In a lecture here last week, outgoing Prime Minister’s special envoy, SK Lambah, ruled out redrawing of borders between India and Pakistan and said that any solution to the Kashmir dispute should ensure that the Line of Control (LoC) be “like a border”.
Lambah also advocated free movement of people from Jammu and Kashmir across the Line of Control, besides steps to enhance trade between parts of the divided state. “In accordance with the normal acceptable behaviour between nations,” he said, “it is imperative that the people of J&K on either side of the Line of Control should be able to move freely from one side to the other. This is particularly essential as on both sides of the Line of Control live not only the same ethnic groups but also divided families.”
Much has been said about the LoC becoming a permanent though porous border between India and Pakistan. This is also envisaged in the four-point Musharraf formula, though in a different manner. The formula also talks about joint management of Jammu and Kashmir by India and Pakistan. The people of the state have, however, rejected such an arrangement. According to them, it amounts to cohabitation with two wives in a single bed.
The separatist leadership, by and large, believes that much headway was made on the Kashmir issue during the Vajpayee era, and Narendra Modi, who is to assume office as the Prime Minister of India in the coming days, has promised to pursue Vajpayee’s policy on Kashmir, words that have been welcomed here. There is no denying the fact that the new dispensation would find it very difficult to proceed on a contentious issue which, as has finally dawned on the conscious people of India, holds millions of their hapless countrymen hostage. Resolving the Kashmir issue can, therefore, rid India of many a problem it faces today.
Narendra Modi believes in taking decisions, and the people of Jammu and Kashmir expect him to take bold and tangible measures for a Kashmir resolution. As Lambah rightly pointed out, a solution would substantially enhance India’s security and strengthen the prospects of durable peace and stability in the region, besides enabling New Delhi to focus more on rapidly emerging long-term geopolitical challenges. It will relieve the burden that Indian security forces have to shoulder in terms of lives and resources, and could boost the Indian economy. The resolution of the Kashmir issue will also enable Pakistan to contribute to the welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and to their progress and prosperity.