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General shift

General shift

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: December 20, 2003
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=37581

Introduction: Before we take Musharraf's new stance on Kashmir seriously it must have wider domestic support

General Pervez Musharraf has floated a few straws in the wind by virtually giving up the demand of settling Kashmir issue on the basis of UN resolutions. This is welcome. But it also must be seen along with the views of the leadership of virtually all the political parties in Pakistan who have slammed him for his statement. It may be easy to conclude that it then may just be a public relations exercise to show how reasonable Pakistan and its military president is. It may also be an effort to smoothen the path for the greater success of the SAARC summit. It could also be an attempt to regain some of the initiative that the general undoubtedly lost with Prime Minister Vajpayee's current peace "offensive". Given the negative responses of Pakistan's political parties - from the PPP on one side to the MMA and Jamaat e-Islami on the other - it is important that if India is to take the idea seriously, it must first acquire broad- based support inside Pakistan.

We need to also make a careful assessment of the implications of his stance, on the assumption that it indicates a shift in the traditional position. By giving up the demand for the UN resolutions as the basis of solution, Musharraf has cleverly signalled that the question of Pakistani withdrawal from POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), required under those resolutions as a pre-requisite, and is not open to any discussion, leave alone negotiations. The resolution of the "dispute" which he wants India to acknowledge as "central" to India-Pakistan relations, according to his formulation, would be limited to the area east of the Line of Control. This further narrows the negotiating space that might still be available or that might be created in future for the settlement of the problem.

At the same time, giving up UN resolutions in the context of Musharraf's own statement does not necessarily lead to the acceptance of Simla Agreement as the basis of future dialogue. His emphasis on the four-point formula as the basis of resolution of Kashmir issue may only perpetuate the status quo and buy him time. But this would not get us anywhere as long as violence continues to be promoted from across the borders. At the same time, we should not allow this to come in the way of normalisation of relations with Pakistan. Building trade, travel, economic and cultural relations are obviously the foundation on which such normalisation must rest. This is the area where India could show the "magnanimity" that Musharraf expects. But it must be also recognise that such concessions as are reasonable also require normal relations and not a relationship where one side keeps perpetuating violence against innocents in the other country.

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