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Does President Mushrraf have only a single-point agenda: Kashmir? (Part II of II)

Does President Mushrraf have only a single-point agenda: Kashmir? (Part II of II)

Author: Ayaz Amir
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 18, 2001

Introduction: No. Muashrraf's main agenda is a quest for security against an overbearing neighbour

Kashmir is important for Pakistan and President Mushrraf not least because the UN Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite there remain unfulfilled. But Kashmir does not define Pakistan just as Taiwan does not define China.

The Kashmir dispute has poisoned the sub-continent and caused bad blood between India and Pakistan. But while President Musharraf feels passionately about it, Kashmir is not the end-all or be-all of his foreign policy. To assume that it is, only panders to the Indian prejudice that Kashmir is an obsession with General Musharraf and there is nothing that India can do about it. On the bedrock of such simplicities have India-Pakistan relations foundered for the last 50 years.

Pakistan tried to force the issue in 1965, but after the armies of both countries had fought each other to a standstill, leading to the signing of the Tashkent Declaration, the Kashmir issue, effectively, was put on the backburner. There it remained for full 23 years: 1966-89. The 1971 war had nothing to do with Kashmir. The Shimla Accord confirmed the status of the Kashmir dispute as something best kept in a state of hibernation.

For the duration of the Bhutto period, 1972-77, and then for the eleven and a half years of General Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan stopped making even pro forma noises about Kashmir. Indian hawks, often a more fearsome lot than their Pakistani counterparts, could do well to remember this history.

The reawakening of the Kashmir dispute into something live and urgent as more an Indian than a Pakistani feat. India had enough time to change the loyalties of the Kashmiri people, to win them over and integrate their sympathies firmly in the Indian Union. If it failed to do so, how is Pakistan to blame? Was Pakistan responsible for rigged elections and National Front corruption in Kashmir? Not the ISI's machinations, but a history of neglect gave birth to the 1989 uprising.

Pakistan tried engineering an uprising in occupied Kashmir in 1965 but failed miserably. Now that a resistance struggle had developed on its own, on the strength of Kashmiri anger and alienation, should President Musharraf have closed his eyes and pretended that nothing of the kind was taking place?

If Kashmir was an obsession with President Musharraf rather than something he wanted to settle on the basis of give-and-take, he would not have spoken of the need for both India and Pakistan to go beyond their stated positions.

What was President Musharraf trying to do at Agra? Not trying to wrest Kashmir from India but merely searching for a form of words, or call it a formula, that could have enabled both countries to leave the past behind and move forward. When the crunch came it was India which sought counsel from fear and locked itself into a cupboard. A reference in the joint statement to Kashmir's disputed status and to the necessity of solving the dispute would not have meant the unravelling of India. Both countries have to grow up and behave more maturely if at all they are to put together a new basis for peace in the sub-continent.

The central strand, the defining motive, of President Musharrafs foreign policy has been the search for balance and the quest for security against an overbearing neighbour. The alliance with America, Pakistan's entry into CENTO and SEATO, and much later the forging of a strong relationship with China can all be tested against this touchstone. Kashmir does not drive President Musharrafs foreign policy. India's intransigence over the issue merely reinforces the belief in Pakistan that the basic tenets of its foreign policy are based upon sound premises.

(Ayaz Amir is a columnist with 'The Dawn', Karachi)

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