Indo-Pak Detente: From Periphery to the Core

25 May, 1998    ·   97

Gen. Vohra suggests that with specific reference to sorting out Indo-Pak problems we should " work on all issues as, through what might be called peripheral issues, the complexity of the core issue (Kashmir) may resolve."

On 23 March 1997 Pakistan 's then President Mr. Leghari said at the OIC Summit that Kashmir is essential for the survival of Pakistan- "is a matter of Pakistan 's survival." In his book 'Raiders in Kashmir' (Pak publishers 1970) Maj Gen Akbar Khan writes, "one glance at map was enough to show that Pakistan's military security would be seriously jeopardised if Indian troops came to be stationed along Kashmir Western border.... The possession of Kashmir would enable India , if she wished, to take war to Hazara and Murree, more than 200 miles behind the front...We would remain permanently exposed to a threat of such magnitude that our independence would never be a reality."



We have fought two full-scale wars: in 1965 and 1971. No Indian threat or offensive developed from Kashmir . Its mountainous terrain is neither suitable for a war-winning offensive nor does it permit the launching of mobile armoured forces. Operations in Kashmir have, therefore, been of the nature of holding on to the territory with each side, albeit with local offensive of limited nature, such the Haji Pir Pass.



Economically, Kashmir is a deficit area. So it can't be said that either strategically or economically, Pakistan 's existence depends on Kashmir . There is a need to re-examine this assertion.






It appears to have been accepted by Pakistan that Kashmir cannot be wrested by war. It has therefore resorted to low-intensity conflict (LIC) in the way of supporting insurgency in Kashmir . Insurgency survives only if there is local dissatisfaction amounting to revolt. The shenanigans of political parties, indifferent administration and communal propaganda from Pakistan , had estranged a fairly large number of the people in the urban areas in the valley. Based on the lessons of their first attempt in 1965, the present induction of militants from 1988 onwards was well planned. Restive youth from the valley, armed and trained by Pakistan in camps established by it across the border, were inducted for militancy in the hope of annexing the valley.



Nine years down the road, it is becoming clear to Pakistan that it cannot get the valley by proxy war either. Therefore it shifted the emphasis to mediation by the USA . The intense exchange of fire across the line of control in Aug and Sep 1997 was an attempt to draw international attention to the "inflammable" situation in Jammu and Kashmir . However, during the September 1997 visit of Nawaz Sharif to the UN, Clinton declined to interfere and advised him to pursue bilateral talks with India .



Pakistan expectation vis-a-vis Kashmir is very high. It would like it to become a part of Pakistan . Although at the resumed foreign Secretary level talks at Murree in June 1997 eight issues were identified, it insists that all are dependent on the progress made on Kashmir , the core issue. The demand is to concentrate on the core issue first and this in effect amounts to a one-point agenda. The press, the electronic media are in a state of frenzy over this issue and people's emotions are highly exercised.



India 's Case



India insists that the accession of J and K is irrefutable and it cannot accept its secession on the basis of religion. Secondly, a course of self-determination would open the Pandora's box: similar demands will be made by others on various grounds, which would impose unbearable strains on the unity of the country. Thirdly, secession of Kashmir on the basis of religion would make things difficult for India 's large Muslim population.



Workable Option



In view of the irreconcilable stands of India and Pakistan, it is surely not advisable to make the destiny of over one billion people of the two countries hostage to the solution of the Kashmir issue; an issue which lay dormant for long periods, 1972 to 1988 for instance. Talks should therefore be resumed on all issues to be discussed simultaneously in an integrated manner. Specific confidence building measures could permit early solution of issues like Siachen, Tul-bul and Sir Creek. It should also be our joint endeavour to achieve peace and tranquillity on the Line of Control a la Sino-Indian border. The cease-fire, which was accepted on 1 Jan 1949, has never been fully enforced and incidents of exchange of fire continue to be regular feature. Flag meetings of local commanders are ineffective, as there is no will to ensure peace. All these measures would create an environment of accommodation and reconciliation. Let us, therefore, work on all issues as, through what might be called peripheral issues, the complexity of the core issue may resolve. In fact it will, as there are no constants; the periphery may well lead to the solution of the core.