Unending journey of Kashmir solution : Musharraf and Zardari

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Dr. Rajkumar Singh 24 August 2019

In the history of Kashmir dispute, the year 2008 is important for various reasons. It witnessed the successful assembly election in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, change of guard in Pakistan but above all – the worst terror attack on 26 November 2008 in which Mumbai , the financial capital of India, was the target. The 26/11 attack on Mumbai was in several respects very different from those in the past. It was a bold, brave frontal, ferocious attack in which terrorists were well prepared. Once again the attack demonstrated how incapable India is as a nation to prepare itself to fight against terrorism. It not only shocked the nation, but also gave us an impression that we cannot boast of preparedness, but the reality is all together different. Naturally the terror attack in Mumbai at different places in the city had furthered India – Pakistan relations in all spheres near collapse and created a war – like situation between the two countries. At the time the main concern of US policy makers was somehow not to let this grave provocation cause an escalation of India – Pakistan tension that would give Pakistan a ruse for not concentrating on its task on the western front. Even in the years 2010 and 2011 several terror attacks were made in different parts of the country, at New Delhi and Mumbai in particular. Thus the large scale terror activities on the part of Pakistani extremist groups had marred the peace prospect of the problem of Jammu and Kashmir.

Good gestures by Pakistan

Even after closing the composite dialogue and earlier, perhaps under international pressure Pakistan took several steps to further the new ideas. It extended support to the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, and distanced itself from the hardline faction led by Ali Shah Geelani. The “back – channel” diplomacy was used in arriving at a compromise on the issue of travelling documents, regarding the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service. Back – channel negotiations also began discussing the four- point formula – which many observed was secretive, but made significant progress in developing areas of aspirational convergence. The LoC was thrown open for travel and trade and intra Kashmir dialogue got underway –albeit in a non- structured and sporadic manner. As a new government came into power in 2008, the back – channel dialogue came to a halt. Zardari’s government has gradually reverted to Pakistan’s traditional stance- but continues to support cross-LoC interactions, which is very much in line with the vision of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) for “ soft LoC.” In August 2008, President Zardari advocated a policy of “soft borders” so that the people of the two parts of Kashmir can meet, travel and do business – but without compromising Pakistan’s traditional position on Kashmir. Zardari’s administration has pulled back its sponsorship of Jihad in Kashmir, and has stated that it wants a solution through a tripartite dialogue that  involves Kashmiris and fulfils the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. The President Musharraf earlier and his successor in Pakistan have given assurance to India and the international community that terrorist would not be allowed to use the territories under their control . However, the Pakistan establishment is not true to its words and continues to encourage the Jehadi elements.Pakistan has become the chief proponent of Islamic Jehadi terrorism and unashamedly adopts it as an instrument of state policy to achieve strategic gains.

Musharraf ‘s formula of solution

Among the proposals put forward by Musharraf and other Pakistani leader to resolve the Kashmir issue was the Chenab Formula road map. Based on the “Dixon Plan” the Chenab Formula assigned Ladakh to India, Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) to Pakistan, proposed a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley and split Jammu into two – halves.On 5 December 2006, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told an Indian TV channel that Pakistan would give up its claim on Kashmir if India accepted some of his peace proposals, including a phased withdrawal of troops, self- governance for locals, no changes in the borders of Kashmir and a joint supervision mechanism involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir..Musharraf stated that he was ready to give up the United Nations’ resolution regarding Kashmir.

In sum, despite forward movements in change of government from Musharraf to Asif Ali Zardari to Nawaz Sharif Pakistan continues to wage half hearted “war of position” replete with private doubts, symbolic posturing and petty opportunism. Its support has not helped unify or energies the insurgency in Kashmir into a winning movement. The resulting stalemate appears stable and unlikely to be upset in the absence of a conventional India-Pakistan war. Since war is not an option, Pakistan’s policy is reduced to bleeding India. To date, the Government of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir have spent millions of dollars to mobilise international support behind the question of Kashmir. Islamabad’s jet setting, patronage soaked lobbying for a UN recommended plebiscite has elicited no significant international support during the last seven years of Kashmir insurgency. Cumulatively, Pakistan’s score has been pathetic zero, despite the hectic international itinerary of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the ever travelling delegations headed by the Punjabi Politician Nasrullah Khan. Also recently the Security Council even dropped Kashmir from its agenda, and it was only retroactive ‘Pakistani lobbying that was able to obtain a temporary reprieve. The most that the Pakistan has been able to achieve are favourable resolution from the Organisation of Islamic countries.

Positive effects of Assembly election

In the year 2008 the State of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a seven-phased assembly election starting on 17 November and finishing on 24 December 2008. In spite of calls by separatists for a boycott, an unusually high turnout of almost 50% was recorded. The National Conference Party, which was founded by Sheikh Abdullah and is regarded as pro-India, emerged with a majority of seats. On 30 December, the Congress Party and the National Conference agreed to form a coalition government, with Omar Abdullah as Chief Minister .On 5th January 2009, Abdullah was sworn in as the eleventh Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. In this assembly election the people of Kashmir embraced ballot over ‘bullet’ or boycott and elected a young dynamic leader to power. This election was hailed as the beginning of ‘real change’ in Valley. The people expected that their young leader would be the voice of the Kashmiri and represent Kashmir in New Delhi.Abdullah’s promise of peace and prosperity and the vow of ‘zero tolerance’ to human right violations tempted the people to vote for NC –Congress coalition. Although in the years following the assembly election the state remained tense and in several activities the role of security personnel was in question, in general it registered a peaceful image and definitely it was a good news for the well-wishers of Jammu and Kashmir. In the meantime the history of insurgency that was continuing for the last two decades also appeared slow in recent years. Despite concerns at the continued operations of Jihadi groups, violence in the State remains in decline.