OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says Pakistan will give up its claim to Kashmir. Pervez Musharraf yesterday spelled out a four-point plan for war-torn Kashmir that rejects demands for independence.  His direct appeal to India came in an interview broadcast on New Delhi Television today to support his proposals. Giving a cold response to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s suggestions to resolve the Kashmir issue the Indian government said Tuesday it was committed to peace and removal of distrust but not in favour of redrawing of boundaries. Musharraf’s four-point solution included phased withdrawal of troops; local self-governance; no changes in the borders of Kashmir; and a joint supervision mechanism in Jammu and Kashmir involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir. Musharraf also said he was opposed to independence for Kashmir, but both India and Pakistan will have to compromise.

Musharraf’s comments came during the course of a high profile interview with NDTV’s Prannoy Roy. Predictably Musharraf’s Diplomacy by Television Soundbites have queered the pitch once again with the crescendo of news media reports on how and why Pakistan is “giving up” its claim on Kashmir. Offstumped analyses the proposals and the implications of the Musharraf PR blitz.

For starters the whole public debate on Kashmir is and now will be about “Mushharraf’s 4 point proposals”. By cleverly seizing the initiative and the media mindshare Musharraf has ensured that the debate in the public domain will be centred on his 4 point agenda and will be colored with the “Pakistan giving up” sentiment. Whether this was a brilliant strategic move or a mere tactic to shift focus from other issues or if it was Musharraf’s attempt at securing a place in history remains to be seen. However in this day and age of media soundbites and 24×7 news channels Musharraf is ahead in the race to form impressions and perceptions with headliners like “Pakistan gives up claim …” and “Pakistan offers Kashmir peace ….”. Musharraf is already winning over some in the Indian intelligenstia like C. Rajamohan who welcomed the proposals describing them as the “closest to India’s negotiated position on Kashmir calling them very reasonable.

So what indeed are these very reasonable proposals that have come closest to our position but strangely enough the media buzz is

“not about how India got Pakistan to agree to its position, its idea and its proposals which were all along about peace”

but rather about

“how Pakistan is giving up its claim, offering new ideas and proposing peace…”.

The four point proposal has:

  • phased withdrawal of troops
  • local self-governance
  • no changes in the borders of Kashmir
  • a joint supervision mechanism in Jammu and Kashmir involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir.

Let us first beging with phased withdrawal of troops. This one is a no brainer. Offstumped has always believed that use of Armed Forces for civilian law enforcement is never justified but the war by proxy that Pakistan has engaged in leaves India with no option but to delpoy its troops across Jammu and Kashmir. Now Phased withdrawal by Pakistan means nothing because its troops are not battling any insurgency, in fact they are battling nobody and there is no security situation on the POK side of the LOC. What is worse is the track record of Pakistan in Kargil where the Pakistani Army Regulars can very easily morph from uniformed and badged soldiers to plainclothes “freedom fighters”. So a troop withdrawal on the Pakistani side is not exactly a troop withdrawal but just a matter of change of attire. On the Indian side however there is a clear and present danger. So a phased withdrawal of troops makes little difference to Pakistan mostly psychological and logistical, but a phased withdrawal by India is a gaping security hole.

So Musharraf’s first point in his very “reasonable” and “closest to India” proposal Pakistan “is not really giving up” anything much nor is Pakistan “offering peace”.

Let us look at the second point in this proposal, local self governance. Well you actually have local self governance in Jammu and Kashmir today with regular elections something non-existent on the Pakistani side. So what exactly is new here. In fact there is no unanimity on what local self governance means in the Kashmir context. To some Kashmir groups the debate is not about Local Self Governance but is about Local Self Governance under the Indian Constitution. So if the Local Self Governance that Musharraf is asking for us is not under Indian Constitution, which constitution is he referring to. He has said he is not in favour of independence. So if we dont have an independent Kashmir and we dont have a Kashmir under the Indian Constitution, what remains – a Kashmir under Pakistani Constitution ?

So Musharraf’s second point in his very “reasonable” and “closest to India” proposal Pakistan “is not really giving up” anything much instead Pakistan is making dubious arguments for “local self governance” under the Pakistani Constitution.

Musharraf’s third point is about not redrawing the Kashmir borders. The Indian response to Musharraf’s proposals had the same language about not redrawing the borders, but the Indian Foreign Minister of state, Anand Sharma went a step further to ambiguously talk about making borders irrelevant. It is anybody’s guess what that means but this seems the closest the Indian and Pakistani officials have got to. In stating this position, neither side is giving up anything and what is worse it leaves the status of the actual line of control ambiguous as before. Perhaps the Indians are hinting at ways to make the LoC irrelevant. But this proposal too is no guarantor of peace for it does not explain how free flow of arms and illegal foreign nationals will be stemmed.

The last proposal in the Musharraf pie in the sky is joint management of Jammu and Kashmir which almost sounds like the affairs of Kashmir can be managed as if it were a corporation with a joint board of directors keeping watch. This proposal is a non-starter for it defies the very logic of local self governance. What role does joint management have in local self governance ?

So in summary of the 4 point proposal that Musharraf made in 2 points Pakistan actually gains leverage while in the 3rd by not actually giving up anything it has agreed to a neutral position. The 4th point which while sounding reasonable is completely illogical and means nothing. So what actually has Pakistan given up ?

Basically when Musharraf says Pakistan has given up its claim on Kashmir, what perhaps Musharraf is implying but not exactly saying is that Pakistan is giving up aiding and abetting Terrorism against India as State Policy in Kashmir. Musharraf is building up a layer of international and media support to avoid being branded a state sponsor of terror given the pressure from other quarters on the rise of Taliban and all the evidence pointing in Mumbai and Malegaon pointing to Pakistan. In doing so Musharraf is also washing his hands off the rag tag terrorist outfits operating out of POK.

Offstumped Bottomline: Musharraf’s Kashmir proposals are a non-starter not because they are unacceptable to India but because they amount to nothing. They are all about media headliners and soundbites while meaning precious little to in concrete terms. Any serious proposal about Kashmir must start from within Kashmir on how the Kashmiris intend to eliminate the rag tag of terrorist outfits who have appropriated their cause and have no commitment to peace or democracy in either India  or Pakistan. Without addressing how Kashmir will be secured from within, all talk of troop withdrawals, local self governance and joint management is pie in the sky thinking. The BJP must rap the Manmohan Singh’s UPA Government for once again squandering away the initiaitive to Musharraf and must keep up the pressure from any apparent concessions unless the core security question is addressed.

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