Friday / February 22.




By Harihar Swarup


Kashmir always remains the core issue whenever India-Pakistan dialogue is resumed or breaks down. This time also, in the breakthrough in Islamabad with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit and the decision to resume of a comprehensive bilateral dialogue, Kashmir remained the key issue. The Manmohan Singh Government had tried to kick-start stalled discussion through “the resumed dialogue” process, which met with the same fate of the composite dialogue following the killing of Indian soldiers almost three years ago. In the past, every time there was forward momentum in India-Pakistan ties, particularly on Kashmir, there were attempts by militants or the army to derail the process.


India and Pakistan were in striking range of an agreement on Kashmir in 2007 when Pervez Musharraf was swept from power and the Pakistan army decided that it did not want to proceed down to that road. Though big issues like Kashmir might not be within reach just now, there is no shortage of the things to do.


As a matter of fact there is no cut and dry solution to the Kashmir dispute. It may linger on year-after-year, decade-after-decade but neither India can handover to Pakistan the part ruled by it nor Islamabad can surrender “Pakistan ruled Kashmir” to India. There have been as many as five wars fought on Kashmir issue but with no result. Freedom to the entire Kashmir (Indian administered as well as Pakistan ruled) was not a practical solution. Neither India nor Pakistan are agreeable to self-rule by Kashmiris.


Then what is the solution to this lingering dispute? The solution is there; let LOC be converted into international border, meaning that India should keep its portion of Kashmir and Pakistan retains its portion. There can be no other solution but neither India nor Pakistan will agree to it. The least leaders of India and Pakistan can do is to prepare the people of the two country to accept the inevitable. The militancy, howsoever powerful it may be, never lasts for long. This is bound to happen with Pakistan-based militants and those who have come up in the valley.


One solution can be that India and Pakistan should keep Kashmir on the backburner and go ahead resolving other outstanding issues that include security, confidence building measures, Siachen, economic and commercial co-operation and counter-terrorism. Once these issues, apart from Kashmir, are resolved, a lot of goodwill will be created between the people of the two countries and this may convince them the futility of making the Kashmir as the central issue of a dialogue.


One positive aspect of the present breakthrough is acknowledgment by Pakistan that terrorism has to be addressed. Delhi also came round to recognize that it was time to move without giving up on its demand for bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 attacks to justice.


The agreement by India and Pakistan to resume structured talks, seven years after the composite dialogue was stopped following the Mumbai terror attack, marks a dramatic improvement in bilateral relations. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Paris on the sidelines of the Climate Conference on November 30,  both sides have moved fast to tackle the key challenges that are holding back the talks. The breakthrough was achieved at the National Security Advisor-level discussions held in Bangkok on December 6. In face of it, both sides have signaled that they are ready for a give-and-take approach.


Though it is too early to predict the outcome the comprehensive dialogue, it can be certainly seen that the proposal, which have all the “pillars” of India-Pakistan relationship including economic ties, people-to-people contact and high-level interaction, is a promising beginning. (IPA Service)