Kashmir and Indo-Pak negotiations

Sajid Bhombal has written a very interesting piece in Rediff and brought out the fundamental disparity in what Pakistani and Indian public opinion would accept as a settlement.

Pakistan initiated several wars (direct and proxy) essentially to capture more territory. Its call for the right to self-determination for Kashmiris goes only as far as getting them to merge with Pakistan. Therefore, as Sajid Bhombal correctly points out, its going to be very difficult for Musharraf or anyone else to claim victory if the status quo becomes the final settlement (ie Line of Control) or if the Valley gets autonomy.

India will not accept a partition of Kashmir on communal lines, neither will it accept secession. The maximum India can ever accept is a greater degree of autonomy for Kashmir, maybe along the lines of what exists in Sikkim.

Musharraf and his regime are not appropriate partners for negotiating a final settlement. Any successor of Musharraf can claim that Musharraf had no locus standi to make concessions over Kashmir and hence any deal which he made stands nullified. That was the case with both Simla and with Lahore which successive governments in Pakistan have repudiated. So India must not be in any hurry to reach a final settlement until there is a stable disposition in Islamabad (which may not happen in the near future).

There are already signs that some segments of Pakistani opinion hold the dogma of the Kashmir cause as the key reason for their economic woes. It is also certain that as long as Pakistan continues to divert its resources to fighting wars or proxy wars, it will remain an economic basket case. If India were to make quick concessions to the Musharraf regime, this nascent thread of opinion will be challenged and broken, thereby vindicating those who argue Pakistan can make inroads into Kashmir by fuelling the militancy there.

For India to concede away territory just because Pakistanis covet it would be idiotic. It is for Pakistanis and their leaders to decide for themselves what is important to their well being and act accordingly. If they should continue to decide their hunger for Kashmir is greater than their hunger for progress and economic development then India should determine to make the costs of those policies so expensive that sooner of later reality strikes home. Caving in to their demands is not a solution: there is no guarantee that Pakistan will be satisfied with Kashmir.

India’s bottomline, minimalist position should end with the Line of Control becoming the official border, and leave it to the Pakistani leadership to sell it to the people. I’d like to have open borders to facilitate the movement of Kashmiris across the two countries, but that depends on the level of hostilities between the two countries. If there’s no hostility there’s no reason not to have good neighbourly relations.

By the way: I disagree with Rajesh Jain’s suggestion that Kashmir can be solved using Game Theory solution for Civil wars. Kashmir is not a civil war – its a proxy war, a sub-conventional war. The Pakistani people do not directly suffer the violence perpetrated by jehadi terrorists in the name of Kashmiri self-determination, neither do they bear the brunt of the intrusive presence of Indian security forces in their towns and cities. Insulation from the consequences of their support for the Kashmiri cause gives them no incentive to reduce their support. The Pakistani military too does not take active casualties and hence is under no pressure to tone down the violence. Elisabeth Wood’s thesis needs to be expanded for robust settlements in proxy war circumstances for it to apply in Kashmir.