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National

February 1, 2015

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Modi has rare chance to bring peace to Kashmir

ISLAMABAD: The US played a big role in bringing Pakistan and India together in 2004 which resulted in the resumption of dialogue between the two.
“Secretary of state Colin Powell was in constant touch with me that time. We resumed the dialogue with India, discussing all issues, after the joint statement of January 6, 2004. As a result, a lot of progress was also made in people-to-people contact. The Lahore and Mohali cricket Tests, with youngsters holding aloft Pakistan-India flags, or painted on their cheeks, cheering both sides was called a “public celebration of peace”, writes Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, former foreign minister in an Indian weekly magazine.
Both countries had finalised the draft Kashmir agreement which, inter alia, proposed gradual demilitarisation, self-governance and a joint mechanism involving Kashmiris from both sides as well as Pakistani and Indian representatives in some form or another.
“The purpose was to improve the comfort level of Kashmiris”, says Kasuri.
The former minister says that his forthcoming book “Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove”, will reveal all the inside details about contacts between Islamabad and New Delhi, which resulted in a draft agreement which Prime Minister Narindra Modi can easily turn to restart the process.
“The back channel negotiators on Kashmir met at different locations in many countries to preserve the secrecy of the process. They brought the drafts to the principals in the countries, where changes were made and sent back to the other side and so on and so forth. Our work was detailed and thorough; in many cases, I even changed the punctuation. It was after approximately three years of such painstaking work that we felt we were nearing a stage where, after settling the few remaining details, we would be in a position to present the draft of an agreement to our respective publics and constitutional authorities for their approval,” notes Kasuri.
He recalls that the major features

of the draft Kashmir agreement involved, inter alia, gradual demilitarisation, self-governance and a joint mechanism involving Kashmiris from both sides as well as Pakistani and Indian representatives in some form or another. The purpose was to improve the comfort level of Kashmiris.
The joint mechanism envisaged cooperation in various fields, including exploitation of water resources and hydel power. The draft, it was felt, would be acceptable to an overwhelming majority of Kashmiris, Indians and Pakistanis.
It is impossible to find a solution that would be equally acceptable to everyone. Dr Henry Kissinger, writing in March 2014 on how to resolve the Ukraine crisis, says that in problems of this nature, “the test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction”. I am convinced what we had nearly achieved was much better than this.
“The painstaking labour and progress achieved then, I am sure, won’t go waste; the two sides will have to begin from where we left rather than reinvent the wheel when the time for earnest dialogue and engagement is again propitious, with statesmen at the helm in both countries”, he adds.
Kasuri warns that, “I think Pakistan and India would be making a massive mistake if they pretend they can ignore the other side. There have been voices on both sides urging that they do exactly that”.
Kasuri says that, like plagues and diseases, terrorism too knows no borders.
Pakistanis realise that, ultimately, all the different groups of extremists or jehadis are interlinked and have similar objectives. The Pakistan army had been cracking down heavily on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and paid a price with the brutal attack on an army-run school in Peshawar. Having sent a message home, TTP could turn toward India.
“Modi’s vision is for developing India-tension in the region. He is supported by big business, and businessmen hate nothing more than instability. Even an ordinary travel advisory from a major country in case of tension can cause a lot of negative outflows of capital, as happened in June 2002 when a million soldiers from both countries stood eyeball to eyeball”, advises Kasuri.
Modi he says has a historic opportunity to complete the mission we pursued, the concrete work we did. With his impressive mandate, Modi would not find it difficult to put the finishing touches on the draft agreement on Kashmir if he has the political will.
“It is my conviction that any settlement on Kashmir will have to be more or less on the lines of what was achieved after three years of hard work that took into consideration all competing interests, everyone’s bottom line”, concluded the former minister.

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