Musharraf’s simple solution: with worked examples

Or, why India must pay to cure the General’s allergy

General Musharraf is ‘allergic’ to the idea of designating the Line of Control in Kashmir a permanent border. And as he pointed out, he is clearly not satisfied with the two regions of the erstwhile Kashmir state that Pakistan (illegally) occupies. And in the spirit of good neighbourly relations, he expects India to pay to cure him of his allergy and the Pakistan army of its ambitions.

As the president put it, the old princely state of Jammu and Kashmir comprised seven regions different from each other on the basis of religion, ethnicity and geography.

Two are now on the Pakistani side and the other five are under the control of India

He listed several options for a settlement:

  • The whole area could be demilitarised and made autonomous
  • It could be put under the joint control of the two countries
  • Some parts could be divided between the two countries and the Kashmir

Valley would either become autonomous or be put under UN supervision. [‘BBC’]

It is difficult to understand why the Indian government is letting the General get away with all these formulations of simple solutions? Musharraf’s formulations are mischievous because they are directed at forcing the Indian government to accept terms that would apply to those vanquished in war, or else open up the now-healed wounds of Partition and create a huge rift in communal relations.

Compared to these ‘solutions’, India is better off just living with the ‘problem’.

19 thoughts on “Musharraf’s simple solution: with worked examples”

  1. Nitin, what would your solution be to the conflict? I ask that with no sarcasm intended.

    I should note that while Musharaff’s options may be unpalatable to you, and perhaps justifiably so, he made an important policy shift by renouncing the plebescite option, and effectively giving up on the possibility of sole Pakistani sovreignity over the Kashmir Valley. And by doing so he opens the door to further compromises in upcoming negotiations. The Pakistani hardliners will no doubt pillory him for this in the coming days.

  2. Don’t you think Musharraf is just about the most reasonable Pakistani leader India can expect? It seems to me like if India were able to assuage Pakistan’s security paranoia, it would make it easier for Musharraf to make concessions.

  3. Eric:

    I don’t think G.M.’s policy shift all that radical. Even the Pakistani Army knows that plebisicite or Pakistani control of the Valley is simply not possible, without defeating India on the battlefield. At most, the ‘radical’ turn involves talking out loud about what isn’t feasible.

    BTW, the options he mentioned are unpalatable to most Indians as well as the (current) GOI (or, so I hope!). As a Kashmiri Pandit, I certainly don’t wish to live under Pakistani rule, however dilute.

    However, you are right that G.M. has opened the door to further compromises on Pakistans’ part. He knows, surely, that independence or UN rule of all or part of J&K is absolutely anathema to the GOI. In effect, then, his opening ‘bid’ is for a condominium. As any shopper in an Indian bazaar will tell you, the opening ‘bid’ is most unlikely to be successful. Of course, I’m assuming that the shopkeeper is shrewd and knows what’s in his interest!

    Kashmir, of course, has an internal and external dimension. Internally, the best solution would be autonomy, at all levels, in the state (down to the panchayat level) within the Indian constitution. In addition, provision ought to be made for a ‘Union territory’ status for some part of the state.

    Externally, the LOC ought to be made porous (not immediately, but after Pakistan proves its bona fides), with some provision made for cross-border institutions for managing trade and the environment. Such boards would have representatives from all regions of J&K and POK, as well as the GOI and GOP.
    I should underline that I don’t think such boards should take on the character of a legislative/parliamentary body, given the complex ethnic mix of J&K.


  4. Eric,

    There are two parts to Musharraf’s positioning: the first is dropping the idea of a plebiscite, the second involves those wonderful ways to cut what is essentially India’s cake.

    Dropping the demand for plebiscite is not new; it was implicit when the General announced that Pakistan is willing to stop insisting on the implementation of the UN resolution on Kashmir. In any case, the plebiscite option can cut both ways; especially if the Azadi lobby’s demand for a ‘third option’ is included.

    That leaves his plans to vivisect Kashmir; those words are nothing if not an attempt to cut out and ‘annex’ the Valley. My opinion on this issue mirrors Kumar’s. Both internal and external solutions to the problem are quite possible without having to hand over territory or people to Pakistan.

    Dropping the plebiscite may be the General’s opening ‘bid’; but India’s opening bid cannot be ‘change LoC to border’. Gilgit, Baltistan and the Northern Areas need to be brought into the equation. Perhaps, India could even let Pakistan keep them.

  5. Praktike,

    Certainly not.

    A military dictator who has disemboweled democracy in Pakistan cannot be a genuine partner for negotiations; even if we were to forget Kargil. Gen Musharraf cannot be trusted, unless perhaps there is a gun pointed to his head.

  6. Well isn’t there a giant gun pointed at his head called “The Indian Army?”

    Plus, he’d be a complete idiot to try a stunt like the Kargil again. In any case, isn’t it possible that the Kargil was a gambit intended to lay the groundwork for tossing Sharif? I mean: he put Sharif in the untenable position of having to climb down, and that built resentment against him and loyalty in the army towards Musharraf, no? And finally, is he any less trustworthy as an interlocutor than his predecessors?

  7. Praktike
    The biggets gun pointed at the General is not the Indian army but the terrorist and jehadi forces which he himself has to an extent nurtured. The General will have to win over these forces or exterminate them before any realistic discussion can take place.
    In absence of this the General is merely indulging in showmanship. His simplistic solutions are impractical given the current situation and made merely to provide an illusion of flexibility.

  8. Praktike,
    I would think the big gun pointed to his head now belongs to the United States Central Command.

    Let’s assume, as you propose, that Kargil was actually a gambit to seize power. That suggests that it is not beyond Musharraf to provoke what people feared would lead to a nuclear exchange, just to seize power for himself. And you’d think the sort of person who does this is reasonable?

    But you are right, Musharraf is no idiot. That’s what makes him dangerous.

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  10. Kumar,

    Autonomy for the Kashmir Valley combined with a porous LOC and cross-LOC institutions is something close to what I’d suggest. But if you can create safeguards for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, I would suggest going further and trying to creating a constitution and a joint assembly for all of Kashmir under some kind of federalist framework, similar to the EU. Jammu and Ladakh would have the option of staying out of this if they wanted to. I think Musharaff’s first option (autonomy and demilitarization) opens the door to such a solution, though India would naturally have to oppose full demilitarization.


    Where in Musharaff’s remarks does he suggest the idea of Pakistan annexing the Valley? Regarding the Pakistani-occupied areas, I agree that they should be brought into the discussions, but I can’t see any solution short of a war in which India winds up in sole possession of them without giving up other land to Pakistan, or at least giving up sole possession of the Valley.

    What needs to be kept in mind during all of these discussions is that if the Kashmir Valley was given a referendum today on its status, it would probably vote for independence. Modern history has shown that unless you’re willing to kill a large percentage of the local populace, some kind of compromise will be needed to resolve such a situation.

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  12. How convenient that such overflowing concern for the Kashmiris’ plight suddenly manifested onto pukeistan’s national agenda after 1987 and not before that? Besides, I am now coming round tot he idewa that maybe J&K may have to be trifurcated after all and the mulla-majority valley (no diustricts like Doda please!) can be combined with POK and the Northern areas into an independent country…
    Sadly, derz no guarentee that pukeistan will mend its ways even after the core issue is settled. Their beef with India is existential, as long as one of us exists, we will continue to squabble.

  13. Eric: Autonomy for the Kashmir Valley…. is something close to what I’d suggest.

    Actually, that proposal is not quite what I have in mind. My proposal, somewhat similar to elements of Balraj Puri’s plan, envisages autonomy for each of the constituent regions of J&K, i.e., Kargil, Ladakh-Leh, Jammu as well as the Valley. Additionally, autonomy must be extended ‘downwards’, to the panchayat level, within each region.

    Eric: But if you can create safeguards for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, I would suggest…[a] constitution and a joint assembly for all of Kashmir…similar to the EU. Jammu and Ladakh would have the option of staying out….

    That ‘but’ is quite a hurdle, and my thorough-going skepticism about that possibility is based on an ‘appreciation’ for the complex ethno-politics of J&K. J&K ain’t quite the EU, and is unlikely to come anywhere close to that in the near or distant future!

    The only way to make it workable is, in effect, a religious partition of J&K, i.e., the opt-out provision for Jammu & Ladakh you suggest (I’m sure you don’t think that desirable, but correct me if I’m wrong). Morever, such a partition would ratify the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandit community.

    For the latter reasons alone I’m firmly against the idea of a cross-border joint assembly. For similar reasons, the current GOI is not likely to approve such arrangements either (Not to mention the deleterious effects of such a partition on the rest of India).

    Indeed, the PM is reported to have told the General much the same thing: No redrawing of maps and no solution based on religion is acceptable to India. So I’m not surprised the General is floating the idea of a condominium. The General has proven to be—yet again—an impulsive man, full of tactical bravado but lacking strategic vision. To repeat my earlier comment, his opening bid is not likely to succeed, much to my satisfaction.

    Eric (in remarks addressed to Nitin): What needs to be kept in mind during all of these discussions is that if the Kashmir Valley was given a referendum today on its status, it would probably vote for independence…some kind of compromise will be needed to resolve such a situation.

    I think it would be a closer vote than many suspect, given the divergent interests of Shia and Gujjar etc. compared to the Sunni community. In any case, I think that the likely outcome of a simple-majority referendum ought not to be given excessive weight in this discussion, given reservations about the status of minorities, in post-independence J&K. Autonomy within the Indian constitution is an acceptable compromise, if one goes by a thorough–albeit unpublished–poll of the Valley, according to Amitabh Mattoo (ex-prof. at JNU, currently the Vice-Chancellor of Jammu U., I believe).


  14. Kumar, thanks for the analysis. The way you put it, it looks like the region is so deeply fractured along religious and ethnic lines that it’s hard to come up with any solution in which one faction won’t try to trample over another. In such a situation, I agree that it would be hard to create a seperate constitution and/or Assembly. Autonomy combined with a porous LOC and perhaps a free-trade agreement for the region might be the best option, at least until tensions are eased.

    Did you read the Asia Times’ recent article on Musharraf’s proposal? I didn’t agree with all of it, but it did make some interesting points. As expected, Musharraf is being castigated inside Pakistan for his comments.

  15. Eric:

    Thanks for the link. Having read the article, my initial impression is that Sultan Shahin thinks the General’s proposal truly novel, but ends up echoing my skepticism about this proposal. Like me, part of his skepticism stems from an appreciation of the ethno-political ground reality of J&K.

    It seems to me that Mr. Shahin takes the General’s statement too literally. I won’t reiterate my analysis of the General’s statement yet again. Instead, I’d like to focus on Mr. Shahin’s report that the General’s statement was met with much enthusiasm by those in the ‘International Community’ with limited knowledge of J&K.

    However, I suspect that—say–the U.S. State Dept.’s enthusiasm reflects both ignorance of J&K and simple realpolitik. The U.S. wishes to ensure stability in S. Asia, and support their man in Islamabad, even if it comes at India’s expense. I don’t think it unreasonable for the U.S. State Dept. to pursue America’s interests. I simply hope that the PMO pursues India’s interests equally—or even more—single-mindedly.

    Let me add that the reaction of some in the American foreign-policy community who know the area well was rather less enthusiastic. Michael Krepon (head of the Stimson Foundation) remarked in an interview on Asia TV that neither of the proposals were workable. Joint control was not realistic in areas contested by both parties. As for the UN-option, Krepon doesn’t think much of the UN’s ability to police disputed areas, even if India would (improbably) agree.


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