Back channel diplomacy over Kashmir | By Prof Dr Muhammad Khan


Back channel diplomacy over Kashmir

IN order to resolve Kashmir dispute, back-channel diplomacy and secret talks have been going on for decades now.

As reported by Reuters on April 15, 2021 there have been direct and indirect back channel diplomacy and secret talks between the officials of both countries in January 2021.

Later the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed Indo-Pak negotiations at UAE. Indeed, the resolution of Kashmir dispute through peaceful means (negotiations and dialogue process) has always been welcomed by Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Nevertheless, the resolution of Kashmir should entails grant of right of self-determination to the people of entire Jammu and Kashmir as promised in UN resolutions; UNCIP Resolutions; 13 August 1948 and January 5, 1949.

This has been the long-standing stance of Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Division of the State along ceasefire line (Line of Control) has been a desire of India ever since its illegal invasion and occupation of the state in October 1947.

But, Pakistan and Kashmiris always rejected any such proposals in last over seven decades.

Indeed, people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) have never reconciled from their traditional stance to become Indian subjects.

This can be evidenced from their ceaseless political struggle for their freedom from Indian occupation since last seven decades and particularly their active movement since 1990.

During this active struggle of the Kashmiris of IIOJK, more than 100,000 Kashmiris lost their lives, over 13000 women were raped and thousands of Kashmiris are still under Indian detention centres, torture cells and many more languishing in Indian jails. Their entire struggle is to get freedom from India and join Pakistan.

This is despite deployment of over 900,000 Indian security forces in IIOJK, which brutally kills and maltreat Kashmiris with total impunity under special Indian laws. Nevertheless, Kashmiris are adamant to get their right of self-determination at all costs.

After the unilateral and illegal annexation of IIOJK into Indian union as union territories on August 5, 2019, there have been total siege and lockdown in the occupied state.

Indeed, the relegation of the statehood of IIOJK as union territories and undoing the special status of the state through revoking Article 370 and 35A is a violation of the UN resolutions, Indian commitments, its constitution and the constitution of IIOJK.

Soon after this illegal Indian Act, Pakistan announced that there will be no talks with India until it completely restore special status of IIOJK as it was before August 5, 2019.

Very recently after attending the back channel talks at UAE, the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement that, “If India is willing to revisit some of the decisions that they took on August 5, 2019, Pakistan will be more than happy to engage, sit and talk out our differences and sit and, through a dialogue, resolve the outstanding issues.” This is a vague statement and mysterious too.

This statement has created suspicions among the masses and intellectuals, since Pakistan had earlier demanded complete restoration of pre August 5, 2019 status of IIOJK.

Indeed, that should be the principled stance of Pakistan along with demand for the right of self-determination of Kashmiris.

The essence of Foreign minister’s statement (“If India is willing to revisit some of the decisions”) means flexibility in the earlier Pakistani stance. It means that, if India restores Article 35A then Pakistan can have negotiations with India.

This is going to be suicidal act for Pakistan on Kashmir, a complete U-Turn. It means, recognizing the Indian stance over Kashmir as its part and only endeavouring to stop it from making demographic changes in IIOJK.

The question arises, can India be stopped from making demographic changes, after accepting IIOJK as Indian Territory.

Indeed, drafted in Part XXI Indian Constitution, Article 370 accorded a “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions for the Indian occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir, not like the integral Indian states.

It was the only and a temporary link between IIOJK and India until resolution of the Kashmir dispute as per UN resolutions.

For over seven decades, Article 370 restricted Indian legality to have its direct rule in IIOJK and makes laws for the state, like integral states of India.

IIOJK had the special status under Article 370 Not through Article 35A. Article 35A guarantees the Kashmiris rights over the land of the state.

Article 35A restricts Indian position for non-permanent residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 370 was the basic Article of the Indian Constitution ratified on 26 November 1949along with other Articles whereas Article 35A was the reinforcing Article (for Article 370) incorporated through Presidential Ordinance in 1954.

After changing the domicile laws in IIOJK on April 1, 2020, Indian Government has already started settling non Kashmiri Hindus in IIOJK to change the demography of IIOJK.

Demanding the restoration of only Article 35A as a bid to formally negotiate with India will put Pakistan into a defensive position. Moreover, it will be amounting to recognition of IIOJK as Indian Territory.

Therefore, the Government of Pakistan must not talk to India over Kashmir from the position of weakness.

Restoration of special status of IIOJK by repealing Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act-2019 and illegal changes made thereafter must be the basic demand of Pakistan for any future negotiation over Kashmir both for back channel diplomacy as well as for the formal direct talks between foreign ministers of both countries.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.