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HVK Archives: Time to discard ashmir first or nothing stance

Time to discard ashmir first or nothing stance - India Abroad

Ashok K. Mehta ()
May 24, 1998

Title: Time to discard ashmir first or nothing stance
Author: Ashok K. Mehta
Publication: India Abroad
Date: May 24, 1998

Days before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government took
office, there was, more by accident gm design, a flurry of
confidence-building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan,
which threw up an interesting "no use of Kashmir to wage war"
proposal that is worth following up.

The CBMs were conducted under the auspices of two non-
governmental organizations (NGOs): The United States-based
Stimson Center-led South Asia Futures. Conference (SAFC) and the
Association of Peoples of Asia (APA). Both sought to advance
rapidly the process of CBMs stuck in the old groove of "Kashmir
first or nothing."

The striking feature of SAFC was the first introduction to a
number of Indian think tanks of two highly-respected retired
Pakistan generals - Talat Masood and Nishat Ahmad - on Pakistan
Day (March 23).

Much heat and dust was raised in the encounters with their Indian
counterparts. Acting as the aggrieved party, both Masood and
Ahmad did not traverse any new ground on India-Pakistan
relations.

In brief, they attributed the present impasse to "domestic and
international compulsions," and the feeling of insecurity while
learning to live with respect and dignity with a bigger India.

Kashmir was described as the core issue and the low-intensity
subversion there as a political, not military, problem. The
investment Pakistan had made in its armed forces, they asserted,
had been amply justified.

During question time, however, their guard was lowered. Ahmad
said Pakistan was not likely to go overtly nuclear, while Masood
made the point that Pakistan used the Organization of Islamic
Countries (OIC) to vent its frustration over Kashmir.

The Indian side took the usual line about a strong, stable and
settled Pakistan being in India's interest

On breaking the logjam over Kashmir, three approaches were
suggested: Kashmir first, other problems later, all problems
together, and other problems first Kashmir later. Indian generals
cautioned Pakistan over its interference in Indian-held Kashmir;
saying India had learned its lesson in Sri Lanka.

The retired generals from Pakistan were told what one of their
retired colonels, Inayatullah Hasan, who writes a weekly column
in The News, Islamabad, said last year in Delhi: "It struck me
harder that Bangladesh was not celebrating its independence from
Britain but from Pakistan. It must be accepted that the core
question of Pakistan itself has been vitiated. If, therefore,
Pakistan has sacrificed 130 million Muslims in India (who are
greater in number than those in Pakistan) and has lost a similar
number in Bangladesh, then to go to succor three million Muslims
in the valley of Kashmir is fraught with risk."

The best way to deal with Kashmir, he said, "is not to take out
the core question of Kashmir first and refuse to talk of anything
else; one was taught at school to tackle the easy questions first
and the difficult one last." Masood and Ahmad were not impressed
with Hasan's logic.

The only military CBM suggested by Masood was the reduction of
the offensive capability on both sides - India's dismantling the
strike forces meant for use against Pakistan, and vice versa.

The two generals, concluded their case on a confident note,
saying Pakistan was doing better than India economically: Higher
per-capita gross domestic Product (GDP); higher per-capita
income; higher industrial growth and slight reduction in defense
expenditure from the average 6.8-to-7 percent to 5.3 of the GDP
last year.

The next day was the turn of noted economist Mubashir Hasan and
academic Zaki Hasan, presidents of the Pakistan India People's
Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) and the Pakistan chapter
of APA, respectively, to meet a different set of generals and
intellectuals at the APA seminar.

Here, while identifying CBMs, the theme was guns versus butter
(studies indicate that the amount spent on one jet fighter can
provide primary education to three million children, and the cost
of a submarine is equal to the cost of providing safe drinking
water to 60 million people).

By an overwhelming consensus, regional and bilateral trade
emerged as the most popular and effective CBM. In this session,
an Indian participant spoke about a snakes and ladders
advertisement he had seen in a business magazine in Lahore last
year about trade between India and Pakistan.

It showed many ladders with one big snake, its head on 99 and
tail at zero. Quoting statistics, he said the cost of economic
non-cooperation was much higher for Pakistan than India.

The thrust of Mubashir Hasan's presentation was that democracy
and the system of governance had failed in both Pakistan and
India. He disclosed that Pakistan had stashed away $165 billion
abroad, its generals imported flowers from Austria, cars from
Europe and ate Swiss ice-cream. There is no fear of India any
more because India is internally so weak, he said.

Hasan said wars didnot benefit anyone and the region had suffered
because of them. He recalled how India and Pakistan had come
close to a no-war pact in the late 1970s, but had somehow missed
the chance. He suggested that since Kashmir was a disputed
territory, Pakistan and India should accept a "no use of Kashmir
to wage war against each other" proposal. This is an interesting
idea. It would be acceptable to India as it would result in a
cease-fire at the line of control and end the infiltration across
it. However, a peaceful and stable border is inimical to
Pakistan's objective of keeping the Kashmir issue alive.

This bold new initiative on the military standoff on Kashmir
articulated by an eminent Pakistani, however, is worth pursuing.

Zaki Hasan spoke more philosophically and with nostalgia about
his dream of reopening the Sher Shah Suri highway from Peshawar
to Calcutta. Two years ago, then Interior Minister Nasirullah
Khan Babar had spoken of his vision of extending the same road,
>from Peshawar to Poland and Calcutta to Singapore, to reap the
economic windfall from the Central. Asian republics.

People in both India and Pakistan are agreed that Kashmir is a
drag on the economies of the two countries as well as on the
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Some
Indians, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, have
suggested a five- to 10-year freeze on Kashmir.

For starters, Mubashir Hasan's trailblazing "no use of Kashmir
for war" proposal can be taken up, followed by a mutually agreed
freeze on defense expenditure.

(The writer is a former major general of the Indian Army)


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