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Benazir's Role

New US Truble-shooter on Kashmir

Diplomatic Correspondent

Recently Mrs Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistan Prime Minister had been flexing her muscles against the regime of Nawaz Sharif. Her statements on Kargil and Kashmir have been welcomed by the Indian public opinion as reflective of the existence of a moderate political opinion in Pakistan.

 

Mrs Benazir Bhutto

Mrs Benazir Bhutto

Mrs Bhutto in an interview to a Calcutta weekly described Kargil as the biggest blunder, nearly provoking a nuclear war in South Asia. She asked, "why did Sharif have to go on a bus diplomacy when this is what he had planned." About the presence of Pakistani regular Army personnel in Kargil operation, Mrs Bhutto wondered, "can a democracy have unaccountable regime that operates in a secretive manner." She disclosed that earlier during her tenure also she had given similar briefing, where by militarily certain objectives could have been achieved. Arguing that these could have triggered a wider conflict, she added, "I had vetoed them saying that Pakistan lacked the political and diplomatic support." Earlier in a lecture at Woodrow Wilson International centre, Mrs Bhutto remarked that it was a mistake on her part to hold relations with India hostage to Kashmir issue. She said that she did it to pander to the Punjabi constituency and hawkish elements within the military. Mrs Bhutto said that she should have listened to the liberals who had urged her to seek reconciliation with India and cooperate on trade, commerce and such matters while keeping Kashmir as top priority on the agenda.

Mrs Bhutto had been more articulate on Kashmir through her write-ups in the American press during the Kargil war. She had been floating baloons on resolutions of Kashmir dispute on the lines suggested by Americans. Holding camp David like talks on Kashmir and forcing India and Pakistan to concede greater autonomy to their respective parts as the first step is the real game-plan through which Americans intend to create a foothold in this strategic region. Michael Krepon, Head of the influential US think tank Henry L Stimson Centre, whose policies on Kashmir are currently the US unofficial view came out with outlines of solution in the leading daily, Washington Post. The three components of peace process, according to him should be: a) Greater autonomy to Kashmiris on both sides of LoC.

b) An open border applicable to local residents.

c) Investing bilateral talks with more seriousness.

It is more or less a version of earlier US proposals on semi-independent Kashmir. This packaged is being touted as the road map to a permanent solution to Kashmir problem. Krepon warns that the alternative is "highly worrisome". He said that otherwise Pakistan can always set up militant training camps, push insurgents and country (India) will be helpless to counter this without making war-like noise and lose the international goodwill it earned recently. As a thinly veiled comment, he adds that the bilateral talks have not progressed because Delhi has not been very enthusiastic about clinching the issue.

The association of the leading newspaper and the sharp and unambiguous comment of the specialist are highly significant. In America it is a common practice to float new policy initiatives by administration through researchers. The leading Pakistan daily Jang in a special commentary on Aug 2, 1999 said Pakistan was seriously considering US formula for resolving its Kashmir problem with India. Solutions proposed by US according to the daily Jang were: a) Greater autonomy to Kashmir (minus Gilgat, Baltistan and Ladakh, which would go to Pakistan and India respectively) b) Open the dividing military line of control to Kashmiris living on either side of it.

c) After five years of self-rule and free interaction, the Kashmiris on two sides should elect separate assemblies which should decide the future of the Himalayan state.

The Jang said these "initial proposals" could be amended in the talks that Clinton promised to promote between Pakistan and India to end their fifty years of hostility.

In its lead editorial, "War of Peace in South  Asia", the Washington Post proposed, "India can sustain this rigid posture, if at all only by systematically and credibly widening the openings for democratic self-government in the part of Kashmir that, with two-thirds of a million troops it holds." What are Benazirís new proposals on  Kashmir? Like US she raised the ante of a nuclear war and demands, "It is time for the world, and especially the United States, to turn its diplomacy to crisis prevention". Benazir invokes a parallel with Kosovo and says, "Kosovo warns us that the world should try to put out a potentially dangerous fire before it explodes".

Responding to "Dampening the Fires of Kashmir", by an influential US think tank, Teresita Schaffer, in the Washington Post, Benazir presented her perspectives on Kashmir. These are:

a) Satisfying the aspirations of the people of Kashmir is essential to solving the dispute and if the coalition representing the Kashmiri people were to accept internal autonomy under India with a representative political process, Pakistan would have no complaints.

b) Instead of determining whether Kashmir should go to India or Pakistan, the Pakistani opposition suggests that India, Pakistan and APHC accept open borders between India and Pakistan. As a part of this peace package, India would withdraw its troops from Srinagar and Pakistan from Muzaffarabad.

c) Pending a final solution, the two assemblies could meet independently and perhaps jointly.

d) Devolution of decision-making in our region would provide more effective government to our people. Greater regional autonomy also would help our people make the best use of available resources from within the country and from donors, in tackling the problems of poverty, illiteracy and backwardness".

Schafferís write-up saw autonomy for J&K as a first step towards expanded autonomy within other parts of India.

In an interview to Sunday Benazir while reiterating demanded for open borders asked India to withdraw troops from Kashmir and begin a dialogue with APHC, whom she describes as the real representatives of Kashmiris from Pakistanís perception. She is more explicit on US intervention and remarks, "if India and Pakistan cannot do it between themselves, then I think itís a good idea to get some outside help, so that all of South Asia is not punished because of the political leadership of the two countries." Benazir during her Europe tour had been talking of a spectacular return to Pakistan. What assurances has she received and from Whom? Ten years back US had arranged her return and helped her win elections. Is she acting as USís new trouble shooter on Kashmir precisely for the same game again? If India is looking for a moderate opinion in Benazir, then it is heading for another round of self-deception.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Pakistan's Role

Kargil 1999

 

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