Views from Srinagar
Z. G. Muhammad
THERE is no history of a dialogue between Srinagar and New Delhi for the resolution of the “Kashmir Dispute.” If a dialogue takes place now, it will be making history. Moreover, the leader from New Delhi, who initiates talks for deciding the future of the state, the cause of wars and skirmishes between India and Pakistan and a nuclear flashpoint will pass into history as a great visionary. And, if he succeeds in bringing these talks to logical conclusion, he will emerge as the people’s noble laureate for peace.
The only talks between Srinagar and New Delhi, for deciding the future of the state have been with the Maharaja of the state from July 1947 to October 1947. Nonetheless, these talks were aimed at dissuading him from perusing the idea of independent Kashmir and joining India. The role of the Maharaja for all purposes and intents ended after he signed the “Instrument of Accession” tagged with conditions, that it will be subject to ratification by will of the people. Thereafter, whatever talks have been held between Srinagar and New Delhi, these have been for evolving mechanisms for integrating the state with the Union of India. The Delhi Agreement was the first big leap in this direction. Jawaharlal’s statement in Parliament on 24 July 1952 clears all cobwebs about it. In his statement he said “now the accession has been complete… In fact Jammu And Kashmir State is constituent unit like any other state. It is part of territory of India, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are citizens of India like any other.”
The 1964, holy relic movement that had brought Kashmir once again in the spotlight and on international agenda, for the failure of the leadership it degenerated into a petty agitation with limited goal. The Action Committee that entered into talks with Lal Bahadur Shastri envoy from Delhi wasted the opportunity. The talks boiled down to installation of Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, as PM/CM, release of Sheikh Abdullah from prison and withdrawal of conspiracy case against him. Sadiq, worked tirelessly for integrating the state with India. In 1964, Sheikh Abdullah chose to be an envoy of Nehru for carrying the proposal of “confederation” to Ayub Khan- that went against very idea of Pakistan. In 1973, the then resistance leadership entered into dialogue with New Delhi on the terms and condition of the GoI. That ended in Indra-Abdullah Agreement. This document is nothing but a paper that betrays a cause people fought for twenty two years. On some of the post-1990 engagements which were just photo-ops I have already written in the past in this column.
So far deciding future of the state is concerned all talks have been between New Delhi and Karachi/Islamabad. The first round of these talks started three days after the “Instrument of Accession” was “signed” and Indian troop landed in Srinagar. It took place between Lord Mountbatten and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Governor-Generals of the two countries at Lahore. There was a consensus between the two on holding a referendum in the state allowing people to decide their future. The two differed only on the modus operandi for holding the referendum. Jinnah wanted to hold the referendum under the supervision of the two Governor-General as had been done in few other states placed in similar situations. Jinnah, had reservations about holding a referendum under United Nations, as it would be time consuming exercise.
Lord Mountbatten had been mandated by his cabinet to insist on plebiscite under aegis of the United Nations. On 2nd November 1947 first prime minster of India, Nehru in his radio broadcast informed his people that India was committed to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir enabling people to deciding their future. Thus, candidly suggested to them that the “instrument of accession” signed by the Maharaja was not sacrosanct but transitory. In January 1948, New Delhi chose to internationalize the question about future of Jammu and Kashmir and sought United Nations intervention, the august body through its various resolutions guaranteed right to self-determination to people of the state and also provided a mechanism for holding an impartial plebiscite. New Delhi, under one after another pretext, from disputing appointing an American as plebiscite administrator to Pakistan allying with Washington chose to retrace its steps. Nonetheless, it continued to remain engaged with Pakistan on Kashmir. From summit talks between Nehru and Liquate to marathon session between Bhutto and Swaran Singh to composite dialogue during Manmohan Singh and Musharraf governments the future of Kashmir has been fulcrum for all the engagements. In 2006, none but NSA of India had publicly stated that the two countries had reached to a solution on Kashmir- it was just to be signed. There were also claims that a section of Kashmir leaders was on board.
The rhetoric about talks between Srinagar and New Delhi, after more than a decade of silence, has once again started resonating from the garrisoned indoor stadium to the grand mosque. The renewed discourse orchestrated by New Delhi has evoked a most important response from the joint resistance leadership and commander of a top militant organization. It is not in public domain if these leaders have been formally invited to talks or it is just the airwaves and tweets that have caused the debate. The response has kick-started another discussion if there were any model on which talks between Srinagar and New Delhi could be held.
There was a lot of talk at the turn of the century on the alternative models for the resolution of Kashmir Dispute. The Kashmir Diaspora in Washington and Europe organized international conferences for debating the alternative models. From the Trieste to Quebec to Irish model every model was debated in Srinagar and outside. On 2 March 2003, President Clinton told to an Indian audience, “Kashmir can be resolved along the lines the problem in Northern Ireland was sorted.’ This statement had not only aroused curiosity but also caught the attention of New Delhi and Islamabad. Many an academia and journalists were conducted to Ireland- I have no idea if any academia or journalists shared his experiences back home with Kashmir leadership. There are a couple of other models for talks or negotiations that can help the leaders Kashmir if invited for sitting around a table for negotiating a settlement of the dispute. The other models that hold similarity to our situation include the Evian negations between France and Algerian leadership those culminated into an Agreement in 1962 or the Lancaster House Agreement.
It may be yet another Thoenay, apart from that scepticism the resistance leadership should do some spadework by organizing seminars and consultations before entering into any negotiations for the resolution of the dispute.
—Courtesy: Greater Kashmir
[Writer Z G Mohammad is a veteran author and commentator based in Srinagar]