Why can't we solve the Kashmir problem by 2017?

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 10, 2012 20:22 hrs

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari wants to make a personal visit to Ajmer Dargah Sharif and that leads to a chain of events that result in a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the prospect of a return visit.

Have you heard of talks between any two beleaguered countries being so casual?

There have been six conflicts between India and Pakistan with hundreds of major players down the ages but talks seem to be stuck over militant leader Hafiz Saeed.

Have you heard of anything more narrow minded?

It’s been more than 60 years since the Kashmir War of 1948 and yet the underlying issue is exactly the same. A part of Kashmir is under Pakistani control, which we call PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and they call Azad Kashmir.

The 1948 ceasefire line became the line of actual control which ultimately became the Line of Control. In this wordplay, thousands of lives have been lost and millions traumatized.

Yet in the backdrop of all this both the countries keep having hundreds of downright lame talks and feel quite happy about it.

Both governments should now treat the Kashmir issue with high urgency.

Some possible ways to handle the tricky situation…

1. Deadline the Solution.

Sometimes it makes sense to first announce a deadline to a solution and then go about solving it. The best example of this is when US President John F Kennedy grandly declared in 1961, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

At that point many people thought that he was simply speaking off his hat as the Russians were firmly ahead in the space race. Kennedy himself was assassinated in 1963. But the mission went ahead all the same.

The deadline was met in the nick of time when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in July 1969.

The Prime Minister of India can announce an ambitious five-year-plan for Kashmir and call it Mission Kashmir 2017. If it is officially announced that a solution to the disputed territory has to be found by 2017, then things would move forward in that direction.

It is surprising how things move forward when a deadline is announced to the solution to any problem.

2. Deep Economic Jugalbandi.

While the European Union may be facing a financial crisis, there is no doubt that it has brought in an era of greater co-operation between the European countries.

Economic blocs like BRICS are not cohesive as they have been artificially created.

It is political groups like SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and economic groups like SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) which are much more relevant for India.

If you keep the political differences aside, then both the Indian and Pakistani people are of the same heritage and share many things like lifestyles, food and culture. The popularity of Bollywood movies in Pakistan is testimony to that.

SAFTA has to be strengthened and India and Pakistan should confer on each other a permanent Most Favoured Nation status.

The deeper the India-Pakistani economic ties become, the more difficult it will be to go to war. And in an atmosphere of lasting peace, it will be easier to find a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem.

3. A Diplomatic Bargaining Chip.

India always refuses to solve this issue multi-laterally saying that it is a bilateral issue. But we have not moved forward with this approach in more than six decades. It may be a good idea to tell the world that India will actively sort out the Kashmir problem in lieu of a multitude of diplomatic goodies.

We get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. China backs off from its claim of Arunachal Pradesh and other territories. Military aid to Pakistan is reduced. Pakistan reduces its troops along the border. India and America deepen their economic ties even further…

The international diplomatic arena is one of give and take. India asks but does not offer anything in return. This leads to minimum diplomatic yields.

If a few world leaders get together to solve the Kashmir issue, then the Nobel Peace Prize is there for the asking. That itself could act as a spur for them to find a solution.

4. Capture PoK?

This seems to be a non-starter. In the past India has even fallen short of attacking terrorist camps in PoK. But then what else is the solution if PoK has to become part of India? The problem with this country is that people fall shy of even debating certain matters like this.

5. Force Pakistan to Accept the LoC as the Border.

This appears to be the only solution. There is nothing else to do but to convert the LoC into the international border. However there is a hitch. If India proposes this, then Pakistan may well say that it is a sign that India accepts PoK as part of Pakistan and they will then eye the whole of Kashmir.

Both countries have to simultaneously accept this solution. India will be ready, but Pakistan will not be. All pressure should be applied on Pakistan to accept this as the final solution. All India’s efforts should be towards this direction only. Sometimes having just a single goal may help matters.

Parting shot…

Kashmir is an integral part of India. There is no doubt about that. A referendum will not sort the basic issues and hence is irrelevant. The people of Kashmir are the victims and the Pakistan state is the problem. A referendum cannot address that.

The focus has to be to make Kashmir a safe, developed and vibrant state and a pride of India. That cannot happen with the way meaningless talks keep taking place and breaking down. The political leadership of the country has to look at the larger picture.

There was great opposition to the Nuclear Deal in both America and India. But there was great political will with the then US President George W Bush and Indian PM Manmohan Singh.

That political will pushed the deal through.

Now a similar political will is required to solve the Kashmir dispute.

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Donkeys, dynasties and a forgetful electorate

When the Congress simply lost steam

Mamata: A rebel without a cause

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/