'Pakistan will only show flexibility if India does'

  • Publish Date: Jan 19 2016 11:52AM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 6 2016 6:26PM
'Pakistan will only show flexibility if India does'

Former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book Neither a Hawk, Nor a Dove has re-ignited the debate in India and Pakistan on the former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf’s Four Point Framework for the resolution of Kashmir. The framework forbade any territorial re-adjustment of the state and offered a middle-of-the-road solution to the vexed issue which satisfied both countries. But Musharraf’s sudden exit from the scene in 2008 following lawyers’ drawn agitation ended the promising 2003-07 bilateral process that in the words of Kasuri was in sight of an acceptable Kashmir settlement – an assertion also validated by Musharraf and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. A sustained engagement could not be restored ever since. India and Pakistan have only talked in fits and starts, interrupted by the recurrent incidents of violence.

Through his book, Kasuri has drawn fresh attention to the aborted process and sought a return to it to achieve what he believes is the only solution possible to Kashmir issue. “I would have not wasted four years in writing my book if as a student of history I did not feel that the wheel cannot be reinvented and that any solution to J&K would be along the lines I have indicated,” he tells Riyaz Ahmad in an exclusive email interview.

Challenges that Confronted Us

Before I start responding to your questions, let me give you some background to enable your readers to understand the challenges that confronted us. The real conundrum or challenge arose out of the fact that irreconcilable positions of Pakistan and India needed to be somehow reconciled while at the same time, and most importantly accommodate the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. India wanted the status quo to be maintained. Pakistan would not accept a status quo solution to the Kashmir dispute meaning thereby that each keep what it already has. For us the basic question was not simply a territorial division of Kashmir. Pakistan is not as large as India, but is still one of the largest countries in the world. It was not simply hankering after Kashmiri territory. We knew very well that any framework on Kashmir that we tried to evolve would be rejected by the people of Pakistan if the leadership and people in IAK (Indian Administered Kashmir) rejected it. That is why I met Hurriyat leaders in India, Pakistan and third countries, sometimes, secretly—not to create mischief or encourage them in resorting to violence—but, to find out from them what was the basic minimum that they would accept. Kashmiris from IAK that I met did not want a division of the erstwhile princely state and India would not accept any changes in geography. This was the challenge and this is what took three years of hard work and negotiations involving an exchange of drafts between the two countries as well as multiple meetings in different capitals of the world before a frame-work was devised which the negotiators thought would be acceptable to a large majority of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan and India and which they proposed to present to their respective constitutional authorities for final approval (after satisfying themselves that majority of their respective constituencies would buy this framework when presented to the public).

Furthermore, as I say in the book there is nothing that Pakistan and India can do to compel the other to change its position. I have described nine wars and near-war situations, the largest mobilization of troops in the Second World War with a million soldiers remaining eye-ball to eye-ball for a year without affecting the change in the policy of either country on J&K dispute. Both had now become nuclear powers, both have ballistic and cruise missiles and both possess second strike capability making war unthinkable. It is in the above background that we tried to evolve a framework on Jammu and Kashmir. History will give credit to President Musharraf, Prime Minister Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh for the statesmen like role that they played and were in the process prepared to pay a big political price.

 

Excerpts from the interview

Role slotted for Kashmiris so far has been that of a spectator and a cheerleader in the Indo-Pak dialogue, rather than one where Kashmiris help shape the agenda

I could not disagree more; I have repeatedly indicated in my book that we wanted the Kashmiris to be sitting at the negotiating table. India would not just accept it. As a compromise, however, it did allow Kashmiris to travel in both directions to talk to leaderships in Islamabad, Delhi Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. The improving atmosphere enabled not just the Hurriyat, JKLF and other leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yaseen Malik, Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat, Maulana Abbas Ansari, Bilal Lone, Syed Shabir Hussain Shah and many others who had refused to accept the status quo but it also enabled leaders of the National Conference and the PDP and others to travel to Pakistan in conferences organized by major international NGOs; these leaders also interacted with Pakistani leadership.  Our whole purpose in interacting with Kashmiris was to sound them out regarding the slowly evolving framework on the back channel on Kashmir to get their reaction and make proposals to the Indian side to evolve a final framework, which would not be rejected by the Kashmiri leadership.

There is a sense in Kashmir that Hurriyat leaders can’t act independently. And that their agenda and the boundaries are dictated by Islamabad.

There is no doubt that large part of the Kashmiri population in the valley is unhappy with the current situation. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Hurriyat leadership that hails from among the people should find convergence of views with Pakistan which has never accepted the status quo. This has been the cause of many wars and near war situations that the two countries have faced. While there is a lot of empathy between the views of the Hurriyat and that of Pakistan they have never been Pakistan’s puppets. Despite my best efforts and the personal warmth that he showed towards me I was unable to convince Syed Ali Shah Geelani to change his views. Although, I do think that if our government had not fallen, I might have ultimately convinced him that he should mellow his opposition in view of the benefits that the envisaged framework would bring for the people of J&K.

In keeping with the state of its engagement with New Delhi, Pakistan has either thrown its weight behind Geelani or the group headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Your own government turned its back on Geelani. President Musharraf fell out with him over his refusal to support four point formula. Now Nawaz Sharif is again backing Geelani and praising his stand. Same Geelani is dead against 4 point formula?

It is quite understandable that both the Kashmiri leaders and government of Pakistan are affected by the ground realities at different times. Quite naturally, the Kashmiri leaders have to react exclusively to the situation that they perceive to exist at home.  Pakistan has to factor in the views of the Kashmiris with ground realities in Kashmir, the attitude of the government of India towards a just and fair settlement of Kashmir at a given point of time. The government of Pakistan also has to factor in the international situation. It is, therefore, not hard to understand that despite the natural feelings of warmth and brotherhood that the government and people of Pakistan have for the people of Kashmir, there may well be a difference in emphasis. What else would explain the difference in the attitudes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and the government of Pakistan at that time. As Foreign Minister of Pakistan, I somehow felt foolish and embarrassed in trying to explain the realpolitik of the situation to a man who had unflinching faith in his cause and wanted Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan.

Pakistan insists that Kashmiris, in one or another way, should be part of the Indo-Pak process but Islamabad has discouraged Srinagar-New Delhi track. Why shouldn’t Kashmiris be encouraged to pursue Srinagar-Delhi dialogue?

I cannot go into details. Suffice it is to say that it was during our tenure that the APHC called on Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in January 2004 in their first ever meeting with an Indian Prime Minister. Their leadership also met with PM Manmohan Singh in September 2005.

Why are Kashmiris expected to sit and wait and trust in Islamabad-New Delhi track and not be independently engaged by New Delhi. So that if something comes up through this process, it is shared and cleared with Islamabad before an agreement is reached.

Your question is almost funny were it not for the serious situation in the ground in Jammu and Kashmir. There are Kashmiri leaders of all varieties who do what they like. Regardless , however of the differences in Kashmir even those leaders who take part in elections like Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and  Dr Omar Abdullah of the National Conference have stated repeatedly that their taking part in the elections in Kashmir does not mean that they accept the current situation and have emphasized that a final settlement to the dispute can only be arrived at by the people of J&K  and the governments of Pakistan and  India.

In your interviews you have talked about Modi’s sense of destiny and that he will come around in a few months and pursue a serious dialogue with Pakistan. This is a bit vague. What will happen if Modi continues with his approach over the last one year? How will the dynamics unfold if Pakistan finds that Kashmir is off the table as far as Delhi is concerned.

The basic assumption that I make is that everybody acts in their self-interest. I have argued at length on this issue in my book in the section dealing with ‘Narendra Modi’s Victory: Its likely Impact’. The basic thrust of my argument is that there is nothing new that India or Pakistan can do to make the other change its positions. Both are beyond coercion as has been demonstrated conclusively in my book and that the only sensible course available to them is to go back to the negotiating table. For this reason PM Narendra Modi policies have not been consistent. For example, when he invited PM Nawaz Sharif to his swearing in ceremony, everybody and their aunt knew that regardless of the SAARC cover, the interest of the media, of the public in both the countries, as well as of the international community would be on the meeting between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi. That meeting, however, left a bad taste in the mouth because the then Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh came forward with a one sided version compelling PM Nawaz Sharif to give his own version and facing a lot of  flak when he landed in Islamabad. Later on, PM Modi refused to carry on the Foreign Secretary level talks after Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit met with Hurriyat leaders in Delhi. Ground realities, however forced him to send his Foreign Secretary Jaishankar to Islamabad under the cloak of SAARC. Following this, PM Narendra Modi asked for a meeting with PM Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, yet again because ground realties dictated a dialogue. It is, however, different matter that because of last minute efforts to reach some sort of an agreement, there was a massive fall out in Pakistan in the absence of a direct reference to the Kashmir dispute. During my recent visit to India I interacted with a large number Indian politicians and media personalities who described the above “flip-flops” to a lack of clarity due to the competing forces working around PM Modi. Ground realities compelled PM Modi in the direction of a dialogue with Pakistan while a desire to cater to the requirements of hardline grass roots support in view of elections in J&K, Delhi and now Bihar continued to make the situation murky. I have already argued above why they have no rational option but to talk. It is not, therefore for me to decide what course Prime Minister Modi will or will not adopt. As the British say ‘if I were you I would do that.’ There are many experts in international relations who have argued that India will not be able to play the global role it desires if it is unable to have peace within and with its neighbors. This is axiomatic and I need not advance any more arguments. Recent events in India leading to great polarization in the Indian polity have been widely commented upon both in India itself as well as internationally. These polarizing events have, not unnaturally, gone hand in hand with a deterioration of relations with Pakistan. I know there are people in both the countries who wish to ignore the existence of other and feel they are important enough to wish the other away. Both countries would be making a huge mistake were they to adopt this course.

In the existing geo-politics what makes Pakistan important enough for India to engage with and resolve the lingering issues. The common thinking is that the growing power disparity between two countries, Pakistan’s existing weak global position and the crushed militancy in Kashmir has detracted from India’s urgency to engage Pakistan.

Pakistan’s global position has strengthened demonstrably. The relation with China has never been stronger as the $46 billion investment plan on the projects and infrastructure development along the China Pakistan economic corridor from Shanghai to Gawadar indicates. This has huge economic and geopolitical consequences. The relationship with Russia has never been stronger.   Russia and Pakistan have already started collaborating in the areas of defense and energy resources. Russia will invest more than $2 billion in Pakistan to build a 1,100-kilometre pipeline from southern port city of Karachi to Lahore to transport liquefied natural gas. It has shown repeated interest in upgrading and enhancing capacity of the Karachi Steel Mill. Pakistan and Russia have signed a landmark defense deal that includes the sale of Mi-35 ‘Hind E’ attack helicopters to Pakistan.  The Mi-35 helicopter is an exceedingly modernized version of the Mi-24 (Hind) combat helicopter with new onboard equipment and avionics. Furthermore, the negotiations are on for the purchase of the most advanced Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets for the Pakistan Air Force.  Regarding our relationship with US I make two points in my book. Firstly, it is one of the major successes of Pakistan’s foreign policy that it has managed to have enduring and very good relations with both China and United states at the same time despite tension between them at different times. Despite difficulties that Pakistan and US have always faced due to which I have described them in the book as an ‘odd couple’ where they sleep in the same bed but have different dreams. Both countries have realised over the decades that they needed each other ever since the Cold War to the current situation in Afghanistan where they have a common interests in a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. The recent visit of PM Nawaz Sharif to Washington in which President Obama praised the success of ‘Operation Zarb e Azab’ and agreed to cooperate in some of Pakistan major hydropower dams including Diamer-Bhasha and Dasu. Both have vowed to strengthen their mutual relationship in their respective interests and both emphasized on the need for cooperation in Afghanistan to bring stability to that country. Despite difficulties, our relationship with Afghanistan after the advent of President Ashraf Ghani has improved. In this connection President Obama yesterday commended Pakistan for hosting and facilitating the first public talks between the Afghanistan government and Taliban in July 2015 as well as Pakistan’s willingness to facilitate a reconciliation process. With Iran another important neighbour, Paksitan’s relationship has improved after some difficult decisions that Pakistan had to take regarding the conflict in Yemen because of the possible sectarian fall out in Pakistan despite our very strong and brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Obviously people of Pakistan and India read different newspapers which only contains negative stories about each other. Otherwise you would have not framed the question in the way you did.  I have been following your media and the situation in Kashmir is anything but normal.

As is clear from your book, except Geelani, Pakistan had brought on board the entire Kashmiri separatist leadership including some in the mainstream like Omar Abdullah. Was militant leadership also consulted? For example, was Syed Salahuddin taken on board?

President Musharraf and Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Singh, displayed great flexibility and finesse in searching for a solution to the Kashmir dispute. On 24 July 2000, less than a year after assuming power the previous October, President Musharraf backed the Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Sayeed Salahuddin’s offer of a unilateral ceasefire. This offer was withdrawn on 8 August 2002, after Hizbul Mujahideen’s condition that Pakistan must also be involved in its dialogue with the Indian government was rejected by New Delhi.

What do you make of India’s new red-line on Pakistan’s talks with Hurriyat.  In your time you engaged with everybody in Kashmir – separatists, pro-India leadership including BJP leadership. The current J&K Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh had also visited Pakistan and met Musharraf.

It should be clear from above answers that neither country is in a position to draw red lines unilaterally unless they are prepared to destabilize the South Asian region at the cost of 600 million people who still live below the poverty line. Compare this with China which has managed to pull out 600 million people above the poverty line. I have already indicated in my book and in my answers above that different types of Kashmiri leaders had started visiting Islamabad when the situation between the two countries improved.

There is an opinion in India that four-point framework was an Indian formula but Musharraf sold it to people? If this is not true, how much in the formula was based on Indian input?

Pardon my saying that this is a completely useless point and I have no desire to say anything on it. Suffice it is to say that those who stick their necks out and are prepared to expend political capital to further the enlightened self-interests of their countries are the ones that are remembered by history. In this category besides President Musharraf , the role of former PM Vajpayee who started the most productive peace process with Musharraf since independence after the Islamabad Joint Statement in  January 2004 and Dr Manmohan Singh during whose tenure most of the concrete progress was made after the BJP’s defeat in 2004 elections will be remembered forever.

The governments that succeeded you in Pakistan have gone back on the four point formula and reverted to the traditional stand wedded to UN resolutions.

It does not require rocket science to understand that Pakistan will only show flexibility if India does. I would have not wasted four years in writing my book if as a student of history I did not feel that the wheel cannot be reinvented and that any solution to J&K would be along the lines I have indicated. That is why it was necessary to give all the details of the Kashmir framework as well as the background in which it was evolved involving both the front and the back channels.  Whenever there are statesmen at the helm in the two countries, they will go to this framework and start from where we left. It is too much to expect that politicians in either country will give us credit for the work that we have done given the state of politics in South Asia—but history will!