- Defining units of Kashmir was most difficult part of negotiations; Gilgit-baltistan in dialogue as Kashmiri leaders demanded so; Water is, and could become greater source of friction between India and Pakistan”
SRINAGAR: Former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, whose term from 2002-07 is regarded as most productive in India-Pakistan peace process ever since independence, has said that there can be no “perfect” but only a “best possible” solution to the Kashmir issue.
“It became clear to me after my interaction with top Indian officials and after extensive brainstorming among those involved in Pakistan that no solution arrived at could be perfect from the point of view of Pakistan, India or the Kashmiris. It would have to be the best possible under the circumstances,” says Kasuri in his memoir, which he claims is the “insider’s account” of negotiations between the India and Pakistan between 2002 and 2007.
“We were also aware that we could be overtaken by unforeseen circumstances like a terrorist attack, a la-Mumbai (which happened after our time), or even by developments in Pakistan, India, or Kashmir, such as a change of government, as happened in the case of Pakistan, or of the Intifada in Kashmir. This necessitated that we act with relative speed in trying to find a solution,” he says in his recently released book—Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations Including Details of the Kashmir Framework.
“We also recognized that there were forces in both Pakistan and India that would not like normalization of relations between the two countries. There were also people who just wanted maximalist solution from their perspective in both the countries,” he says.
The 74-year-old Pakistani leader has given details of the points agreed to between the two neighbours on Kashmir including those proposed by then Pakistan President Pervaiz Musharraf to then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about a ceasefire at the LoC, demilitarisation, elections, and joint mechanism between Pakistan administered Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir, referred by him as “IoK” .
“Despite the many wars that Pakistan and India had fought, it is evident that neither could coerce the other into accepting its position on Kashmir. The two countries had realized these points: (i) Jammu & Kashmir (entire J&K) cannot be made independent; (ii) borders cannot be redrawn; (iii) the Line of Control (LoC) can and should be made irrelevant’; (iv) and a Joint Mechanism for both parts of Kashmir can be worked out. This last point was absolutely essential to convince the Kashmiris and the people of Pakistan that there had been a change in the status quo.”
Elaborating on joint mechanism, he said, “The Kashmiris had made it clear to us that they did not want a solution which would permanently separate them from their brethren across the LoC…..It was thus we thought of joint mechanism through which Kashmiris on both sides could cooperate in specified areas of mutual interest and where India and Pakistan would be present in one form or the other….We agreed to facilitate free movement of people, goods and ideas,” he said, adding the joint mechanism would consist of elected members from each of the two units.”
Besides, Kasuri talks about self-governance, common policies towards development and water resources.
“One of the important responsibilities envisaged from this mechanism was to encourage the promotion of common policies towards the development of infrastructure, hydroelectricity, and exploitation of water resources,” he says, emphasizing the importance of the development of policies towards water resources.
“Water is and could even become even a greater source of friction between the two countries. Water poses essential threat to Pakistan since two-third of its population relies on water from rivers coming from Kashmir.”
On including Gilgit and Baltistan on negotiation table, Kasuri says it was the “most difficult” for the Islamabad.
“Pakistan has always regarded Gilgit and Baltistan as separate from other areas included in J&K over a period of time during the Dogra annexation. This area was different ethnically and culturally from other areas which formed part of the former princely state. A great deal has been written on the revolt by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who, after 1947, wanted to join Pakistan against the Dogra rule,” he says.
Regardless of it, he says the Indians made it clear that any solution to the “dispute” over J&K will have to include all the territories in J&K, including the northern areas.
“There was yet another factor why, despite our desire to separate this region from the rest of J&K, we decided to show some flexibility on the subject. There was a strong feeling among sections of the Kashmiris that the former princely state should be considered as one unit in any future dispensation. We were keen to avoid a controversy on this subject,” he says.
None of it came to realization because of the “missed opportunities” between Manmohan Singh and President Musharraf at the time, he says.
However, he has expressed optimism that that both countries would “travel on path less travelled and create history”.
“I interacted with a large number of Indian leaders including two prime ministers and three foreign ministers. Every Indian leader, I have spoken to or who has been my interlocutor has said to me in private, ‘Let’s make history’. How can Narendra Modi be exception to that?”