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PAKISTAN’S COMPULSIONS FOR PEACE DIALOGUE WITH INDIA

Paper no. 1111           08. 09. 2004

by Dr. Subhash Kapila 

 

Introductory Observations:

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister concluded his first round of talks with the Indian Foreign Minister on 7 September 2004. This capped a series of talks held at Islamabad and New Delhi in the first half of 2004. The talks covered discussion of all eight major sets of issues of the Composite Dialogue Format. 

In all such dialogue processes, what is not important are the views both sides publicly articulate but what has not been articulated. Because what both Foreign Ministers have articulated and on which the media gives a spin and creates a hype does not amount to much. 

Pakistan’s obsession with the Kashmir issue seems to have stalled any substantial progress. Pakistan’s military ruler, General Musharraf all along this year has persistently declared at every conceivable forum that:

  • Kashmir issue must be settled within a fixed time limit.
  • Confidence-building measures (CBMs) in other fields cannot be allowed to overtake the settlement of the Kashmir issue.

In other words, General Musharraf states that progress of CBMs can only follow the settlement of Kashmir dispute. 

Before India’s policy planners and decision makers are hustled by Pakistan into compromises not in India’s interests or Indian media charmed by the visible persuasiveness of the Pakistan Foreign Minister into giving a hype where not due, three major questions need to be asked:

  • Is Pakistan and General Musharraf in a position to dictate “time-lines” for settlement of Kashmir issue?
  • Can General Musharraf survive any compromises on Kashmir by Pakistan?
  • Who loses more, India or Pakistan, in case Pakistan makes CBMs progress a hostage on the Kashmir issue?

These are important questions before India, and Indian leaders are falsely led into a delusion that Pakistan’s military ruler wants a genuine peace with India and that some divine spirit has now come to reside in him and goading him towards peace. 

This paper attempts to analyse these questions and suggest that time is on India’s side and that India should determine the pace of the peace dialogue. 

Pakistan and General Musharraf Not in a Position to Dictate Timelines and Conditionalities on Kashmir Issue:

Pakistan’s domestic situation today is volatile and unstable, mainly due to:

  • Pakistan’s military ruler's reluctance to allow democracy to return and General Musharraf’s inclination to continue as Chief of Army Staff even after December 2004.
  • Pakistan’s ruling elite has been subjected to assassination attempts. General Musharraf was the target on two occasions from Pakistan Army officers and soldiers. Pakistan’s present Prime Minister and Pakistan Army’s V Corps Commander were targeted by Islamic extremists.
  • Baluchistan and Northern Areas (territory of erstwhile J & K princely state, annexed by Pakistan, as distinct from Occupied Kashmir) are in ferment 
  • Predominant anti-United States and anti-West feelings in the  Pakistani public.
  • Human Rights Violations by Pakistan’s military establishment against its political opponents

All this has left no scope for General Musharraf or any place to turn to except intensifying the war on Islamic terror (to save his own skin) and to seek peace with India at the insistence of his patron, the United States. 

Professor Harold A Gould, Professor of South Asian Studies University of Virginia (USA) commenting on the change in Musharraf’s stances has said: “This has occurred not because Musharraf has suddenly become a born-again Democrat or a Benjamin Disraeli. It is rather because the Islamic fanatics, he so hypocritically cultivated throughout his career to save his political skin have turned against him.” 

The same learned Professor very perceptively observed as  early as February 2004, that the lineaments of how Musharraf would wriggle out of his political dilemma would emerge as under:

  • Peace dialogue and reconciliation with India.
  • Willingness to soften his position on Kashmir (i.e. no insistence on UN resolutions or plebiscite)
  • Free trade agreement with India.
  • Control terrorism from Pakistan/Pakistan controlled territory.

All this seems to be working out as forecasted above.

Pakistan, therefore, is hardly in any position to dictate timelines or conditionalities on the Kashmir issue. 

It is ironical, that Pakistan as a failed state, politically unstable and which has not allowed the Pakistan public to practice democracy should be espousing self-determination in Kashmir. 

General Musharraf’s Compromises on Kashmir- Are They Tenable?

In the event of General Musharraf by some divination, accepting compromises on Kashmir, the implications that would arise as follows:

  • Will the Pakistan Army and its Generals back General Musharraf?
  • What assurances exist that General Musharraf's successors will honour the commitments made?
  • Will General Musharraf's constituency of Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists groups support him in this compromise?

 

From the Indian point of view, one can concede that any settlement of the Kashmir issue from the Pakistani side can only be forthcoming from an Army regime in Pakistan. Having said that, the doubt that arises is whether General Musharraf enjoys undisputed support within the Pakistan Army. The answer is no. 

Simla Pact, Lahore Agreement were all commitments made by the Pakistan leaders in the past. What has been the Pakistani record in honoring them? General Musharraf himself had earlier repudiated them. How can the  Pakistani Government be trusted for the future. 

It is unlikely that General Musharraf’s constituency of Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist groups will now accept his dictates. Having tasted power and having made inroads into the rank and file of Pakistan Army, they pose a formidable challenge. 

CBMs Progress as Hostage to Kashmir Issue-Who Loses?

General Musharraf has painted himself into a corner, by maintaining that no progress on CBMs is possible until progress is made on Kashmir. Because when it comes to the question who loses out more if this trend is maintained, the obvious answer is Pakistan. 

The CBMs proposed by India especially in the seventh and eighth set of Composite Dialogue Format focus on “Economic and Commercial Cooperation” and “Promotion of Friendly Exchanges”. These would lead to a graduated progress of better understanding and promoting peace. 

It is surprising that nuclear CBMs which form the first part of the Composite Dialogue Format and the MOU of the Lahore Declaration 1994 seem not to have been touched in earnest at all. It can be presumed that nuclear CBMs are also being held as hostage to the Kashmir issue. 

Concluding Observations:

Those who can recall the Track II diplomacy of the United States in Indo-Pak disputes under the aegis of the “Neemrana Process’ would remember that then too, the conclusions that emerged were that progress on CBMs should accrue first in the fields of “Economic Cooperation” “Social and Cultural Exchanges “ and then “Military CBMs”. Having gone through this sequence, the stage would have been then set for the resolution of the contentious political issues. The same holds good today.

Pakistan and General Musharraf had a good chance at the Agra Summit 2001 to establish peace in South Asia. Then too the Pakistani stand on Kashmir and cross border terrorism impeded peace. Three years down the line, Pakistan’s domestic volatile political situation and General Musharraf and his generals becoming targets of assassination attempts, does not leverage Pakistan into a position to dictate to India “time-lines” and “conditionalities” like Kashmiris, meaning the Hurriyat should sit on the peace dialogue.

India does not have to “trade Pakistani militancy for peace” nor does India have to trade “land for peace” by changing of borders in Jammu and Kashmir. This is the harsh strategic reality.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email drsubhashkapila @yahoo.com)

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