Srinagar: Although India rejected Pakistan’s demand, made at the UN recently, for demilitarization of J&K, it had not only agreed to withdrawing soldiers from “population centres” but also reduce their numbers to a “bare minimum”, former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri has claimed.
Kasuri was Pakistan’s foreign minister from 2002 to 2007. In his 850-page book, Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations Including Details of the Kashmir Framework, he says no solution to Kashmir dispute was possible without demilitarizing it.
“As a remit of interaction (with Kashmiri leaders in Islamabad and New Delhi and in other world capitals sometimes, secretly), it had become abundantly clear to us (Pakistan) what their priorities were. All Kashmiris emphasized demilitarization since they wanted that Indian troops be withdrawn from the populated areas as soon as possible. Life, they said, had become unbearable for them,” Kasuri says in the book, which reveals details of the Four-Point Formula which had become a viable basis for an “out-of-box” settlement of Kashmir during the tenure of former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf.
The Kashmiris could not go through their ordinary chores under Indian bayonets and that their women and children had suffered psychological trauma due to the presence of Indian troops on the streets of their towns and villages, he says.
“This posed a major challenge to Pakistani negotiators. We realized that, unless we were able to satisfy the Kashmiris on this score, they would not be amenable to a long term solution that ignored their immediate plight. We thus had to insist on demilitarization in our negotiations with India,” he says. Initially, he says, the Indians would hear none of it.
“When it became clear to them, both on the backchannel, as well as during talks between leaders, that no Kashmir settlement without a meaningful progress on this issue was possible, the Indians came forward with a counter-proposal. They said this proposal was untenable and no government could sell it to the people of India unless Pakistan similarly withdrew its troops from Azad Jammu and Kashmir. We pointed out to the Indians that there had been no demand by the people of AJK to withdraw Pakistani troops,” he says.
However, he says, the Indians said that in the absence of a quid pro quo on the issue, our proposal was “politically undoable”.
“We had brainstorming sessions on the Pakistani side and came to the conclusion that, in the interest of a settlement, we would also agree to withdraw troops from AJK as the Indian withdrew theirs from Indian Occupied Kashmir. Anyhow, we felt that we did not need troops to maintain Pakistan’s position in AJK as India did to maintain its control over the territory under its occupation,” Kasuri writes.
Subsequently, he says, after protracted negotiations, both neighbours would agree to a major reduction of armed forces in the region.
“It was also agreed that this reduction would be brought about gradually, in consonance with the improvement of the situation on the ground and that troops would not only be withdrawn from population centres but that they would be reduced to a bare minimum on both sides of the LoC,” he says.
Pakistan and India, he says, further agreed to solemnly conclude an agreement within one year over reduction of troops and the process of demilitarization. As the things stand today, the agreement did not materialise.