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]