Views from Srinagar
Kashmir is once again on boil but New Delhi is in a denial mode
Z. G. Mohammad
‘Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a statesman with an olive branch for Pakistan and a resolution for Kashmir Dispute in mind.’ This line orchestrated by a section of New Delhi print and electronic media on his taking over Prime Minister of India even found some takers amongst the Kashmir resistance leaders. Some of them started looking towards New Delhi for starting a dialogue with the Kashmir leaders. Their belief got further strengthened after, Prime Minister travelled to Lahore on the inaugural bus run of the Delhi-Lahore bus service. There was a lot of euphoria over the two-day visit from 20-21 February 1999 to this historic city by an Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee. His visit to Minar Pakistan, a memorial raised in remembrance of the day 23 March 1940, when Pakistan resolution was passed at same spot was seen as abig gesture of friends by newspapers in Pakistan. Notwithstanding, many Pakistani commentators seeing Lahore summit with its three documents a failure, Kashmir Dispute made to the table. In fact, it wasafter suspension of the sterile dialogue on Kashmir in 1994 that Kashmir had once again made to the negotiating table between the two countries.
Can Kashmir make it to the negotiating table in 1999 at Lahore be attributed to the statesmanship of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Historically, India and Pakistan have always got engaged on Kashmir because of the resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council or under an international pressure or nudging by the US. It would be pertinent to mention from the times of President Harry Trueman’s Washington has been directly and indirectly pursuing the two countries to settle the Kashmir Dispute. There can be no denying that ‘the United States and India have dramatically strengthened their relationship and crafted a serious partnership.’ Notwithstanding, the partnership Washington will find its interest in the region hinged to the resolution of Kashmir. The United States, as rightly pointed out by Howard Schaffer couple of years in his book ‘The Limits of Influence, America’s Role in Kashmir’, “The critical part Pakistan plays in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and in its own territory also has added to the importance of Kashmir issue and strengthened the case for a more active US role for in helping to resolve it.”
Seen in right perspective, Kashmir made it to the negotiating table in Lahore because of the United Nations Security Council unanimous resolution 1172 and not because of statesmanship of Vajpayee. In 11 May 1998, India conducted five nuclear tests in the Rajasthan desert not far away from the Pakistan border followed by Pakistan. The United States mounted a campaign to persuade Pakistan not to follow the suit. President Clinton made five calls to Nawaz Sharif suggesting him not conduct nuclear tests. Finally Pakistan conducted six nuclear tests. Imposing sanction on both the countries the resolution called upon them to refrain from further nuclear tests and urged them to become parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) without delay and without conditions. The resolution also urged “India and Pakistan to resume the dialogue between them on all outstanding issues, particularly on all matters about peace and security, in order to remove the tensions between them, and encourages them to find mutually acceptable solutions that address the root causes of those tensions, including Kashmir.” Shaffer has recorded this article was added to the resolution by Washington. The adoption of this resolution by the UN Security Council in 1998, twenty-seven years after the much touted Shimla Agreement, in fact, reinforced the earlier Security Council resolutions of 1848, 1949 and 1957 calling for holding of a plebiscite in the entire state as it stood on 14 August 1947. The resolution also recognized the fact Kashmir is the core issue between India and Pakistan that could “spark a nuclear war in the region.”
The Lahore Declaration with all its glorification by the two sides and negative implication on the sanctity of the Kashmir Dispute were immediately devoured by the Kargil War. This war was believed to wreck the dialogue between the two countries over Kashmir forever. In the eyes of New Delhi, Pakistan’s Army Chief General Musharraf was the villain who had waged a war against in rugged mountains of Kargil. How did it happen, two years after the Kargil Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his famous article ‘My musings from Kumarakom – I: Time to resolve problems of the past’ published on New Years Day rose to the historical reality that ‘the Jammu and Kashmir is longstanding problem with Pakistan an inheritance from partition and India was willing and ready to seek a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem.’ He also suggested meeting with Pakistan President General Musharraf on Kashmir. The two leaders met in Agra, despite reaching an agreement described it as a success. In this column, I am not going into details of the Lahore or Agra summit but to look into a fundamental question have New Delhi and Islamabad ever initiated a dialogue on their own. Historically, as I wrote at the beginning of this article it is either the UN resolutions or US intervention that has made them brought them to the negotiating table. Occasionally, Washington has openly been prodding the two countries to resolve the Kashmir problem but mostly it is behind the scene as Bruce Riddle writes about US President Bill Clinton that ‘he was personally very interested in trying his hand in resolving the Kashmir in order to defuse the tension in the sub-continent, he knew a high visibility mediation effort was a non-starter for India and would be refused, leaving him exposed and ineffective.’ Itwas such a shove from behind the scene by Washington that brought the two countries the two countries on the table even after nine month long standoff.
Kashmir is once again on boil but New Delhi is in a denial mode. It needs a UN resolution or shove from US to initiate a dialogue for the resolution of Kashmir.
[Author is Srinagar based veteran journalist, writer, comentator].