"Resolution of the Kashmir conflict Missed"?: The art of reading between the lines

Second Editorial: A ‘near miss’ on Kashmir?
Daily Times, February 24, 2009

A credible American source on Pakistan, journalist Steve Coll has revealed in an article that India and Pakistan had come within an inch of granting autonomy to the region of Kashmir before President Musharraf’s domestic trouble overtook the process of secret negotiations in 2007. Earlier, Pakistan’s former foreign minister Mr Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri had said much the same thing in his statement in the Pakistani media. President Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were aiming to demilitarise Kashmir prior to a settlement but, just as he had muffed the chance of clinching Kashmir with the BJP government, Musharraf got lost in what can be called his “impermissible incumbency” politics.

Had Musharraf been able to clinch it, it would have brought on a paradigm shift in South Asia’s life. The Coll story says: “Under the plan, the Kashmir conflict would have been resolved through the creation of an autonomous region in which local residents could move freely and conduct trade on both sides of the territorial boundary. Over time, the border would become irrelevant, and declining violence would allow a gradual withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops that now face one another across the region’s mountain passes”. But there were elements that never liked what he was doing.

By 2007, General Musharraf was so weak he was not able to sell it to the centres of power in Pakistan. The spectre of India was looming in Afghanistan and the “peace talks” with India under Foreign Minister Kasuri were being looked at negatively by those whose consensus had propped up the President-General of Pakistan. In 2007, the power syndicate stabbed him in the back over Lal Masjid and forced him to take on India again to regain his stripes of legitimacy. But the media rallied behind the sudden national sympathy for Lal Masjid and sealed his fate.

If General Musharraf’s India policy had a chance of being picked up and kicked forward by a notoriously “pro-India PPP”, it was sought to be obviated with the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto. Then in November 2008, the PPP was decisively put on the backfoot by the Mumbai attacks. Once again, this was achieved with complete media support. How unfortunate. *

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