South Asia Peace Process: Why its not going forward?

VIEW: Jammu and Kashmir: where is the delay? —Mubashir Hasan
Daily Times, September 29, 2006

My peace seeking friends and I have had several opportunities during the last two years to interact with the people and leaders of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). However, we have not had any interaction with the leadership of the militants who are an important factor in the situation.

It is gratifying to conclude that the present is an auspicious time. The people and the political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir and the governments of Pakistan and India are keen that the issue is resolved without undue delay. No party is dragging its feet in moving towards an agreement.

A large majority of the people of the former state and their leadership seem to agree:

n The territory of the state includes the territories of the Pakistani and Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir as well as Gilgit and Baltistan.

n The armies of Pakistan and India should stop coming to the aid of civil authorities and defending the LoC but continue to defend the border with China. The withdrawal of military forces from the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir will therefore be in order except from borders with China.

n Pakistan and India should enter into a treaty that they shall not use the territory of the state to wage or prepare for war or war-by-proxy against each other. For faithful observance of such a treaty, India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir may devise a system of monitoring the activity by any party that amounts to a violation of the letter or spirit of the treaty.

n The state of Jammu and Kashmir may make its own arrangements for fighting internal disturbances of law and order — a task now performed by the armies and security forces of Pakistan and India.

n The rights and facilities that may be retained by India and Pakistan to use the network of roads, railways, airports and telecommunications for the purpose of defence against foreign powers may be specified.

n The relations with foreign countries that may be conducted by Pakistan and India involve the questions of war and peace, entering into treaties and agreements on trade commerce, investments, immigration and emigration, visas and passports etc may be specified.

n The reunified state of Jammu and Kashmir may have governments at several levels for example, of provincial nature at Srinagar, Jammu, Laddakh and Muzaffarabad and also a central government at Srinagar.

It may sound strange that at this point in time, the main reason the peace process is not going full steam ahead is that the political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir does not feel free to spell out what they agree to in private. The leaders of political parties and groups know what they want and there are no unbridgeable differences among them.

Similarly there are no big roadblocks from the Indian and Pakistani sides. The government of Pakistan is on record that it will agree with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the former state, as long as these do not amount to independence or division of Jammu and Kashmir. The government of India is equally keen to go to its parliament with a solution, which it can claim meets with the approval of the leadership of the former state. Similarly, the government of India has indicated over the years that barring independence “sky is the limit” for the purpose of settling the Kashmir issue. Further, the relevance of the borders is no longer what it used to be.

The main task before the peace seekers then is to assist the political parties and groups of Jammu and Kashmir in initiating discussions — confidential and otherwise, indirect or direct — amongst one another in order that they might move towards an almost final agreement about the future of their state.

The governments of India and Pakistan must give up their traditional reservations on meetings between people from both sides of the LoC. They should facilitate all activities aimed at promotion of consensus among the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir; indeed, encourage them.

Dr Mubashir Hasan is a former finance minister

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