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A deal we're ignorant of

A deal we're ignorant of

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 7, 2007

The UPA Government is doing a deal on Jammu & Kashmir while keeping India in the dark. The Opposition is strangely silent

Never mind the bunkum about peace and good relations between Pakistan and India that one gets to increasingly hear from neo-converts to Sufiana. At the ground level, little has changed in Pakistan and as much was evident on Monday when rallies were organised across that country to mark 'Kashmir Solidarity Day'.

On Tuesday morning, The Pioneer published on its front page a telling photograph of a little girl carrying a toy gun, obviously made to pose for photo-journalists, especially those representing Western media, against the backdrop of a banner with the twin swords of Islam, suitably daubed with red paint, proclaiming that the jihad for Kashmir shall continue till victory is achieved. The photograph was taken at a 'Kashmir Solidarity Day' rally in Lahore.

According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Monday was "marked with special prayers in mosques, one-minute silence, and hymning of sirens in the federal capital and other cities in remembrance of those killed during the Kashmiri struggle. Rallies, public meetings, seminars, and cultural events were also held to express solidarity with the people of Indian-held Kashmir".

The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), which continues to remain the linchpin of Gen Pervez Musharraf's regime though it rarely misses an opportunity to berate the West's favourite military ruler, organised a huge rally outside Parliament. Belligerent mullahs of the MMA used the occasion to denounce Gen Musharraf for "betraying the Kashmir cause". Elsewhere, politicians, mullahs and retired Generals (many of whom are believed to still have links with the ISI) expressed "solidarity with the Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination".

The rabid calls for jihad were offset by seemingly disparate but curiously inter-linked statements by Gen Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri. Addressing a joint session of the 'Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly' - which is a mocking reminder of just how democratic Pakistan has been in accommodating so-called Kashmiri aspirations - Mr Aziz insisted "the Kashmir cause is in Pakistan's vital national interest" and "rubbished any impression of a sell-out". He demanded that India must "show flexibility" and respond to the "positive proposals" of Gen Musharraf to "achieve a just and lasting settlement acceptable to all Kashmiris".

Gen Musharraf, who spent the better part of the day plotting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on how to forge a united front of the ummah to resist any attempts to force Tehran to abandon its bomb-in-the-basement programme, took time off to tell mediapersons that the "decades-old dispute with India over the Kashmir region" can be solved by "focusing on reconciliation not confrontation". Asserting that this year's 'Kashmir Solidarity Day' was different, he told newspersons at Chaklala airbase, "There is a change of focus from a confrontationist stance to reconciliatory resolution of the dispute... and I am happy about it... We are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel where we may be able to resolve the dispute for good, and for the benefit of the people of Kashmir and to give them final peace".

Now, let's juxtapose these statements with what another report in Dawn has to say. According to this report, a week ago Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri disclosed at a seminar in Lahore that "only five people (in the Pakistani Government) know about the drafts and proposals on Kashmir being secretly discussed with India". He then went on to add that two of the five were from the Pakistani Foreign Office - obviously he and Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan. Gen Musharraf and his National Security Council secretary Tariq Aziz, who has been involved in back channel discussions with Mr SK Lamba, are two of the remaining three in the know of what's cooking on Jammu & Kashmir. There is speculation about the fifth person: It could be Mr Shaukat Aziz, or it could be the head of the ISI which has played an important role in fashioning Pakistan's policy on Jammu & Kashmir. Mr Kasuri's disclosure was later endorsed by Gen Musharraf who told newspersons last Friday that "only a few people, including myself, the Foreign Minister and Mr Tariq Aziz are privy to the proposals".

What all this indicates is that the details of the deal on Jammu & Kashmir that is reportedly being worked out is a well-kept secret in Pakistan, which is understandable because any move by Islamabad to resolve the dispute will be immediately pounced upon by Pakistanis. But why is it being kept a secret in India where an elected Government is accountable to the people? We do know what Gen Musharraf has offered:

* Jammu & Kashmir will have a soft border and people will be allowed to move freely back and forth in the region;

* It will have self-governance or autonomy, but not independence;

* Troops will be withdrawn from the region in a staggered manner;

* A joint supervision mechanism will be set up, with India, Pakistan and Kashmir represented.

What has India offered in return apart from promising to pullout of Siachen without demarcating the actual ground position of our troops? And why is the Opposition silent?

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