Resolving core issues is necessary
India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar recently visited Pakistan. The first such meeting since 2012. Hailed as a step in the right direction by the doves, the baggage between both neighbours is too heavy for one visit to be off-loaded. The issues involved would require a will to resolve the questions and a time-regulated strategy to address the task. Something that has yet eluded those in power.
Handling of issues on a superficial level is neither the answer nor the solution to bridging of the schism. Without doubt, the relationship between Islamabad and New Delhi is of crucial importance in terms of maintaining long lasting peace. However, this equation cannot be achieved without facing and settling the problems that irk both nations, leading as a result to a series of actions and counter-actions that continue making muddy waters muddier.
The chief of the army staff had issued a warning ahead of Mr Jaishankar’s visit, promising a “befitting response” to the provocation alleged at LoC. Or LooC (Line out of Control), as dubbed by a friend of mine. It will be pertinent to keep in mind that the foreign secretary’s visit was not restricted to Pakistan but was a part of a series of visits to the capitals of SAARC countries.
The violations at LoC and issue of International Border of Jammu and Kashmir were part of discussions held. Quoting from The Hindu; the violations at the LoC numbered more than 685, claiming 24 lives in the past eight months alone. The report states, “Pakistan has also accused India of “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing during the same period, and claims Indian troops have killed several civilians as well as troops along the border.” (March 3, 2015)
In my opinion, the issue of Kashmir will not be resolved by India on its own. No government in India can commit political suicide by giving away part of its territory; even if occupied; to any other nation, least of all its arch-enemy Pakistan. One only needs to consider the fact that as late as 2010, Booker Prize winner, “The God of Small Things” Arundhati Roy in a piece in The Hinduraised a pertinent question upon hearing that a Delhi court had directed the Delhi police to file an FIR against her for waging war against the state. The question involved was Kashmir. Roy states, “Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru too.” She gives a list of quotes by Jawaharlal Nehru to support her stance. Only one is being reproduced below:
“In a letter dated 11th September, 1951, to the UN representative, Pandit Nehru wrote, “The government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible.”
The importance of Kashmir is intrinsic to Pakistan’s survival. The dispute over water is inextricably interlinked with Kashmir. If one recalls, soon after Independence, India had shut off the canals of Central Bari Doab. The result was damage to crops it being the sowing season. I quote from an article by historian Naveed Tajammal, “Two sets of laws govern the water disputes, first is the Harmon Doctrine, named after ”Judson Harmon”, the Attorney General of USA in 1895,when dispute arose between Mexico and USA over the usage of Rio Grande waters. Mexico was a lower riparian, the doctrine above cited gives ”absolute territorial sovereignty” to the upper riparian, as goes the usage of water resources passing through its lands. Though the matter was resolved by a convention held between USA and Mexico on May 21, 1906, by which Mexico got its share of waters… Indus valley river system is an ‘International Drainage Basin’, as the geographical area extends and covers the administrative boundaries of more than two states, from Afghanistan to Chinese administered Tibet, in the North East and to Indian occupied Kashmir. Technically India cannot claim sovereignty over Kashmir as it remains a disputed state, and matter in reference before the world courts, having over a million troops holding it.” (March 6, 2012)
In my recent talk on Voice of America upon the visit of the Indian foreign secretary to Pakistan I had stated that for peace in the region removing the thorns that cause the bleed between both countries is vital for any normalcy of relationship. In light of the fact that US supports India as a card to be used to deter China’s rise in the region; China’s closeness to Pakistan, an unmanageable border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, India’s expansion of Ayni Air Base and the presence at Farkhor Air Base, support of Afghan Northern Alliance are just some of the irritants causing distrust. Of course, this does not mean to state that India does not have her own reservations. She does.
In my op-ed dated September 23, 2013, I had written, “Pakistan and India’s relationship is a factor that will require particular attention owing to its grave impact upon the region especially post 2014 Afghanistan. The recent coming-to-near-blows on the “Line out of control” between Pakistan and India reasserted once again the real issue of Kashmir and water-war simmers just under the surface, waiting to blow up in our faces at any given excuse. Many other grievances have gained roots sprouting from the main ones. These will be resurrected with fresh vengeance in a not-so-new playground; Afghanistan. An inevitable happening for which India is prepared having honed her tools well while Pakistan has been embroiled in the “war on terror” and her multidimensional internal problems. Kashmir has been the point of focus of conflict as the result of British imperialism’s divide-and-rule partition of the subcontinent when it relinquished direct rule in 1947. This issue stands ignored by international forums; a dangerous approach. The only solution is holding of a referendum, also supported by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif; in his address at a news conference in September 2010.”