‘armed resistance’, the use of guns and bombs as a means to achieve any ends is today absolutely unacceptable to the international community. The US Secretary of State’s comment regarding “keeping snakes in the backyard,” also reflects the common perception shared by the international community that under the garb of ‘freedom struggle’, Pakistan is actually promoting ‘cross border terrorism’ for settling its scores with India.
• Analysis of Clue # 3– Kashmir is an outstanding issue on which the UN has passed certain resolutions and their implementation is the international community’s morally responsibility. However, having failed to get both India and Pakistan to agree in meeting the mandatory pre-requisites to facilitate plebiscite, the international community has found it more convenient to ‘downgrade’ Kashmir into a bilateral issue. Since both countries have illegally occupied portions of Kashmir and are refusing to vacate the same, the international community has no other option but to leave it on both these countries to resolve Kashmir as, when and how they decide!
• Analysis of Clue # 4 – Even a country like Iran, which was once a firm supporter of the Kashmir cause, today feels that the Kashmir issue is a “domestic dispute” between India and Pakistan and thus considers that, “better mutual relationships” between the two countries is essential to resolve the Kashmir problem.
• Analysis of Clue # 5– While Kashmir may be an important issue for Pakistan, but presently, “development and economic revival” top Islamabad’s agenda with India. So, to achieve this, contentious issues like the Kashmir problem would have to be kept aside for the present atleast, simply because these could obstruct formalisation of trade and commerce activities.
So, there are three obvious conclusions that a ‘Kashmir puzzle’ solver can deduce from these interpretations. Firstly, that while militancy in Kashmir is practically achieving nothing, it is certainly alienating the international community. Secondly, due to obduracy of both India and Pakistan in refusing to create conditions for plebiscite as well as the Hurriyat’s decision to restrict its struggle for achieving the ‘right to self determination’ to Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) only, an international problem has been reduced to a mundane bilateral issue. Thirdly, while everyone realises that the Kashmir problem can only be resolved after Indo-Pak relations normalise, no meaningful progress is being made on this front.
What has made all this happen? For this, there is no need to blame others as we ourselves have unwittingly either created or promoted the same. A few examples:
• The perception of the international community that the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is a ‘proxy war’ being waged by Pakistan has been reinforced by none less than the United Jihad Council chief and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Sallaudin himself. Readers would recall that in 2012, Sallaudin made the public and unambiguous admission that, “We are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.” Moreover by stating that “We (the Hurriyat) never denied or ignored the role of (the) gun in our struggle,” the Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani has openly admitted that ‘armed struggle’ has ‘official acceptance’ in the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ in Kashmir. As no nation would like to be associated with a movement that sanctifies violence, the Hurriyat has lost goodwill of the international community.
• On the Kashmir problem being considered a ‘bilateral issue’, it would be pertinent to note that the Hurriyat has been limiting the demand for the ‘right to self determination’ to IaK only while maintaining a stoic silence on PaK. By doing this, we are ourselves violating the provisions of the UN resolutions on Kashmir, which are applicable to entire State of J&K and cannot be selectively applied in parts. Thus, we are guilty of diluting the essence of UN resolutions on J&K by deciding on our own that these resolutions are not applicable to PaK. So, how can we hope that the international community will come to our rescue by calling for a plebiscite only in IaK?
• We all agree that normalisation of Indo-Pak relations is the cornerstone of the Kashmir problem resolution process and also proclaim that we welcome any move in this direction. Yet we see every such effort being made by Islamabad as a ‘betrayal’ of the Kashmiri people. When President Musharraf in his efforts to mend fences with New Delhi sought to rein-in the militants, Syed Sallaudin accused him of “backstabbing” the ‘mujahideen’. More recently, when Islamabad was once again trying to better bilateral relations by considering grant of ‘Most Favoured Status’ to India, Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani, did not appear to be very pleased. Instead of encouraging Islamabad, he supported the anti government radical elements and ‘hawks’ in Pakistan by saying that, “This step of Pakistan will be against the sacrifices and sentiments of Kashmiri people and it will also cause irreparable damage to the Kashmir cause.”
Thus, the ‘Kashmir puzzle’ can only be solved if we are able to address the three major issues impeding its resolution. So, we must firstly, unconditionally abjure the use of violence for achieving the ‘right to self determination’ as even if a nation is in full agreement with our principled stand, it doesn’t wish to get associated with our movement as it justifies violence. Thus, by eschewing ‘armed struggle’, the international community will be more forthcoming in supporting the Kashmir cause.
Secondly, we must present our case to the international community by projecting both IaK and PaK as a single and inseparable entity. We also need to univocally declare New Delhi as well as Islamabad as ‘illegal occupants’ and ask both to vacate J&K for facilitating plebiscite as envisaged in UN resolutions. With this approach, intervention of the international community is more likely as nation states would then be able to take a principled stand on moral grounds without the fear of falling out of favour with either New Delhi or Islamabad by being seen as ‘taking sides’ or ‘playing favourites’
Lastly, we need to wholeheartedly support initiatives for normalisation of Indo-Pak relations as our future is directly linked to this. It is no secret that trade and commerce considerations are largely responsible for the ambivalent attitude of the international community towards Kashmir and our leaders have rightly decried this immoral attitude. Presently, both India and Pakistan have negligible trade and commerce exchanges and so they have nothing to lose by sleeping over the Kashmir issue. However, once Indo-Pak relations normalise, large scale trade and commerce activities between the two countries would automatically commence. And only when this happens, can we expect any meaningful actions on resolving the Kashmir imbroglio.
Once the governments of Indian and Pakistan as well as its people experience the tremendous advantages of peaceful co-existence, they will themselves realise the importance of resolving the Kashmir issue as neglecting it could well jeopardise Indo-Pak relations. Surely, when the immense mutual benefits of trade and commerce are at stake, neither can New Delhi afford to be as obstinate on the Kashmir issue as it is today, nor can Islamabad get away with just making promises and giving assurances to the people of Kashmir!