Apr 162008

As the Pakistan-India peace process has evolved, we in Pakistan seem to have abandoned all principled positions that may have required energetic sustenance and have allowed vested interests, primarily foreign, to gradually takeover and attempt drastic reformulations of the political disputes — especially Kashmir. This process of what is becoming the absurd began with Pakistan’s leadership attempting to disown the UN resolutions and then realising that Pakistan’s legitimacy as a party to the dispute arises largely from these resolutions. Despite this, President Musharraf’s four points allowed varying interpretations, although the official version finally settled on a sequential ordering of these four points — that is, identification of the region, demilitarisation, self-governance and joint management — which were seen as a means to eventual conflict resolution. Of course, even here, the Indians gave their own interpretation at the level of NGOs while giving no response at the official level to these proposals.

With what has become a virtual free-for-all on Kashmir, the Indians have pushed for CBMs as an end in themselves and Pakistan’s Kashmir policy has become ever more murky. Taking advantage of this ambiguity, Track II dialoguers and international NGOs have moved in to further muddy the waters. So we have seen Pugwash get involved in the Kashmir issue specifically when it held a conference on the subject in Kathmandu in 2004. At the time it seemed well-intentioned because it sought to involve as wide a range of participants from Pakistan, India and both sides of Kashmir.

The same exercise was repeated in Islamabad in 2006 which brought Omar Abdullah to Pakistan for the first time. Unfortunately, at this time the intent of Pugwash became questionable as some of its core members sought to push through resolutions that lacked the support of the majority, especially the Kashmiris and Pakistanis. Eventually, these attempts at bulldozing a particular perspective were negated but the Pugwash Secretary General, an emotive Italian, Paolo Cotta-Raumsino, was displeased. Incidentally, Pugwash also drew suspicions because it sought to covertly target Pakistan’s nuclear development through another conference façade. Ironically, despite lending support to Indian perspectives on Kashmir, Pugwash was refused permission to hold its conference in India in 2007. So it was back to Pakistan in 2008. However, this time the intent of Pugwash has become highly contentious because it deleted all APHC participation, as evident from its original list of invitees and the actual participants. Yet Omar Abdullah was there as were many Jammuites including the president BJP Jammu. Mahbooba Mufti also came and interestingly some of our political leaders met her in the company of the political point person of the Indian High Commission. In fact one of the participating Kashmiri leaders’ is on record as saying that the meetings themselves were arranged by the Indians!

Ironically, it took an Iranian, Ambassador Moussavi, to point out the factor of non-representation of the majority of the Kashmiri people at this conference. In fact, his critical voice in support of the Kashmiri people and their suffering at the hands of the Indians became a source of concern for the latter. But, as he explained, in meetings outside of Pugwash, he felt one could not discuss Kashmir when those who represented the bulk of the Kashmiri people were left out of the dialogue — especially since the consensus was to involve the Kashmiris in any discussion of a solution.

It appears that this time round, barring one Pakistani journalist, participating Pakistanis kept silence on human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir, while some declared in a grandiose fashion that no one in Pakistan wanted to redraw borders — but forgot to mention that the LOC was not a border to begin with! Some others also in a mood of self-flagellation declared that Pakistan was responsible for all the troubles in Afghanistan — a somewhat simplistic assertion to begin with. Of course, from all reports, the Indians kept a united front and only allowed two mentions of their country, despite the fact that it is one of the main reasons for the Kashmir dispute’s existence.

A factor of interest is that the Pakistani Foreign Office initially refused to clear the visas of some of the participants, but a retired general used a retired ambassador to bulldoze the visas through. In 2006, the same retired general used the presidency for the visas. When will we ever have institutional policies based on principles?

What makes Pugwash of concern is that this latest meeting in Islamabad was supposedly not Kashmir-centric but was to deal with regional stability. Reports coming from the meeting point to the fact that Paolo immediately left for Kabul after the Islamabad meeting to work out a follow-on meeting in Kabul. The timing of the Paolo visit to Kabul is interesting because it was just before the Afghan Defence Minister’s visit to India and Occupied Kashmir — something the Pakistanis needed to protest more vociferously on. The Afghan minister’s visit was followed by the news that the Indian military will train Afghan soldiers in counterinsurgency. Why should this be of concern for Pakistan?

Simply because we have already suffered since 1947 at the hands of an Afghan-Indian nexus and post-9/11 the Indians have increased their covert destabilising operations in Balochistan through their increased presence in Afghanistan. India has been seeking to gain a more strategic foothold into Afghanistan and then on to Central Asia and beyond. At many international conferences now Indians talk openly of a more overt role for the Indian military in Afghanistan. India is seeking this role through its idea of a “regional” solution to the Afghan problem where India is seen as a major regional player. That is why some of us had seen the move to grant Afghanistan full SAARC membership as premature and with a lot of fallout for Pakistan.

For Pakistan what should be of heightened concern is that the US establishment scholars, such as those from their National Defence University, are also seeking greater Indian military involvement in the region, arguing that apart from the US only India has the capacity for military power projection while NATO allies are hamstrung in terms of their out of area operations. The Indians are also claiming that the Afghans hate the British and Americans but love them as they have long historic links (forgetting that so did the British after a fashion!).

How does all this link up to Pugwash and its increasingly contentious agenda? Through Paolo’s efforts to bring Kashmir into the ambit of a dialogue involving Kabul also — thereby adding to the Indo-Afghan military nexus. Clearly, Pugwash is becoming ever more politicised seeking to rearrange the political dynamics of disputes to give one side a particular advantage while those genuine representatives of the people like the APHC are cast out of the loop.

That is why Pakistan has to reaffirm its commitment to the APHC and be more clear and resolute on its Kashmir policy. We cannot afford to be held hostage to short-term trade benefits — which in any case offer more to India in terms of economic access across Wagah into Afghanistan and Central Asia — and allow total dissipation of our Kashmir policy. Even more urgent, we need to adopt a strong position on Afghan-US efforts to bring India into the Afghanistan equation. There are many areas of substantive cooperation with India but not at a strategic cost or in a non-reciprocal fashion.

The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Email: smnews80@hotmail.com

Courtesy: The News, 16/4/2008

 Posted by at 11:53 am

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