Dr. Ajay Chrungoo 

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Kashmir: The Real Battle

Dr. Ajay Chrungoo

The capturing of Indian peaks overlooking Kargil did pose a grave danger to the entire Ladakh region and even the Kashmir valley. But this does not sum up the entire story of Pakistani intentions. The sweeping generalisations that Pakistan expected only a low key military response from India defies simple logic. Particularly when India had shown all the resolve to defend as remote a place as Siachen in the same region at a very heavy human and material cost. It is time we look beyond the possible territorial objectives of Pakistani invasion in Kargil. There are reasons to believe that Kargil intrusion constituted a subtle politico-military manoeuvre for creating appropriate environment and pressure for the dilution of Indian sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir state to set the stage for its final separation.

Pakistani analyst Ayaz Amir’s remarks in Dawn should have been taken note of. While making a critical apprisal of Pakistan’s operation in Kargil he makes an interesting observation. “..to put the most charitable construction on what is going on in Kargil sector, if this was the opening move in a bid to liberate Kashmir by force, something could be said in its defence. It would be seen as a part of the larger scheme of things even if this largest scheme was decried foolish or foolhardy... A war or even fighting of a limited kind as we are seeing in Kargil and Drass sectors must have a political objective if the expenditure of blood and resources is to be justified... It cannot be conquest or liberation of Kashmir because we lack strength for it. It cannot be the desire to internationalise the Kashmir problem because it is a quixotic venture to rush into a war for so a paltry aim”. The political developments prior to, during and subsequent to Kargil intrusion indicate a deft political strategy to force India a step back in Kashmir.

When Lord Avebury visited Kashmir he revealed in disgust to the media that Hurriyat was expecting some sort of a big bang which was never going to come. Subsequently the Pakistan talked of holding a districtwise plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Another significant political development took place  when the ruling National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir submitted its ‘Autonomy Report’ in the state assembly at a time and in a way which surprised everyone in India.

During the Kargil crisis Benazir Bhuttoo proposed an approach towards solving the Kashmir problem which she called ‘deliberate incremental advance” It essentially envisages porous borders between the two parts of Kashmir; demilitarisation of entire Kashmir and its patrolling by either an international peace-keeping force or a joint Indo-Pak peace keeping force; opening of borders for unrestricted trade, cultural cooperation and exchange leading to the creation of a South Asian Free Market Zone etc. These measures Mrs Bhutto believed will act as confidence building mechanisms to pave way for negotiations after a fixed time frame for the final settlement of Kashmir issue. Benazir’s admissions that she regretted the policies during her Prime Ministership which had only led to increase in the tensions between the two countries added the flavour of reasonableness to her proposals.

The discussions between Parvez Musharraf the Pak Army Chief with the US delegation of General Anthony Zinni Commander-in-Chief US General Command and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gibson Lanpher as reported by Dawn showed that the Benazir’s overtures represented not just a public relation exercise in her self imposed exile but contained certain aspects of a broad consensus within the Pakistani establishment on the possible political approaches on Kashmir.

The newspaper Dawn reported that during the discussions with the visiting US delegation Gen Pervez Musharraf had hinted that Pakistan on its part would be prepared to consider as a part of a permanent solution the inclusion of the entire Valley and the Muslim parts of Jammu into the Pak held ‘Azad Kashmir’ territory-a settlement on the line of Dixon plan.

Mr Selig Harrison a fellow of the US think tank The Century Foundation, suggested during Kargil war that India for its part must show Pakistan and the international community that it is prepared to deal more sensitively with the Kashmiri aspirations than in the past by negotiating increased autonomy in accordance with the recommendations of the study recently conducted under the aegis of Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.

All these political manoeuvres aimed at some sort of political solution for Kashmir made before and during Kargil, crisis.  When studied alongwith other proposals on Kashmir made by various US think tanks from time to time, reveal an underlying commonality of purpose. All of them essentially constitute the various variants of the model for Kashmir solution proposed by Owen Dixon commonly known as Dixon plan. The district wise plebiscite as proposed by Pakistan and the ‘Autonomy’ as outlined, by National Conference constitute the two ends of the spectrum of solutions which encompass various variants of Dixon Plan like Limited or Shared Sovereignty Doctrines, Sovereignty without International Personality, Greater autonomous Muslim Kashmir etc etc. The essence of this vision is that it endeavours to reconstitute Kashmir along communal lines, ease borders between the Indian Kashmir and Pak held Kashmir and seek nullification or dilution of Indian sovereignty in Jammu and Kashmir.

The systematically orchestrated publicity campaign over a decade has created a reference framework in India which emphasises the compatibility of ‘Autonomy Demand’ with the secular, democratic and federal structure of the Indian nation state This framework is yet to be challenged. Besides the methodology pursued by NC of articulating this demand with a very high anti-Pak rhetoric has left its impact on a section of Indian intelligentsia which actually has come to believe that the greater autonomy is a counterpoise to Pakistani aggressive machinations.

The Kargil intrusion has created subtler impacts. It has lowered the threshhold of international tolerance particularly in view of the regional nuclear environment. Besides the high cost of defending Kashmir is also being played up on Indian mind.

The tough talking which  Michael Kripon is reported to have done during his recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir state and the proposal by Karl Inderfurth of US willingness to help in the rebuilding of Kashmir in case of a meaningful solution are indicative of that the ‘Autonomy Solution’, will have wider international support.

A silent consensus appears to have developed within various concerned quarters in US and Pakistan as well as the Kashmiri separatists that ‘greater autonomy’ should be vigorously pursued as a solution which may please all and break the stalemate.

For India the choice is becoming limited now, particularly as the internal war in J&K threatens creation of so-called liberated and setting up of parallel administration. Accepting the ‘Autonomy’ as envisaged by NC means according a constitutional legitimacy to Muslim subnationalism and as such accepting the two nation principle. It will knock out the secular principal as the ideological foundation of Indian nation state. Rejecting it implies basically defending Kashmir from the point of view of issues and ideology and not through expediencies. It also means bidding a farewell to buffer policy which over the years only envisaged a symbolic secularism and symbolic democracy.

The political battle in Kashmir will be now won less on the game of numbers and cosmetic political manoeuvres and more by standing up to the challenges of ideology. The tragedy is that we are yet reluctant to fight this political battle from a higher pedestal.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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