YAMM on Kashmir

Pakistan is willing to give up its ‘claim’ on Kashmir,

Yet another Musharraf manoeuvre is to hit Indian televisions today. And it promises, as usual, to be bold.

Dr Prannoy Roy: Finally in this solution, Pakistan is giving up its claim to Kashmir? You are letting them self govern and you have no claim on Kashmir in this picture.

General Musharraf: We are at the moment, both India and Pakistan, on the same position as we were since 1948.

But we both, I am saying, we both ought to be prepared to give up all that we have been saying. And this includes all this. If we reach an agreement where we are giving self-governance, yes indeed, that is it.

Dr Prannoy Roy: So you are prepared to give up your claim to Kashmir?

General Musharraf: We will have to, yes, if this solution comes up. [NDTV]

Musharraf said that Pakistan is willing to give up its claim over the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Implicitly, this implies that India must also accept Pakistani annexation of ‘Azad’ Kashmir and the northern areas of Gilgit and Baltistan. Musharraf is also willing to correct that great incongruity of Pakistan’s stance over Kashmir by rejecting the idea of an independent Kashmir.

All this, though, does not mean that the Line of Control will become the de jure international border. Enough ambiguity remains—Kashmir will have ‘self-governance’ and will be under a ‘joint supervision mechanism’ under India, Pakistan and, well, Kashmir. Did we mention staggered demilitarisation is also one of the conditions?

Ignoring for a moment, both his political predicament and his ability to carry the military establishment along, Musharraf’s latest proposals are bound to appeal to many in India. Popular opinion in India is likely to be satisfied with a solution that converts the Line of Control into an international border. If ‘joint supervision’ means Pakistan and India ‘supervise’ their own portions of Kashmir, jointly with their respective Kashmiri administrations, then such a model might even work. But if ‘joint supervision’ entails Pakistan having a say in the administration of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, then the idea is a non-starter.

Demilitarisation has always been on the top of Musharraf’s wishlist. Nothing would please the Pakistani army than to get Indian forces off their back and acquire both strategic room and operational flexibility. But if there is one lesson Indian can draw from post-1947 history, it is that leaving the Kashmiri frontier unguarded is always a terribly expensive mistake. Troop withdrawal by India requires a level of trust that neither Pakistan nor Musharraf have earned. Indeed, for any solution to even start being meaningful, an unambiguous formal renunciation of territorial claims on Pakistan’s part must precede troop withdrawals by India.

An analysis of Musharraf’s manoeuvres is incomplete without considering his motives. This is important because of his oft-demonstrated ability to execute U-turns when the prevailing conditions change. He intends to stay on in power in Pakistan beyond the 2007 elections, but fears that if the elections are even partially free, the party he put together will lose ground to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. His compact with the Islamists cannot be renewed easily. Moreover, he cannot do without American support. Before they do so, the Americans are likely to want to see him deliver some of the goods he promised long ago. Talking compromise on Kashmir will help buy him points with Washington, not least because it will cause the Islamists to cry foul.

Even if the Pakistani foreign office does not claim next week that he was misquoted, India would do well to proceed with caution.

Update: See what Offstumped has to say:

The last proposal in the Musharraf pie in the sky is joint management of Jammu and Kashmir which almost sounds like the affairs of Kashmir can be managed as if it were a corporation with a joint board of directors keeping watch. This proposal is a non-starter for it defies the very logic of local self governance. What role does joint management have in local self governance? [Offstumped]

9 thoughts on “YAMM on Kashmir”

  1. Not time to distribute the sweets yet. Gen Musharraf has a history of going back on his promises. To put it bluntly, he likes to play to the galleries – his stance depending more on who is actually occupying the gallery rather than on any personal convictions.

  2. Doesn’t Article 370 already grant autonomy to Kashmir? Probably more than it ought to be but that condition is already satisfied.

  3. Nitin:

    YAMM, indeed. What is new in these proposals? Nothing much, I would argue: The General is simply trying to gain some measure of control over the Valley.

    It’s interesting to note the responses in the Indian media. Once again, C. Raja Mohan is full of disdain for the stubborn Indian ‘establishment’, while fawning over the PM. I wonder if he’s referring to the recent statement by (I think) the Foreign Sec’y about the unacceptability of ‘joint management’.

    Mr. Raja Mohan is quite enthusiastic about the General’s musings about ‘joint supervision’, I hardly need add. He doesn’t seem to recognize that any deal on joint supervision acceptable to Pakistan would not be acceptable to, say, Jammuites or Gujjars, barring a genuine partition of the state. In pursuit of his woolly-headed notion of Indian self-interest, Mr. Raja Mohan is willing to have India (and Indian citizens of J&K) pay any price.

    Praveen Swami, on the other hand, does his usual crisp job of reportage and analysis. The General’s latest musings do not meet India’s bottomline, even though they do come closer, according to Mr. Swami. Mr. Swami also reports that the GOI will finally constitute the working group examining the center-J&K State relationship. If done properly, I think this latter initiative may well turn out to be quite fruitful.

    Regards,
    Kumar

  4. Nitin:

    Somini Sengupta in the NYT writes an interesting report on the backstory to the General’s recent comments. She claims that backchannel talks have considerably narrowed the gap on J&K, especially on the LOC and self-rule. The gaps on demilitarizaton and the nature of ‘self-rule’ on both sides of the LOC are still wide, according to Ms. Sengupta. In light of the latter, I’m not sure whether all that ‘narrowing’ is significant.

    However, there is some good news in the report. I think the General’s desire to exercise some control over the Valley is unlikely to be fulfilled, since the GOI has not abandoned its principled position on the General’s desire to control the Valley. She writes that “….India is unlikely to accept anything like a joint Kashmiri provincial administration, on the grounds that it would dilute Indian claims over its portion of the province. According to one person familiar with the proceedings of the closed-door talks, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, India could be open to a “joint institutional mechanism” to regulate certain interstate issues like transportation, water and environmental management….”

    Btw, notice that Ms. Sengupta attributes Indian resistance to the General’s entreaties to ‘reasons of state’, eliding the ethno-religious complexity of J&K which dictates the GOI’s position. Not to mention that it’s difficult to conceive of how a theocratic-authoritarian Pakistan and secular democratic India could ‘jointly supervise’ J&K (as the Hindustan Times puts it, in its excellent editorial ‘Musharraf’s fantastical four’).

    Regards,
    Kumar

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