Expert sees little hope of mutually acceptable Kashmir solution
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Given Pakistan and India’s declared positions on Kashmir, the only solution that cuts this “Gordian knot” is some fundamental alteration in the existing structure of rule, according to South Asia expert Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Writing in Force, a journal of opinion, the Indian-American academic argues that any solution that essentially undermines India’s claim regarding Jammu and Kashmir’s definitive integration with the Indian Union is unlikely to be acceptable to New Delhi.
What India could “live with,” he adds, are “administrative modifications that permit greater integration between the two halves of the divided state but which do not in any intrinsic way repudiate, even by implication, the reality of the state’s current membership within the Indian federation.” He wonders, however, if such a solution would satisfy Islamabad.
Tellis takes the view that on this “vital matter,” Gen Pervez Musharraf has been “deliberately obscure, even to those closest around him.” He argues that there obviously are good reasons for his reticence. Jammu and Kashmir being a highly inflammatory public issue in Pakistan, Gen Musharraf’s inclination to “keep his cards close to his chest is understandable, given the high costs of failure that would accrue to him personally in the event of negotiations with India turning out to be unproductive.”
He maintains that in view of these “realities,” Gen Musharraf has approached the issue of rapprochement with India “very gingerly, taking different - virtually contradictory - positions on what would be required for an acceptable settlement depending on the audiences he is addressing.” In so doing, he argues, the Pakistani military leader has “obscured his real intentions and his real bottom line vis-à-vis all his listeners, including those in Washington and New Delhi.
Tellis writes, “From all the evidence that can be gleaned however, some conclusions are discernable. More than any of his recent predecessors, Musharraf ardently desires a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute with India , even if only - and unrealistically - on his own terms. He also recognises that the rivalry with India has distorted Pakistan’s ideological orientation, undermined its economic performance, and threatens to enervate it from within at a time when India is finally on the cusp of securing great power status.
He further appreciates the discomfort within the United States about Pakistan’s continued dalliance with terrorism, yet hopes that he can exploit - through his dissembling and gambling - Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to secure American largesse, even as he seeks to ward off US pressures to terminate his provocative policies with respect to both Afghanistan and India.”
The Carnegie expert on South Asia believes that Gen. Musharraf’s “reformation” with respect to forging a new course in Pakistan ‘s relations with India remains only “half-complete.” His attitude to New Delhi, and to negotiations with India, appears to have “metamorphosed for the better.” In contrast to his early emphasis on the need to resolve the Kashmir dispute as a precondition for normalising relations with India, he has now come around to the view that stabilisation of bilateral ties will have to precede, or at least proceed in tandem with, any settlement of the major outstanding disagreements about territory.
What he has not done yet, however, is to translate his evolving transformation in attitude into a thorough change in strategy. “By all available evidence, Musharraf has not yet been able to jettison the temptation of utilising the instrumentality of terrorism against India as a means of forcing political change upon New Delhi,” he adds.
According to Tellis, whether by the infiltration of jihadis into Kashmir or by the continuing investment in “state-supported infrastructure relating to terrorism on Pakistani soil,” the Pakistani leader demonstrates his continuing addiction to the older policy of supporting terrorism at the operational level, even as he has begun a new approach to peace at the diplomatic level. “This destabilising behaviour persists despite what is an increasingly clear recognition on his part that Pakistan cannot sustain its traditional strategy of combating terrorism internally while continuing to export it abroad - if for no other reason because it threatens the sales of those major combat arms that Islamabad has sought from Washington for many years and undermines Islamabad’s critical relationships with New Delhi and Washington,” he adds.
In the author’s view, General Musharraf’s “risk-taking propensities” and his oft-demonstrated willingness to sacrifice consequential strategic victories for transient tactical gains may, in fact, be the most “intractable impediment to the success of the current peace process.” If this is what comes to pass, it most likely would not be because Gen Musharraf deliberately authorises some “egregious violation of the peace presently obtaining between the two sides,” but rather it would be because his prevailing strategy of “running with the hares while hunting with the hounds” effectively cedes the initiative to violent terrorist groups who can only profit from a real conflagration between the two countries.
“Until Musharraf therefore completes his change of course by comprehensively transforming his strategy to accord with his rhetoric - or is compelled to change course by the United States through use of the new leverage gained from its arms sales to Pakistan - the peace process in South Asia will remain more fragile than it appears, to the enduring disadvantage of New Delhi, Islamabad, and Washington,” he concludes.